Live Review: The Bellrays, Street Pieces, Tyrone Noonan

10 August 2015 | 2:48 pm | Steve Bell

"Lisa Kekaula [is] like a whirling dervish as she unleashes that massive, soul-infused voice."

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The first time Californian rock’n’rollers The Bellrays played in Brisbane about a decade ago they were wedged in between Radio Birdman and Giants Of Science and it suited their firebrand version of soulful rock’n’roll perfectly.

Tonight they’re preceded by a solo Tyrone Noonan and Brisbane four-piece Street Pieces and it just doesn’t work, no offence to either opener. Noonan is an ARIA winner with former band george and has oodles of runs on the board in numerous capacities, but his solo acoustic material is just too safe for tonight’s bill with its preponderance of strong but sappy love songs like Tight Black Dress and Forever Girl, while Street Pieces are at least a rock band but they’re super slick and far too much of a commercial proposition, their songs like True Tomorrow, Shiver, Weaker By The Second and even their cover of Led Zep’s Good Times Bad Times lacking the edge to make them appropriate for tonight’s festivities. Both give their all, it’s just a shame when there’s so many Brisbane bands out there who could have owned tonight’s opportunity.

All of which doesn’t diminish the performance by The Bellrays one iota, the four-piece entering the fray and laying down their garage-soul manifesto immediately with a string of propulsive numbers like That’s Not The Way It Should Be and Maniac Blues; Lisa Kekaula unleashes that massive, soul-infused voice as her husband and partner-in-rock Bob Vennum lets loose with his snarling guitar lines. The relatively recent rhythm pairing of Justin Andres (bass) and Stefan Litrownick (drums) team wonderfully and bring a muscular, ragged edge to proceedings but as ever it’s Kekaula who proves the captivating jewel in this band’s crown, her constant pillioring of the crowd to embrace the fact that it’s Friday night and lose their inhibitions seeming to actually work as the throng gets rowdy for Anymore and Good Behavior (which in turn finds Vennum unleash a killer duckwalk across the stage).

Their decades together have provided a plethora of fine cuts such as Living A Lie, Everybody Get Up and Coming Down, Kekaula stalking the stage with a tambourine affixed perpetually on her arm but only used strategically in anger, as her band pull and build towards that awesome rock’n’roll communion that one only tends to experience once in a blue moon. They unleash a soaring rendition of Led Zep’s Whola Lotta Love – seemingly in a tit-for-tat payback for the earlier cover, kudos where they’re due – before smashing back into originals territory with a stream of robust rockers such as Sun Comes Down, Voodoo Train and the epic Black Lightning. They take the briefest of breaks and return with more Kekaula exclamations about the enduring supremacy of the weekend before ending with a thunderous take on Revolution Get Down which they segue into pièce de résistance Blues For Godzilla via some weird soul revue version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, schooling us in the way things should be done until the bitter end. Seems she was right about the power of Friday night all along.

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