The Gov Saturday 12 September 2020
Words – Geoff Jenke
Photos – Robert McArthur
In 2005, legendary Adelaide singer-songwriter John Schumann, with his long-time mate, David Minear, collaborated on an album called Lawson, which was a collection of Henry Lawson poems set to music by John Schumann. While the original album featured other Australian musicians, including Russell Morris, Rob Hirst, Shane Howard and Mike Rudd, this evening it was John and his Vagabond Crew playing the album in its entirety.
It was good to see Adelaide people supporting live music in these times. The Gov shows have to be seated at the moment and while this means no crowds of 500 for a while, this show was sold out with over 200 people attending. Well done Adelaide.
John walked on stage and after a “welcome to Adelaide”, proceeded to give us a brief history of his love of the works of Lawson from the young age of ten, to how the album, Lawson, came about. He left us with the words of Winston Churchill, “A nation that forgets its pass has no future”.
With the band on stage ready to proceed with the opening track, we were introduced, by John, to tonight’s “host”, ABC broadcaster/journalist David Bevan. It was David’s role to fill us in on the stories behind Lawson’s works, as presented by the band in song.
John Schumann has a wonderful way of telling stories, not only in the Redgum days but also during his solo career. He also has the gift of reinterpreting songs to new levels, like Cold Chisels Khe Sanh, which he reinvented as Long Tan. It is due to John’s talent, the songs on the Lawson album were powerful, while entertaining.
The band opened with To an Old Mate and played the album in order, through to To Jim. Between each song David Bevan gave us the story of Henry’s life, a man who didn’t mind a drink, left his first wife and spent a lot of his life penniless. The interludes with David were rewarding and the music from the band wonderful.
Ian Politis on keyboards took many of the verses himself, all the while adding backing vocals at other times. With six backing musicians on stage, the sound was lush and full. John’s voice shone through the sound to give us Lawson’s words.
Highlight of the evening was The Glass on the Bar, a tale of the sadness of loss of life. The album closer To Jim was a close second. Perhaps with a bit of irony, the closing song of the main set was John’s interpretation of another fine Australian writer, Banjo Patterson’s song Waltzing Matilda. “This should be Australia’s national anthem, not that thing about “girt by sea” said John. The verses were shared around by the band and convinced nearly everyone that indeed it should be the national anthem.
When the band came back for an encore, one punter yelled out “Another Boring Saturday Night in Adelaide” (in reference to the Redgum song, One More Boring Night in Adelaide). John replied “Don’t know where you have been tonight, but we have been here”.
The two-song encore started with Redgum’s The Long Run, which sounded fresh and new, not nearly 40 years old. During the song, the keyboard player and the violin player had a duel which was a bit of fun. Naturally the night ended with I Was Only 19 (A Walk in the Light Green), leaving hardly a dry eye in the house. The song is that moving, as was the whole show.
Thanks for the history lesson John.