John Schumann & Shane Howard – The Gov Sunday 16 December 2018.
Words Geoff Jenke
John Schumann and Shane Howard were only here in May, but have decided to do a brief tour of Australia which thankfully included Adelaide again. I guess why wouldn’t it, with John being from Adelaide.
The two self-proclaimed “raggedy poets” are two of the most influential song-writers this country has ever known. John’s compelling, I Was Only 19 (A Walk in the Green Light) has to be one of the greatest Australian songs ever, if not THE greatest song ever from this country. Shane is best known for his leadership of the band Goanna who had a massive hit with Solid Rock. The two have recorded together several times over the years and often played live together.
Backed by the Red Rockin’ Dirt band, the duo hit the stage and surprisingly started the night with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s, No Surrender from Born in the U.S.A. The two traded verses during the song, something they did all night regardless of who’s song they were playing, and it worked a treat.
Shane told us “his” story, from busking days to the recognition of Goanna and then played one of the “first songs I ever wrote” which was a splendid version of Razor’s Edge. John followed this up with a tale of how a bank kicked a family off their farm back in 1987, then asked if anyone on the audience worked for a band. Not surprisingly, no-one owned up to working for a bank. John’s voice is instantly recognisable, sounding like a wind blowing red dust, a voice of hardship and at times weariness.
Let the Franklin Flow was next, with yet another story of how it was first performed by Goanna with John Schumann at the Stop the Drop concert in the 1980’s. It had only been written at that time and there was only one run through before being sung in front of 30,000 people.
John’s songs had a bit of a military theme during the night with On Every ANZAC Day closely followed by their version of Khe Sanh on which John had asked Don Walker from Cold Chisel if he could change the first line from “I left my heart to the sappers round Khe Sanh” to “… sappers round Long Tanh”. Don had agreed. Khe Sanh only had a wonderfully haunting guitar accompaniment.
The song Help by the Beatles didn’t really work. It felt a little out of place amongst the other songs played this night. John told us that the 70’s and 80’s were a fertile time for writing uncompromising socio-political songs and they didn’t think there would ever never be a time like that again. Then Trump came along.
Redgum’s, The Long Run had an extended drawn out, but wonderful, ending with violin and keyboards playing against each other. Sounded a bit like The Devil Goes Down to Georgia at times and that is not a bad thing.
Then it was time for the hits. I still get a shiver down my spine every time I hear the words “Mum and Dad and Denny” start the song, I Was Only 19. Tonight was no exception. It is a sobering song. Check the video clip on YouTube… it is still one of the most powerful clips ever.
Solid Rock is no slouch of a song either with Shane playing the didgeridoo during the song. The crowd were soon on their feet cheering the pair.
Encore gave us the story of how John Farnham covered Shane’s Talk of the Town, and the royalties putting his kids through school, before the band played it. John then gave us the story of him wanting to mix Tom Wait’s Tom Traubert Blues with Waltzing Matilda claiming Tom “stole” Waltzing Matilda anyway. Tom graciously let him cover and mix the two songs together. The song was one of the highlights of the evening.
A word about the Red Rockin’ Dirt Band. Magnificent. The violin (and on occasion, mandolin) added depth to the songs that previous wasn’t there and the rest of band were great as well.
Two grumpy “old” men held a packed Gov in the palm of their hands all night. Maybe a little too much talking at times, as the regulars to these shows would know the stories, but a small quibble.
We may live in “uncertain times” but we can hopefully hold on to John’s words “It’ll be all right in the long run”.
Now John, about a Redgum reformation tour?