Live Review: Dig It Up: Hoodoo Gurus, The Sonics,'s at The Tivoli

25 April 2012 | 11:58 am | Terry Milera

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With the Brisbane leg of the Dig It Up! extravaganza selling out in lightning time it's no surprise to see a huge turnout early, guitar fans of all ages waiting expectantly for tonight's grab bag of rock'n'roll goodness. Japanese all-girl garage pop-rockers The's are up first, and despite a mix so soft that at first you don't even realise a band's playing from the adjacent bar, they delight all and sundry with their catchy anthems and infectiously sunny demeanours. Both the band and their music are cute as a button and you can't help but smile and tap along to tracks like Hanky Panky and The Barracuda, it's a downright fun experience that ends all too quickly.

It's taken them some 50 years to get here, but US garage legends The Sonics don't disappoint in their first show on Australian soil, the black-clad veterans opening with a ferocious opening salvo of I'm Waitin', a pumping version of '50s hit Money (That's What I Want) and a cracking take on Cinderella (featuring an incredible harp solo by saxophonist Rob Lind). Original singer-organist Gerry Roslie's voice is holding up well for someone approaching his 70s, although he occasionally labours at the top of his trademark scream, but the recent addition of bassist Freddie Dennis takes up some slack, his incredible vocals taking the reins for tracks such as Keep A Knockin' and Lucille. The band seem like they're having a blast – almost incredulous at the reaction they're afforded – and the place goes nuts when they play classics such as Have Love Will Travel and Boss Hoss. They throw in a new song Vampire Killer which taps into a zeitgeist they might not even know exists (it's not miles removed from their typical lyrical fare anyway), but it's older gems like Strychnine , Louie, Louie and Psycho – which brings the girls from The's back out for a dance frenzy – which make this performance so special, and when they finish with an explosive The Witch it's like we've all been transported back in time to a glorious bygone musical era.

A short time later when the Hoodoo Gurus run onto stage to a heroes' reception they seem like young sprites compared to their predecessors, and as they blast into (Let's All) Turn On – the opening track of their classic 1984 Stoneage Romeos, which they're playing in full tonight (although pedants would claim that this is isn't the real opening track, but that's a story for another time) – the full room writhes with excitement and yells the words back en masse, the resulting joy almost tangible as people are swept up in their private memories of this amazing record. The initially restrained I Want You Back builds into a frenzy, and it's hard not to be overtaken by patriotic fervour as you realise that we're the only nation on the planet that knows these amazing songs so intimately. Knowing what's coming next doesn't dull the fun one iota, hearing songs like Arthur and Death Ship which rarely get aired these days more than atoning, while the gorgeous proto-emo of My Girl entices a singalong of epic proportions. Frontman Dave Faulkner is dressed for the occasion in a gold lame shirt while guitarist Brad Shepherd has opted for the more traditional Gurus paisley, and when an impassioned take on Zanzibar leads into the stomping fury of Leilani the place erupts, the crowd singing the vocal hooks back at them with unreserved gusto. Straight away Tojo elicits more mass singing and dancing before some respite arrives with the relative restraint of In The Echo Chamber, but the album recital finishes on a massive high with the rocktastic I Was A Kamikaze Pilot sending The Tivoli crowd into spasms of joy. The four Gurus take a bow at the front of the stage but of course there's more to come and they treat us to a slew of gems from across their amazing catalogue – Bittersweet, Right Time and 1,000 Miles Away all get a look in before they encore with Death Defying and Like Wow – Wipeout – but the damage has already been done. One of our greatest ever guitar bands treating us to the entirety of arguably their greatest album – rock'n'roll moments don't come much better.