Sunnyboys, Celibate Rifles & Ed Kuepper still have the power

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Sunnyboys, Celibate Rifles and Ed Kuepper played brilliant sets on the Gold Coast. But we can't take their vitality for granted.

Going to see bands play on the Gold Coast is great.

A large percentage of the audience are wearing board shorts. There are more Radio Birdman t-shirts than Violent Soho ones. Just about everyone has an amazing tan, looking just a shade lighter than that old brown couch that sat in your share house living room back in the day.

In fairness, most of that probably has more to do with the demographic bands like the Sunnyboys, Celibate Rifles and Ed Kuepper draw than the location that it’s in. But there’s a general lack of pretence in the air that’s refreshing in comparison to similar shows in the city.

Ed Kuepper Mark Dawson NightQuarter 2017 by Hannan Paul
Ed Kuepper and Mark Dawson. Photo by Hannan Paul / NightQuarter.

A frighteningly early start does little to dissuade either Ed Kuepper, drummer Mark Dawson or their audience from going deep. You don’t work as hard for as long as this legendary Brisbane artist has and end up anything short of brilliant.

He has released over 50 albums. Only the diehards could come close to getting their heads around his entire output. But scattered throughout them are some of the best rock'n'roll songs of any Australian artist.

He tours frequently, occasionally bringing in different collaborators, rarely seeming to do anything the same as last time.

But the one key that make his live show consistently riveting is the sound of Kuepper’s guitar. It's monstrous. Like a Southeast Queensland summer storm. Like a thousand bulls galloping in your next door neighbour’s yard.

Drummer Mark Dawson offered impeccable complement to Kuepper’s onslaught. Both artists gave us brash, sparse, driving and atmospheric turns throughout their set, most of the time we don’t even notice the change in dynamic, so enveloping is their sound.

'The Ruins' was slow and short. At least I think it was short. You can't really tell. Everyone was absorbed by the thick groove.

 

They turned the Laughing Clowns classic ‘Eternally Yours’ into a long jam. At least I think it was long. It was so transfixing there’s simply no way to know how long has passed.

During a few of Kuepper’s better known solo cuts – namely ‘Electrical Storm’ and the crowd-pleasing ‘The Way I Made You Feel’ – the weight of his influence really hits home. He doesn’t seem like someone who’d react well to adulatory cliché, but the guy’s a national treasure.

Celibate Rifles Damien Lovelock at Nightquarter Gold Coast 2017 by Hannan Paul
Celibate Rifles' Damien Lovelock. Photo by Hannan Paul / NightQuarter.

The Celibate Rifles and the Gold Coast are a perfect match.

They might come across a bit slick on the surface, but they have an incredibly grimy underbelly. They bring some heavy influence from other cultures, but remain steadfastly Australian. And, most notably, half the crowd looked pretty much exactly like frontman Damien Lovelock.

Despite a hilarious (and thankfully short-lived) complete power outage, the band didn’t struggle to keep the audience captivated, thanks probably equally to their power-pop infused garage rock and the frontman’s relatable persona.  He told us they’ve been in the studio earlier that week recording some covers. Later the band showed off one of their finest retellings, the cover of Patti Smith’s ‘Dancing Barefoot’ they first aired in the late 1980s.

 

 

But it’s the Rifles own classics we’re here to see. ‘Electravision Mantra’ and ‘Wonderful Life’ are reminders of the immense influence 1989’s Blind Ear had on so many rock bands in the early ‘90s, while ‘I Shoulda’ served as a reminder to revisit their excellent 2000 record A Mid-Stream Of Consciousness.

Much like Kuepper, though certainly unlike tonight’s headliners, the Rifles have kinda just always been there. Maybe you need a reminder to go and see them again? If so, consider this it. They’re still kicking arse and those songs are still killer.

If you truly care about the Sunnyboys you need to see them now and celebrate this important – if not entirely nostalgic – era of a truly great band.

Having written about the Sunnyboys in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, it has become very difficult to find something new to say. That's not a slight on them. The shows are so brilliant that I can’t stay away.

This tour features the band playing that legendary first album from start to finish and this first date on the Gold Coast was another triumph for the band.

For some reason the tempo lagged on the first couple of songs, but once that was remedied we got the same joyful, nostalgic Sunnyboys experience we’ve loved since they reformed.

There are a few small points of difference. The full album means we got to hear ‘Gone’ for the first time since the band reformed.

Plus, in one of their two encores, the band played ‘Guts Of Iron’ for the first time in almost 40 years, among the usual range of hits from other albums - 'Love To Rule', 'What You Need', 'You Need A Friend' - and their trusty cover of The Remains' 'Why Do I Cry'.

Those of us with an intimate enough knowledge of the record – most of the crowd by the sounds of things – we knew exactly what song was coming next, which is a pleasant and different, way to enjoy the show.

Frontman Jeremy Oxley remains in good form as a vocalist and guitarist and seemed more animated than ever when facing the crowd. At one stage, when guitarist Richard Burgman put his head on Jeremy's shoulder mid-solo, you can sense he’s proud. Of his friend, of his band mates, of himself.

But, let’s be clear, this is not going to last forever.  

 

Five years ago, I was one of many who never believed I’d ever see the Sunnyboys play live. Half a decade on from the band’s miraculous reformation, perhaps you are still in that same boat. If so, it’s no one’s fault but your own. There have been countless opportunities to see them, who’s to say there’ll be countless more?

There are no excuses. The band are still playing their best material to rave reviews, but who knows when they’ll decide the reunion is done? Or when decide to write a new record? Or when they’ll invite Tim Freedman back to the band?

If you truly care about the Sunnyboys you need to see them now and celebrate this important – if not entirely nostalgic – era of a truly great band.

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