“We finish in Radelaide!” trilled Katie in response to my mention of their gig at The Gov in December. “We just wanted to play great venues that we know and love, and we know and love The Gov, so we’re thrilled to be back.”
Thank you so much to all the #specialones who came and filled our hearts with goodness last night for the #george 20 year (wtf?) reunion concert @atqpac for @brisbanefestival . It was magic, joyful and full of the good juju. thank you for giving our music a welcome home since I was an 18 year old feminist upstart trying to find my voice! With love and gratitude kt xo @tyronenoonan @thetanukilounge @greenigroove @geoffhooton
The special, one-off performance marks the first time in over 11 years that the iconic Brisbane art rock, indie quintet have performed in Adelaide, a city that holds treasured memories from the band’s heyday. “I love Adelaide for many reasons. The music scene is very vibrant and exciting and I’ve got lots of great friends there, but for george particularly, we’ve just had great shows in Adelaide.
“We’re thrilled to be going back to our old kind of stomping ground. We remember our first gig at the East End Exchange Hotel in Grenfell Street for the Fringe. I remember playing the Austral. All the memories of gigs in Adelaide are always good, so I’m looking forward to this one.”
The series of performances coincide with the band’s 20th anniversary. For many bands, this milestone would be sufficient enough reason to reunite. Not so for Katie. A reunion had been floated on numerous occasions, however she remained hesitant. “Everyone had been talking about reunion shows, but I didn’t feel particularly inspired to do it to be honest. I didn’t want it to be tokenistic, as in, ‘Aw, it’s been 20 years so we may as well do a gig’. I wanted to do it for real reasons.”
An invitation to participate in a secret gig at Brisbane’s live music institution The Zoo, proved a good enough motive. “In terms of its importance to the contemporary music scene, The Zoo is probably similar to The Gov in terms of the DNA in the building and the amount of support that the venue has shown our industry. We did it basically for The Zoo.”
The secret gig was in honour of The Zoo’s founders who were handing over management to a new generation of female entrepreneurs after 24 years at the helm. “They asked us to play because The Zoo was kind of our home. We did our first-ever gig there. So that felt like the right reasons to join and play together again to honour that memory. So we did it, and it was really easy. It just slipped on like an old pair of comfy PJs.”
The ease of The Zoo show’s rehearsals set the wheels in motion for the official reunion tour. “We played ‘Special Ones’ and only rehearsed it for literally five minutes and then went, ‘Okay, that sounds great. Next!’ So then it felt meant to be to maybe commemorate our 20th year as a band, performing as a band. It felt good and if it didn’t feel good we wouldn’t have done it.”
There was, however, another motivating factor for Katie. Family. “The main reason I did it was for my family; for my dad, an octogenarian, so he could see his daughter and son (Tyrone Noonan; singer-songwriter, guitar and keyboards) together on stage again.”
Once again, rehearsals for the official reunion shows were a breeze. “We wanted to make sure we did a decent show, but we only rehearsed actually twice as a full band. They were pretty long rehearsals but it just felt right.
“I mean, we played these songs literally hundreds and hundreds of times. We toured our arses off. We lived in a Tarago for a very long time. By the time we had commercial, mainstream success in terms of ARIAS and chart positions, we’d been driving around the country for seven years playing any venue or pub that would have us really, so we’ve played a lot. The muscle memory comes back and you kind of get back into it.”
The band kicked off the official reunion tour in their hometown of Brisbane. “We played the Brisbane Festival at QPAC Concert Hall. It sold out very quickly and it was a wonderful evening of sharing memories and a real special night. A very kind of late '90s time warp,” Katie chuckles.
The setlist for the shows captures all of george’s classics. “We created the set thinking what our audience would most likely like to hear. So it’s most of the tunes from ‘Polyserena’, a few songs from ‘Unity’; you know the songs that we feel connected most with our audience.”
Katie has enjoyed a stellar career since george’s final show, held in the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House in January 2005. From the formation of Katie Noonan & The Captains, creating and performing with contemporary circus group Circa, to her collaborations with the country’s top orchestras, Katie's voice has understandably developed. “You’re constantly evolving as an artist and trying to get better at your sound, your craft, your time, your groove and your intonation.
“That’s the life-long journey of any musician, so yeah, it was weird singing songs that I sing very differently now. I mean, they still sound the same, but my voice has evolved. Pregnancy was fantastic for my voice. The hormones did something and I suddenly had a bit of a warmer, bigger sound, and you know, your heart is opened in ways that you can’t imagine once you become a mum. It does open up a wealth of emotional experience that I think, for me, has made me a better singer and a better communicator.”
Katie’s voice may have evolved, however the band are staying loyal to the songs that gave the band their huge following across Australia and abroad. “We’re trying to stay pretty true to form. We never play a backing track or anything like that, so we always have an element of some improvisation in our shows, but no, it’s pop music. We really try to deliver it the best we can and as tight as possible and pretty much true to the original."
Australian troubadour Jack Carty, who has just released a new album ‘Home State’, will be joining george at The Gov as their special guest. “I’m very happy to be bringing Jack Carty who’s a wonderful young musician and a really exciting new voice in Australian contemporary music.
“I remember when we first played The Gov with a little, unknown singer called Missy Higgins 16 years ago, and I was watching the audience going, ‘Man, this girl is going to be a star’. I feel the same way about Jack Carty, so it’s great to be bringing him with us.”
GEORGE TOUR DATESSat 26 Nov - Queenscliff Music Festival, VIC
Sat 3 Dec - Kings Park & Botanic Garden, Perth (with Missy Higgins and WSO)
Sun 4 Dec - The Gov, Adelaide (with special guest Jack Carty)
Fri 17 Feb - Taronga Zoo (with Felix Riebl and Jack Carty)
Sat 18 Feb - Melbourne Zoo (with Felix Riebl and Jack Carty)