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Live Review: Robert Forster, The John Steel Singers

30 October 2012 | 3:33 pm | Tom Hickey

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Local rockers The John Steel Singers have been relatively quiet of late, but given their past affiliations with tonight's headliner it's no surprise to find them opening proceedings in the intimate environs of the Visy Theatre, favouring a stripped-back semi-acoustic model that actually serves their sound really well. The chemistry between frontmen Scott Bromiley and Tim Morrissey is as always apparent, a restrained Strawberry Wine and a cover of Harry Nilsson's Me And My Arrow highlights of a solid set.

Soon local legend Robert Forster enters the fray to a hero's welcome, proving his usual stately and elegant self as he intones “Thank you very much, welcome to my lounge room” before grabbing his acoustic guitar and kicking into The Circle from his 1993 solo album, Calling From A Country Phone, following that with Pandanus, from his most recent lone effort, The Evangelist (2008). I Can Do leads into the first of a stream of The Go-Betweens' classics that are proffered tonight, the wonderful Part Company, before he moves onto latter-era gems Born To A Family and Darlinghurst Nights, both from 2005's stellar Oceans Apart. Forster's lyrics dominate proceedings in this stripped-back mode and his wordy vignettes carry away all and sundry, his delivery wonderfully expressive as he offers the occasional little shuffle dance with his feet, but for the most part lets songs such as He Lives My Life, Spring Rain and Baby Stones, from 1990 solo debut, Danger In The Past, do the heavy work. He offers up a new song which opens with the hilariously self-aware line “I love myself and I always have”, before moving onto the evocative and personal Danger In The Past, the title track from the aforementioned solo platter. Throughout the set tonight you get the impression that this man has lived life to the fullest and embraced the experience – the resulting emotional residue impossibly rich – and he finishes the main set with the breath-taking trilogy of Caroline And I, the childhood reflections of Surfing Magazines and the beautiful Here Comes The City.

The response is rapturous and Forster soon reappears from behind the curtain, this time accompanied by a female violinist who adds flourishes of texture to another new tune which is also first-person in nature (“I've got a story/It's in my head/I'm gonna tell it for sure”), before finishing with solo track, The River People, and Go-Bs staple The House Jack Kerouac Built. Far more than merely a great songwriter and artefact from Brisbane's rich musical history, tonight Robert Forster proves to be also a master entertainer and an ongoing force as we look towards the future.