Adelaide Oval for The Adelaide Festival
Tuesday 8th March 2022
Emily Wurramara walked on stage after the “Welcome to Country’ ceremony looking a little amazed. She told us later that this was the first time in 2 years she had played live with a band in front of an audience. Up until now it was just her in front of a phone or camera putting songs on social media.
The big stage and crowd did not daunt Emily as she launched into Lady Blue, a wistful blues tune. Emily is from Groote Eylandt, just off the coast of Northern Territory and she sang some of the songs in her native language. A children’s song about being happy as well as a protest song about mining the ocean that turned into a celebration song when the court case to stop the mining was won.
Emily may have been happy to finally be playing in front of a live audience but seeing the audience reaction, they were happy to have her play to them.
Icehouse ruled the 80’s when it came to big sounding songs. Their songs were always on the radio and they toured incessantly. And to back up as to how many hits they did have during the 80’s, it was only the hits that were played during the main set. Icehouse may have flown with a safety net by only playing hits, but the crowd lapped up every moment of it.
Multi-instrumentalist William Barton was introduced and walked on stage with guitar and didgeridoo to play an extended eerie “Welcome to Country” with both instruments, which gave way to the Icehouse members appearing on stage.
As the strains of the song Icehouse sounded out, Iva walked on stage, still looking virtuous in a white T Shirt and leather jacket. The words may have reflected “There’s no love inside the icehouse”, but in reality, tonight, there was plenty of love for Icehouse. The words “It’s always cold inside the icehouse” were also resounding as a cold southerly wind was blowing over us.
Walls followed and the sax playing by Hugo Lee in Electric Blue sent chills down the spine. The video screen behind the band was in continuous use, and while on some songs it added to the ambiance of the song, on others it was distracting, especially when the original video clip was just shown behind the song, as in Street Cafe.
The hits kept coming in Hey Little Girl, Crazy and My Obsession, a song we learned was about an old flame called Julie, so “this song is for all the Julie’s in the audience,” said Iva.
Iva bought Michal Paynter down from behind the keyboards to “help out” on guitar and vocals for Touch the Fire before leaving Michael to perform Man of Colours solo, except for one verse that Iva sang. Iva however played haunting clarinet during the song adding a great feel to the song.
Hugo Lee took center stage with his sax for an extended blistering intro to Don’t Believe Anymore before the band joined in to what was the highlight of the evening. In fact, the evening almost belonged to Hugo and his sax playing. He was magnificent.
A minor technical issue gave Iva the opportunity to tell the younger people in the band how much better “things were in the old days”, how things like toasters lasted longer because they were not made by “young people” and showing young Michael Paynter a guitar lead and explaining what it was.
William Barton came back with his didgeridoo for an arousing Great Southern Land, a song released almost 40 years ago. As with the opening numbers being two tracks from the debut album, Icehouse, released when they were known as Flowers, the final two songs were also from that album. Their first ever single, Can’t Help My Self and the exciting We Can Get Together had people standing up, with some dancing.
Icehouse told everyone they were allowed to stand up and “even dance if you want to” and lowered the safety net for the encore with two covers, a magnificent version of Midnight Oil’s Put Down That Weapon and an exciting version of The Angels Marseilles. While these songs took the band to a new high, it was interesting that people started leaving. Their loss, as the final song was a superb rocking Nothing Too Serious.
So how many hits have Icehouse had? Well, we didn’t get Love in Motion, Taking the Town, Dusty Pages or Mr Big just to name a few. But then Icehouse have been around for over 40 years in one form or another so there will always be songs left out. They certainly can rock, as they proved tonight and are certified Aussie legends. Let’s hope they are back soon and take away the safety net.