While dwarfed in size by Sydney and Melbourne, the City of Churches produced a disproportionate number of Australian Music Hall of Fame inductees: The Angels, Cold Chisel, Little River Band, The Master’s Apprentices and AC/DC’s Bon Scott.
Then came the '80s, and the musical equivalent of the brain drain; icons like Paul Kelly migrated to Melbourne and cast shade upon little old Adelaide. Like the child of abusive parents, we began to doubt our own worth. In recent years, with the advent of the yearly Adelaide Fringe and small bar laws, the veil of inferiority has been lifted.
The Umbrella: Winter City Sounds festival has imbued Fringe fever into the local music scene. Turn Up Your Radio, a show (22 July) at The Gov celebrating Adelaide’s previous golden era of the '60s and '70s is a fitting centrepiece of a festival ushering in the new one.
Before becoming a famed operatic tenor, Brian Gilbertson was immersed in the burgeoning local rock scene. Decades later, he has reunited with fellow travellers, including virtuoso Quentin Eyers, to form The Southern Keys band.
The show is a chronological journey from the early '60s to the late '70s, featuring tracks from the famous names mentioned earlier, as well as lesser known acts such as Zoot, Healing Force and Doug Ashdown. Gilbertson’s soaring higher register was utilised most notably when he was tasked with reproducing the mighty vocals of Bon Scott; first in a Fraternity song and then ultimately with a show stealing AC/DC finale.
The Southern Keys
The instruments were played with the ease that inevitably comes from decades of practise. Gilbertson’s intervening years in the opera were not just evident in the power of his voice, but also the extent to which storytelling played a role in the performance.
Turn Up Your Radio serves many purposes: it offers nostalgia to audience members who lived through the '60s, education to those who were oblivious of that time and entertainment to those who fall somewhere in between. Multimedia is seamlessly integrated into the experience, with scenes of the Vietnam War and Gough Whitlam splashed across two giant screens and advertising jingles for tobacco and Mortein interspersed between tracks.
DJ Steve McNally narrated proceedings, prompting gasps of recollection as he reminisced about venues and bands long forgotten. Sole female member of The Southern Keys band, Carly Adams, made theatrical appearances and a spectacular costume change for the epic finale, AC/DC’s ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Want to Rock and Roll)'.
Adelaide certainly wants to rock & roll again; time will tell how far we have to go to reach the top.