Mick Thomas at Red Hill – Friday June 3, 2016
By Rob Dickens.
Music on the Hill (MOTH) is a little gem of a venue. Held monthly at the Red Hill Cricket Club rooms, an hour south of Melbourne, it showcases Australian performers in an intimate setting, where the locals know to respect the music.
While waiting in line for the doors to open, we were able to watch some boys going through their footy drills in dim light on the adjacent oval. A perfect setting (which was sold out) for Mick Thomas, one of Australia’s great wordsmiths and an acute observer of Australian culture and mores.
Tonight, as many times before, he was with his side-kick Squeeze-Box Wally (Mark Wallace) and the attentive audience were treated to a set list that spanned Thomas’ impressive career, which now stretches back more than 30 years. The evening included songs from Weddings, Parties and Anything, his work with The Roving Commission and The Sure Thing, his solo recordings and also a couple of tasteful covers thrown in for good measure.
Proceedings kicked off well with a heartfelt rendition of the tender ‘Forgot She Was Beautiful’ followed by the amusingly sacrificial ‘Selling The Cool Car For You’ and the thought-provoking ‘You Remind Me’ (does he really look like Eddie McGuire?!). Two songs from Thomas’ latest album The Last of the Tourists (2012) – ‘Gallipoli Rosemary’ and the title track with Wallace’s playing sublime, were totally engaging.
The middle section of the show was a delight. Thomas explores the life of an outsider in a two-pub country town in ‘The Lonely Goth’. Reaching back to Weddings…days, the chilling and macabre ‘A Tale They Won’t Believe’ (“chew the meat and hold it down”), ‘Step In Step Out’ and the hit ‘Father’s Day’ with Wallace delivering that familiar hook. These were backed up with a terrific version of the song Thomas co-wrote with Paul Kelly, ‘Our Sunshine’.
A first-time performance from Thomas of an older song written by Luke Sinclair (of Raised By Eagles and The Good Life fame) ‘Backbeaches of Rye’ was a highlight and just demonstrated what a beautifully poignant song it is. The closing medley encore included ‘Aqua Profunda’ and a cover of Richard Clapton’s ‘Deep Water’.
A thoroughly satisfying night, with a rich song-writing palette on show including tales of unique and sometimes quirky love, the appeal of cars, local beaches, tourists, , cannibalism, immigrants managing in the extreme Melbourne summer and the impact of conflict.