The vibe was set at the Perth Concert Hall, unusually decked out in rock mode. There was a heavy lighting rig, versatile lighting FX, projected colour backdrops and subtle smoke machine work.
Excitement rose as the Voodoo Sheiks strolled onto the stage. They were a lavish ensemble of seven, guitar section, horn section and drums, impeccably lead by Musical Director (and on keyboards), John Mcall. Add to this mix two funky and gorgeously voiced backing singers, stir in a lush ensemble quartet, Silo String, and the recipe is explosive. Which was just the style Joe Camilleri adopted as he bounced onstage and straight into “Inarticulate Speech of the Heart”.
Skipping across the full breadth of the stage and working the equally packed stalls, dress circle and gallery, Camilleri was the complete antithesis of the two live performances I have seen by the legendary ‘Cowboy of Belfast’. I am a fond fan of his music but he is a totally remote presence onstage. However, as this show so ably demonstrates, ‘Van the Man’ is an amazing songwriter. A master of many musical genres and creator of music and lyrics that have become anthems “in the key of life” to millions.
After a rollicking “Bright Side of the Road” including some sharp harp work, Camilleri exhorted the audience “Let’s have some fun!” This suggestion had already been taken up with alacrity by a large proportion of the crowd already seat jiving. The demographic was wide and varied. Unsurprisingly, they knew the words.
Sequentially, Camilleri introduced brackets with special guests; firstly Vince Jones, still in excellent voice. After a couple of his soulful solos, the amazing Vika Bull joined them onstage. What a voice and what a presence! Joining the guys on the iconic “Into the Mystic”, she was nothing short of enchanting. Her exquisite, soaring vocals, her precise diction, complemented by her delicious presentation; 50’s Little Black Dress and Billie Holiday style floral headpiece.
Beautiful string arrangements were evident in the Celtic themed “Irish Heartbeat”, where saxophonist Tim Wilson adeptly swapped over to lyrical flute work for this number.
After the show title song “Here Comes the Night”, the first extremely satisfying set concluded with a thumping Camilleri/Bull rendition of “Wild Night (is Calling)”. John Mcall shone on keyboards as Bull delivered a tasty mime of said wild girls and boys!
Space does not allow me to list all the performers but I will say this was ensemble work of the highest order.
A lovely version of “Have I Told You Lately” with flute and violins opened the second half. Apparently, Morrison has composed eight hundred songs. He is still working so the show repertoire was a daunting choice.
However, there were some extraordinary moments still to come. The all time favourite “Moondance” featuring the full ensemble; the blissful rendition of “Days Like This” by Vika Bull; the ultimate party dance track, “Brown-Eyed Girl”; and a delicious low-key rendition of “Tupelo Honey” by Camilleri, underlined beautifully by the backing singers and band.
Three full-throttled encores sealed the deal and sent punters home blissed out.
The producers, Dennis Smith and John Blanchfield, say they will remount this show when and where these impeccable artists can be re-scheduled. Australia wide.
Don’t miss the next chance! A joy to behold!
Melbourne: Palais Theatre St Kilda 29 November 7.30 pm