Where: Foxtel Hub, Melbourne
When: October 23rd 2014
On the eve of what would have been his 55th birthday, the elder punk loving statesmen and women of Melbourne were out in force, to pay tribute to their fallen comrade, Rowland S. Howard, for what was the first of two concerts being held to honour his musical legacy, at this years Melbourne Festival.
The fact that so many of Howard’s peers and former band mates took part in this event, proved not only how much of a pivotal role the guitarist and lyricist played during the height of Australia’s punk and post-punk eras, but also how respected and cherished the man remains.
The night’s proceedings kicked off with a short intro from Rowland’s ex partner in crime Mick Harvey and his brother Harry, as they quipped about how what was to come may seem “long and circuitous” and quite possibly “arduous”, such was the nature of the occasion!
First out of the traps saw tracks from Rowland’s teenage outfit The Young Charlatans, with original drummer Jeffrey Wegner in tow, being given a dust off. The fast paced guitar licks from Harvey and Harry throughout ‘She Is Not the Chosen One’, was perfectly offset by the slow and chugging bass lines of Angela Howard during ‘Broken Hands’. However the early naivety, as it were, of punk’s ‘musicianship’ was evident, with rather wobbly renditions of ‘Aka’ and ‘Dull Day’.
After a short break, Harry Howard – now on bass – was accompanied by Genevieve McGuckin; keyboards, JP Shilo; gtr/vox and Craig Williamson; drums, as they delved into the more gothic tinged nuances of These Immortal Souls’ catalogue. McGuckin’s key playing was at the forefront of ‘Marry Me (Lie! Lie!)’, with Harry’s vocal delivery – at times reminiscent of The Fall’s Mark E Smith – being an early highlight. While JP Shilo’s singing and screech-like guitar playing, especially during ‘Crowned’, came damn close to echoing Rowland’s virtuosic style on both fronts.
Ed Kuepper- ex The Saints and Laughing Clowns – then led the troupe through ‘Black Milk’, while former Magic Dirt vocalist Adalita, summoned all of her rock induced prowess for a raucous run through ‘Hyperspace’, which brought a more dynamic edge to proceedings.
The final part of the performance began with the measured and relatively delicate ‘Wedding Hotel’, a track Howard recorded with Nikki Sudden, whilst the remainder of the set focused on Rowland’s solo records, Teenage Snuff Film and Pop Crimes.
The slow and at times industrial sounding ‘Shut Me Down’, which by now included Brian Hooper on bass and TJ Howden on violin, could be viewed as a painstaking shout-out to its composer, with its line “I miss you so much”, becoming more of a poignant reality, with each passing croon.
The opening chords of ‘(I Know) A Girl Called Jonny’ received a massive cheer, as the tune’s name sake, Jonnine Standish, delivered it with such deadpan indifference, it was as if the crowd had been transported back to when it was first being recorded.
Guitarist Penny Ikinger then took centre stage for a po-faced version of ‘Dead Radio’, a track which includes the haunting opening line; “You’re bad for me like cigarettes/ But I haven’t sucked enough of you yet.”
Adalita returned for a rollicking execution of ‘Shiver’, a song that is considered by many to be unequalled, when discussing Rowland’s back catalogue. Hugo Race then entered the fray for the bluesy vibe of ‘Exit Everything’, during which Hooper’s magnetic bass grooves couldn’t help but pull you in deeper.
‘Undone’ continued in the same cacophonous disposition, as Harvey’s drumming aligned perfectly with the sounds that emanated from Hooper, Howden and McGuiken’s collective instruments, which led to a soaring crescendo of epic proportions.
Harry then took on the vocal baton for the final flurry of tracks; ‘Pop Crimes’ – which veered from the eerily hypnotic to downright bombastic, the subtle ‘Ave Maria’ and finally the surging and guitar squealing of ‘The Golden Age of Bloodshed’.
After near on three hours it was over, all that can be said is that, Rowland S. Howard has without a shadow of a doubt, left behind a breadth of work so revered, that his position is forever cemented within Australia’s musical history. Wayward Man indeed!
Part I; The Young Charlatans – ‘she is not the chosen one’, ‘aka’, ‘broken hands’, ‘the model of youth’, ‘dull day’ and ‘several sins’
Part II; These Immortal Souls – ‘the king of kalifornia’, ‘marry me (lie! lie!)’, ‘black milk’, ‘hyperspace’, ‘my one eyed daughter’ and ‘crowned’
Part III; Solo – ‘wedding hotel’, ‘shut me down’, ‘(i know) a girl called jonny’, ‘breakdown (and then)’, ‘dead radio’, ‘silver chain’, ‘shivers’, ‘exit everything’, ‘undone’, ‘sleep alone’, autoluminescent’, ‘pop crimes’, ‘ave’ maria’ and ‘the golden age of bloodshed ‘.