Live Review: Motor Ace, Rya Park, Emilee South

15 April 2019 | 12:25 pm | Rod Whitfield

"Frontman Patrick Robertson even suggests strongly that there may be more to come from this band, that it may not be just a one-off reunion tour."

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It’s a little difficult to comprehend that it’s been two decades since Melbourne rockers Motor Ace formed and released their debut self-titled EP, and yet here we are. You can tell that their fans are now middle-aged, as the crowd builds sluggishly across the course of the evening. It gets there in the end, but it’s a pity that many wait to arrive until just before the headliner are due on, as they miss a couple of rather spiffy support acts.

Emilee South sings, plays guitar and fronts a four-piece band that belts out catchy boogie rock, with occasional forays into smoky slow-burn blues, with raw jangly guitars and attitude aplenty. The visual contrast is quite interesting, three big blokes with much facial hair, all dressed head to toe in black, surrounding a brightly dressed young lady who commands the audience’s attention. Several of their tunes could sit comfortably on the soundtrack to a Tarantino flick, and they deliver all of the above in a compact 30-minute set that gets the train rolling nicely.

Rya Park sure as hell can sing. Her voice can hit the heights, swoon to sultry lows and do just about everything in between. Her vocal stylings occasionally put one in mind of someone like Amy Winehouse, and many might consider that very high praise. The band behind her are a two-piece, just guitar and drums, so the sound overall lacks a little bottom-end. Add a bass guitar! It will add so much oomph to your sound. Nevertheless, all three personnel on stage do what they do exceptionally well, and her 35-minute set is all class.

Motor Ace, like the bulk of their fans, are hitting middle age, and like the fans who show up ‘fashionably’ late, they open in understated style with Keeping Secrets, obviously needing to warm into things. However, over the next 100 minutes, including no less than four encores, they prove that they’ve still absolutely got it. Frontman Patrick Robertson even suggests strongly that there may be more to come from this band, that it may not be just a one-off reunion tour.

The setlist is one of those things where a more casual fan might be standing there saying, "Oh yes, I know this song. Yeah, I know this one too!" It’s also one of those things where the more committed fan knows virtually every single word to every single song, not just the singles. Lorenzo, for example, is an absolute, all-time classic, and is an early set highlight. It is testament to the enduring strength of their songwriting, considering they only released three albums. All the favourites are here – Hey Driver, Five Star Laundry, Siamese, Death Defy – and they close proceedings with the supremely rocking Chairman Of The Board. It is truly a celebration.

Motor Ace were similar to what Foo Fighters were doing in the '90s and early 2000s, in that they bridged the gap between alternative and mainstream rock. They wrote big songs that appealed to both crowds, and this is a major factor in their success, and a big reason why their stuff still holds up 20 years later. Here’s hoping this is indeed the start of something new for the Ace.

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