The Buried Country roadshow rolled through Melbourne last week and what a week it was, a mad whirl of media, rehearsals and great general bonhomie, capped by two terrific performances in the sumptuous surrounds of the Recital Hall on Wednesday/Thursday October 12/13.
Our first thanks must go to the Melbourne Festival, in particular Danni Colgan, for making the opportunity possible in the first place. We trust that this full-scale production is just the first of many more to follow in 2017 – and if the response is anything to go by, we feel confident that this will be the case.
Once again it was just the great general good-humour and harmony among the cast and crew that made the whole thing so smooth and pleasurable.
With two new singers to work into the set – Warren H. Williams, who’d been at the Tammy Sessions but was unable to make the Newcastle gig; and James Henry, replacing Franny Peters-Little, who together might constitute a sort of south-of-the-Murray/north-of-the-Murray tag-team representing the Little Legacy (there are many divides in Australia and many we will hopefully yet traverse, but the one marked by the Murray River is one that may ever remain inviolate!) – there was a bit to do in the studio.
We all converged on Melbourne on the Monday, and I ran around a bit on the Tuesday doing radio interviews with Roger and Auriel at PBS, KND, RRR and even 3AW – thanks heaps to all those folks. You can hear the RRR interview with my old friend Dave Graney here. Then we went to scope out the Recital Hall, and all of us who’d never been there had our jaws just drop to the floor.
On Wednesday morning we awoke to a lovely little preview article in the Age that you can read here, and then we went to a reception at the Victorian Governor’s residence, and, well, wow… there were two ‘C’ words I keenly felt – colour, and class – but nobody was inhibited by that, and we were made to feel most welcome…
The set list came together as follows and we all feel it seems to be naturally evolving into a pretty elegant shape. The one all-new (to us) song was ‘Royal Telephone’, which had sort of started to seem a bit conspicuous by its absence, and so we thought it’d make a great singalong encore, and it did:
Western Wind (Warren Williams) – Warren
Raining on the Rock (John Williamson) – Warren
Ticket to Nowhere (Joan Fairbridge) – Luke
Run, Dingo, Run (Black Allan Barker) – Buddy
Ghost Gums (Auriel Andrew) – Auriel
Arnhem Land Lullaby (Ted Egan) – Auriel
Brown Skin Baby (Bob Randall) – Leah
September Song (Leah Flanagan) – Leah
Pretty Bird Tree (L.J. Hill) – L.J.
18th Day of May (L.J. Hill) – L.J.
Blacktracker (Jimmy Little) – James
Yorta Yorta Man (Jimmy Little) – James
Wayward Dreams (Bobby McLeod) – Roger
Streets of Tamworth (Harry Williams) – Roger
ENCORE: Blue Gums Calling Me Back Home (Harry Williams) – Roger/all
Royal Telephone (Trad. Arr.) – James/all
It was a great show on the first night, but if I was mildly disappointed by the audience reaction, which seemed a bit muted, all that was swept away on the second night when the crowd went wild.
The shows were studded with friends old and new in the audience, black and white alike, though the attendee that might have been the most notable was Joan Fairbridge. Joan is the 90-something writer of ‘Ticket to Nowhere’, and until she saw Luke Peacock sing it that night she’d never before seen it performed live! She was absolutely chuffed and so were we, that she could make it along.
I have to make one point on a semi-down note: Exactly how L.J. hasn’t got publishers queueing up to sign him to a deal after Paul Kelly has just recorded a version of ‘Pretty Bird Tree’ on his new album is just completely beyond me…
Handsome Steve Miller admirably hosted us for a sort of wrap party at his new House of Refreshment on Thursday night, while we waited, in true Broadway style, for any reviews to land. And you can read the gratifying response in the Age here(thanks to Michael Dwyer, who’s shown persistent interest in the show and Buried Country generally) and at ArtsHub here. "A landmark concert," they said, "a compilation that should have wallpapered Australian households forty years ago."