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Live Review: 16 Lovers Lane

19 January 2018 | 11:08 am | Mick Radojkovic

"RVG's Romy Vager on 'Love Is A Sign' was a daring choice and it paid off. Her voice is reminiscent of Forster's delivery and she won many fans in the process."

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Seminal; adjective
1. strongly influencing later developments.

If there was ever a perfect adjective to use for The Go-Betweens sixth album, 16 Lovers Lane, it's this one. Despite the group breaking up in 1989, partly due to the lack of commercial success, the album grew in popularity over the decades since its release and has become one of Australia's most beloved albums inspiring scores of musicians both here and abroad.

The reunion of half of the band actually happened in 2017 when the Queensland Music Festival's Artistic Director, Katie Noonan, asked the group if they could come together for a tribute night. Tonight would be just the second time they've performed the album in full.

Coming back as a group without the two key singer-songwriters in Grant McLennan and Robert Forster was a risky move, but it gives the group the opportunity to work with a range of different vocalists, chosen based on their links with the band or their eccentric nature.

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The night's line-up was perfectly curated. Starting with the excitingly eclectic Shogun (Royal Headache) on Love Goes On! set the tone for a night of diverse talent to share their versions of tracks from the album. RVG's Romy Vager on Love Is A Sign was a daring choice and it paid off. Her voice is reminiscent of Forster's delivery and she won many fans in the process.

The always flamboyant Kirin J Callinan (fresh off his removal from the Laneway Festival) performed the poppier You Can't Say No Forever in his trademark over-the-top style. The jury is still out on whether he pulled it off or not. The same could not be said for Amanda Brown's version of The Devil's Eye. Her heart-wrenching rendition would have brought back many memories of her time with the late Grant McLennan, who wrote a number of the songs on the album about her.

The choice of singer for the biggest hit, Streets Of Your Town, would have been a tough one, but they went safe and chose the lead singer from another important Australian band, The Church. Steve Kilbey was on hand to share his experiences with Grant McLennan. One gets the feeling there were a lot of interesting times spent between the two of them, that is besides their '90s side-project, Jack Frost.

Jodi Phillis and Trish Young, recently creating music again as The Clouds, sang the very suitable Clouds sublimely before one of the highlights of the night, Isabella Manfredi (The Preatures), performed an excellent version of Was There Anything I Could Do? The ever-present Dan Kelly, also playing bass and guitar for the night, took to the mic for I'm All Right, before Peter Milton Walsh (The Apartments) finished off the original album with Dive For Your Memory.

A handful of extra songs were performed as the guests returned, one by one. In the style of Robert Forster, Callinan donned a dress ('borrowed' for the occasion from Amanda Brown) and Manfredi performed a touching version of Apples In Bed sitting at the front of the stage, letting us know how she used to wish she could be loved like the people in the song.

Shogun book-ended the night we The House That Jack Kerouac Built, John Wilsteed adding, "Don't ask for anymore, that's all we know!" It wrapped up a nostalgic trip down memory lane from a band that has never been appreciated quite enough, but for the sold out State Theatre, it was a delight.

Lindy Morrison (declared by Amanda Brown as the first female drummer she'd seen), smiling and shouting out support intermittently, still keeps a great beat and John Wilsteed didn't skip a note on guitar and bass. Brown also showed her versatility, switching between violin, oboe, guitar and backing vocals seamlessly.

Sure, some of the singer transitions were a bit clunky and the false starts on Cattle And Cane highlighted the rarity of the performance and the probable lack of rehearsal, but it was a homely, fun and warm return from a band that has and will continue to inspire musicians to create music uniquely Australian music.