"Here’s the rub: it’s almost too good."
Cold Chisel are making another last stand just down the road at the doomed Entertainment Centre. Downstairs in the second room, Rob Younger’s New Christs are grinding away. Up here, Models are conjuring memories. That gig guide considered, it’s 1983 in Sydney tonight.
Note: this is not the Models’ line-up of their commercial heyday. It’s a version of the arguably more interesting spikier pop band of the four-and-a-half albums before that. Sean Kelly was always the band’s heart, soul, and strangled scream — even when the late James Freud’s croon became what finally got them on the radio and a million teenage girls’ bedroom walls. Keyboardist Andrew Duffield had the wit and quirk. Mark Ferrie got wider fame 20 years on — as bassist of the Rockwiz house band. For this exercise, respected Melbourne drummer Ashley Davies becomes about member #312 to pass through the band.
They clang into Local &/Or General. We cheer in recognition. Now here’s the rub: it’s almost too good. Last century’s rudimentary synths from which Duffield had to wring squelches and beeps have upgraded technology, the fuzzy bits now modulated. Kelly — whether due to the ravages of time, or discovering the art of restraint — plays his shiny black Stratocaster, rather than throttling it like he used. Oddly, a couple of songs where Kelly surrenders the microphone are early highlights. Ferrie’s Unhappy has some of the old snark and spark, Duffield’s You Know What I Like About That Guy? (Nothing) a necessary sneer.
There’s the (non-)hits and idiosyncratic album choices. Two Cabs To The Toucan, Atlantic Romantic, then a left turn into the lesser-known Holy Creation. But God Bless America is a ripping song — its description of Reagan’s cold war presidency as “Gene Autry in Lincoln’s suit…” still relevant. But just arthritic bones begin to move, an intermission is called for the audience and band to rehydrate.
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Bar and bathroom visited, they start again. I Hear Motion’s bubbling insistence works. The enormo-hits are trotted out, but rightly not the finish — that’s a big shiny Telstar. However, Barbados remains clever — the sunshiny reggae of an alcoholic’s misery even clearer in light of Freud’s death. Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight swings, but what made it back in the day was Kelly interjecting his animal yelp between the pop tones. But it wasn’t insulted. However, it’s just not quite the same. Then again, should it be?