LIVE REVIEW: THE REVEREND HORTON HEAT – THE HIFI, BRISBANE [26/05/13]

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Reviewed by Bec Hennessy

The rockabilly ‘scene’ ain’t really my scene. Harking back to the ‘50’s; vintage cars, pin-up girl dresses, sorry – nope. Rockabilly music, or to be more specific Psychobilly,  is more up my alley – the punk and horror elements drawing me in. I’ve read the good Reverends musings on punk and like them.  I like the DIY attitude he’s got going on and has had for almost 30 years.

Local openers Men Into Space win in the best dressed stakes. They play as astronauts, complete with fully enclosed helmets on an assortment of franken-instruments. A ‘Ther-o-guitar’ –a guitar with a Theremin attached to it? Cool, but I woulda called it a guitar-emin. Semantics. Calling their sound ‘Astrobilly’ they are way ahead of me in the naming of things mashed together game, so I like the cut of their jib.  Helmets make for an odd stage presence but their franken-instruments don’t fail them.

DOUBLEBLACK contain former members of The Fireballs and The Living End – so how can they go wrong really? They’ve got the charisma, stage swagger and guitar licks to back it up though and certainly a crowd favourite. Vocalist Matt Black sports a quiff, downsized from the Fireball days, but still healthy as he gees up the crowd. Drummer Travis is Howard Moon-like in a Hawaiian shirt and hat with bass player Jase resplendent in overalls. A lone crazed head banger threatens the front barriers structural integrity and confuses/amuses us all. Matt diplomatically encouraging some “sexy dancing” instead.

Reverend Horton Heat take the stage in a most unpretentious, nonchalant way. The Rev clad simply in a white short sleeve business shirt, tie, high-waisted pants. Launching into ‘Psychobilly Freakout’ is a nice way to get things started, obviously. It is, as it is named. His voice not quite reaching the crazed heights of the recorded version, but nonetheless it goes off live as front of stage fills up.

The fun time and slightly camp sounds of ‘Martini Time’ wander in, another crowd favourite. I hear echoes of the title refrain being enthusiastically mimicked and shot from various spots in the crowd towards the stage.  Jimbo Wallace dressed smoothly all in black shares the spot light on this one, furiously slapping that bass.  Then he increases the fury on ‘Jimbo Song’ , introduced by The Rev as being from an album regarded as “the worst we ever did according to the critics” but then goes on to basically say – who cares what they think. Who cares indeed, as Jimbo lays the bass down, still playing whilst The Rev stands upon it and continues to wail also. The crowd goes wild.

Party in Your Head’ then ‘Galaxy 500’. Damn this shit is catchy. Damn The Rev can play. A thought I kept having over and over. He’s a well-oiled rockabilly machine, but not in a mechanical way. In a’ first car that’s still running with your blood, sweat and tears ‘cause it’s your pride and joy’ kind of way.  And he’s got quirky, fun sense of humour. It’s more understated on stage than I expected. Well, I mean apart from the ‘holding a guitar sermon from the top of a double-bass’ thing. He has a kind of thousand yard stare, broken by small smirks, smiles and nods to the crowd.

Drinkin and Smokin Cigarettes’ sees a definite swing dancing contingent get going left of stage.  Then Rev finally gets his rant on regaling us with a story of free booze and puking in the bushes of a Holiday Inn. Jimbo and The Rev swap instruments for a rollicking cover of ‘Johnny B. Goode’. The Rev pays all us kittens a compliment remarking that Australia has the “hottest chicks in the world” but all the guys are “as ugly as crap” before crooning for us with ‘In Your Wildest Dreams’. It’s a beautiful rendition and he pulls off suave lounge singer more than adequately. The encore includes a drum solo, a bass solo and to my delight a cover of ‘Folsom Prison Blues’.

I think I came to this gig expecting shiny suits and zealous proselytizing or something more showy and flamboyant.  I didn’t get that, but then what I got was much better.  An honest, hardworking, fun display of musicianship and showmanship that was much more real and enjoyable. Amen.

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