"Wilson is no Strachan — his voice lacks the delirious edge that made Horror Movie so spine-tinglingly effective."
SBS music trivia show RocKwiz is on the road with its Salutes ARIA Hall Of Fame live show, and tonight they've returned to their "spiritual home" of St Kilda for a performance that promises to be particularly memorable. Hosts Julia Zemiro and Brian Nankervis hold sway over an irreverent and hilarious night of Aussie-themed trivia; along the way there are appearances by rock great Brian Cadd singing his 1972 hit Ginger Man, Melbourne singer-songwriter Olympia doing Flowers' We Can Get Together, You Am I guitarist Davey Lane fronting a stirring rendition of The Master's Apprentices' Because I Love You (in honour of his late mate Jim Keays), and Vika & Linda Bull with a soulful double-shot of Johnny O'Keefe (The Wild One and Shout) to bookend the evening.
Great as all of this is, it's just window dressing for tonight's main attraction. At the midway point of the show the lights drop, the stage fills with smoke and the Skyhooks logo appears glowing on the rear wall like an apparition. Finally the band itself emerges for its much-hyped reunion. The original line-up of lead guitarist Red Symons, bass player Greg Macainsh, guitarist Bob "Bongo" Starkie and drummer Imants "Freddie" Strauks is joined by a stand-in frontman, the inimitable Ross Wilson, who's filling the hole left by the late Graeme "Shirley" Strachan (who died in a helicopter crash in 2001). It's a suitable tribute to Strachan, and a downright buzz to see such an accretion of Aussie rock royalty together on stage. They put on a good show for a bunch of old blokes, too. Symons (sans makeup, cape and satin suit — he's pushing 70 after all) introduces the band as "Melbourne's original self-tribute band" and goes on to handle his deft guitar lines like he's 40 years younger. Wilson is no Strachan — his voice lacks the delirious edge that made Horror Movie so spine-tinglingly effective; nor does he possess the boyish cheekiness to really pull off All My Friends Are Getting Married — but he does bring an innate rock'n'roll chutzpah to the proceedings. The Bull sisters and the boys from the RocKwiz Orchestra help flesh out the overall sound as Skyhooks hammer through a three-song bracket (rounded out by Balwyn Calling) that makes up in bluster what it lacks in length, and earns the reunited band a three-peat of standing ovations.
Symons and Starkie stick around for a round of RocKwiz trivia — Zemiro and Nankervis both find cause to reminisce about their respective, abortive appearances on Hey Hey It's Saturday's Red Faces segment for which Symons sat on the judging panel — before Symons has to split; he has to be up at 4am to host his ABC breakfast radio show. If we ever needed a reminder that we're no longer "living in the '70s", that was it. Still, it's been damn nice paying a visit.