The silver-haired gentleman in the skull motif shirt may have had an iPad to remember the set list, but the singing was strong and the words tumbled out like freshly minted coins. The band were great—tight and energetic—and their fearless leader even managed a few quirky dance steps during an uptempo number.
At a time when musical icons seem to be shuffling towards the afterlife with somber regularity, seeing and hearing Mike Rudd celebrate a fifty year career milestone was a welcome tonic. You could even say it was inspiring. Do not go gently into that good night, rock-the-hell-out!
In fact the energy on stage seemed to contrast unfavourably with the docile, elderly audience filling the Thornbury Theatre and Ballroom last Saturday night. Sitting around circular tables with a glass of Chardonnay or a boutique beer, we looked and behaved as if uncertain whether being out so late was really such a good idea. Thank heavens for a few sprightly fifty-somethings who boogoolooed over in the corner. Several times I wanted to get closer to the stage, to let the energy infiltrate my middle-aged soul, but only managed some rhythmic head-nodding and swaying in my seat. Rudd and Co. deserved more as they raced through an amazing career in a hundred or so minutes.
Mike Rudd’s legendary dry humour was in evidence as he introduced the set. “I’ve managed,” he observed, “To create a fifty year music career with just one hit.” More on that hit later, because for openers Spectrum—providing the multi-hued cord running through the concert—played the B-side of their 1971 hit single, “Launching Place, Part II”. Having always loved this song, I was instantly in heaven… or perhaps on a sun-scorched hill gazing at the tangled pile of bodies attending one of Australia’s earliest outdoor festivals.
In addition to the classic “I’ll be gone” single, in 1971 Spectrum produced not only their debut album (Spectrum Part One), but a second double-LP of original material, Milesago. Talk about prolific. Both albums are full of quirky songs, often arranged as free-wheeling progressive excursions. Using more contemporary categories, you could call it “Stoner Prog”. “Play a song that I know” is a wry comment on audience confusion, while “Make your stash” (written by Daddy Cool frontman Ross Wilson) is a bare-faced steal from “Jupiter: The bringer of jollity” by Gustav Holst (and an amusing comment on the challenges facing the recreational drug user).
SET LIST Part I Launching Place Part II [Spectrum] Play a Song That I Know [S] Milesago 1971 Make Your Stash [S] Spectrum Part One 1971 We Are Indelible [Indelible Murtceps] Warts Up Your Nose 1973 But That’s Alright [S] Milesago 1971 Red Hot Momma [Ariel] Rock and Roll Scars 1975 Indelible Shuffle [IM] Testimonial 1973
Then we charged into the infectious boogie of “We are indelible”. The Indelible Murtceps were Rudd’s attempt to engage a wider audience with more focussed songs. The live album Terminal Buzz opens with this stomper, setting the tone for that particular classic 70s live double.
After Spectrum/Murtceps folded, there was but the briefest hiatus before Ariel arrived. You can read about it here.
For this particular concert, Mike Rudd was joined by singer/songwriter Glynn Mason who was a key part of one of Ariel’s manifestations. Hearing the two songs where he sang lead really marked the shift towards a more pop-orientated sound.
SET LIST Part II Keep on Dancing [Ariel] Rock and Roll Scars 1975 Some Good Advice [IM] 1973 Warts Up Your Nose I’ll Not Fade Away [Ariel/Glynn Mason singing] Goodnight Fiona 1976 It’s Only Love [Ariel/Glynn] single/Aloha 1977 Disco Dilemma [A] Aloha 1977 Jamaican Farewell [A] A Strange Fantastic Dream 1973 I’ll Be Gone [S] Single, 1971; Aloha 1977 Esmeralda (Encore) [IM] Warts Up Your Nose 1973
Then we raced for home, with the tongue-in-cheek “Disco dilemma” and the catchy (but dark) “Jamaican farewell” leading into a full-bodied audience sing-along for the anthem “I’ll be gone”.
Choosing the salacious “Esmeralda” as the encore seemed a slightly cheeky move on Mike’s part, yet the audience responded enthusiastically to its bouncy jive and were smiling broadly as they carefully navigated the handsome staircase leading back down into the Thornbury night. No bones were broken or hips displaced; a good time was had by all.
Australian music legend Mike Rudd spoke to Vinyl Connection about his ‘Fifty Not Out’ and also annotated the set list with extra info. Read the interview here.