The Bridge Hotel, Rozelle
A life with no Angels would be no life at all.
We were all saddened by the passing of Doc Neeson (enigmatic front man) and Chris Bailey (bass player) in recent times. No-one more than myself, having seen the Angels perform live more than 100 times and having met both Doc and Chris on a few occasions. Both gentlemen were founding members of the Angels and were kind and giving of their time to myself and many other admirers long after the gigs had finished. The Angels have always had time for their fan base and this mutual celebration has morphed into a substantial Facebook base, The Angels (Australia) Past, Present and Future now boosts more than 4000 members. Mignonne Immesi does a terrific job of keeping everybody up to date in the world of the Angels.
Joining a band after someone has been loved and admired for decades must be like trying to please a new
stepson without buying him a toy. You will never win and with time the best you can hope for is that your respect can be earned. Life is dynamic and forever changing. We have no choice but to adjust and evolve. Comparisons between new and ex members of any band is inevitable but clearly not fair to either party and for me a life with no Angels in it would be no life at all. So the addition of Dave Gleeson, Nick Norton and Sam Brewster to join Rick Brewster and John Brewster is welcomed with open arms by me.
Dave Gleeson’s introduction to the Angels was organic. For those that are not aware of how this came to be, it is best left for John Brewster to explain. “Rick and I were playing a gig up in the Adelaide Hills in a place called the ‘Haus’ in Hahndorf " Hahndorf is a small German based town in South Australia. “Dave, who lives in a suburb a few valleys away, turned up at the gig and was there having a beer down the front and Doc had left the band.” I said to Dave “ Do you know any Angels songs?” and he said “Are you kidding, I know them all”. So I said “ Do you want to come up and have a sing” and so he did and Rick and I looked at each other and thought this is the right guy. “I called him a couple of weeks later and offered him the job as our new singer”.
At 8.40 pm the AC/DC Back in Black CD gets turned down, the lights fade and the slow clapping starts with
a familiar chant of Angels, Angels, Angels until the Angels make their way out of the makeshift greenroom. Anyone who has frequented this establishment will know what I mean about the word makeshift. The Bridge Hotel in Rozelle has rustic charm and not a lot has changed since the 70’s in here which is why the venue is endearing and appealing. A true pub rock experience with no frills. No-one's attire is brought into question and we are all here for the same reason, to rock out, and rock out we do. One of the pioneer live music venues that still remains today, untouched and unchanged.
This tour is the A-Z tour which as a concept worked well for Paul Kelly in January 2011. This however is not over 4 nights, this is one huge show with 26 songs and encores over a 3 hour period. A two-set-of -13-song-each mammoth undertaking commences with Am I ever gonna see your face again which is almost a shame as After the rain doesn’t get a look in but the wealth and depth of songs to choose from means that some favorites are going to be left out. From the opening bar of this song the crowd is engaged, the obligatory response throughout the song gets everybody charged and the mood has been set. A rock show of blistering pace, thunderous drums by Nick Norton, tight rhythm section with Sam Brewster on bass and riffs by Rick and John Brewster will be presented over the next few hours. You know that riff, that is the Angels. It’s instantly recognisable and has been indelibly stamped into our consciousness for the last 40 years. That sexy hook that just grabs hold and does not let go.
Thankfully the association between letters of the alphabet and songs is fairly loose so guessing the next song becomes more interesting after Shadow Boxer is the B song. Coming Down and Dogs are talking continue the frenetic pace and after 4 songs the Bridge Hotel is pumping. This venue is ideal for good old fashioned rock. As the beer bottles and Bourbon cans start to mount up you know this is going to be a good night enjoyed by all.
Dave Gleeson’s addition to the Angels has not been to merely engage the audience as the front man, sing the songs and be on his way. Both recent albums, Take it to the streets and Talk the Talk have writing credits with Dave Gleeson and his contribution is not to just take the money and run. Thankfully tonight’s set list is not all retro and tracks off the Talk the Talk album make the cut. I wait with eager excitement for the opening bars of the ‘E’ song, hoping that I might hear that swampy bluesy swagger of Everyman and as Nick Norton thumps the skins my prayers are answered. Nick Norton is a fine drummer, much admired by the rest of the band and is also a great song writer. This tune Nick plays with extra vigor as he wrote this song with John Brewster. I can imagine ZZ Top blasting out a rendition of this song deep in the American south. Again a big sexy hook with an up-tempo beat.
Having such an extensive repertoire of songs to choose from does divide the masses and Fashion and Fame makes way for Face the Day instead. As I look around, I smile that all the twenty year olds in the audience know the words too. Many Dad and son combos here tonight and all reveling in being able to share the joy.
If you could guess the ‘G’ song then you’re a better man than me. As We Gotta get out of this place kicks in the person next to me says “I didn’t know they did this song” to which I reply “The Animals’’ sang this song many years ago but The Angels do a mighty fine job of it” and mighty fine job they do.
Another track from the new album Heart of Stone is next with lyrics penned by Dave Gleeson. Dave is an Angel now and his impassioned delivery and the pride of singing his own song shines through this track.
I Ain’t the one and Straight Jacket (both tracks off the Face to Face album) lift the roof off the Bridge and it’s getting hot and sweaty in here. Delivered at fever pitch the dancefloor is taking a hammering and the crowd are loving it. The bluesy Broken Windows (again co-penned by Dave Gleeson) does have a ‘K’ in it so that’s quite acceptable in my book. The concept is fun and no-one at this stage cares what the next song is as they are all good so far.
Sam Brewster looks like he’s having a good time too and joins his Dad side by side many times during the night to play and add backing vocals. Again, Chris Bailey was revered for decades and sliding into someone else’s shoes can’t be easy or comfortable. There is a smile when Sam joins his uncle Rick several times during the night and you can imagine that this unbridled joy of performing is as addictive for Sam, Rick, Nick, Dave and John as it is for us watching and listening.
Take a long line and Marseilles take us to the intermission and as we walk next door to get some air we pinch ourselves that it is only half time. Almost a concert in itself and a chance for the heart to stop pumping so damn hard. The demonstrative pace of the 1st set will surely have the medics on standby for the 2nd set.
No secrets gets the 2nd set underway and is clearly a crowd favorite. Loud voices all in unison singing “ the smile she keeps for you” and as I look around the twenty year olds are joining in, knowing the words and loving every minute of it. Good music is timeless and The Angels songs seep through your veins to feed the soul. God it feels good to be alive.
Outcast gives us a chance to take stock and regroup which is followed by I come in peace. A song that was written by Rick Brewster and Ross Wilson. Joe Cocker covered this song recently before his death and again another track from Talk the Talk makes the set list. In my opinion, Talk the Talk is one of the strongest Angels albums and a band that evolves and regenerates after 40 years with strong bombastic and new anthemic pub rock songs is to be admired.
After the Rain, Save me, Talk the Talk, Ivory Stairs and Who rings the bell continue to exhaust the crowd that are lapping up every lick and every riff but the biggest cheer is saved for No Exit which takes us to another level, a crescendo of glorious euphoric salubrious sounds, exhilaration to the highest extreme and my body is about to explode with joy. John Brewster is loving it, looks sprightly for a man of his age and still has a spring in his step. The adrenalin that must be pumping through his veins! I am going to need some of that to get through the encore.
As my son encourages me to join him at the front of the stage for the encore, Can’t Shake it fills the auditorium and all and sundry are leaping about having the times of their lives and sharing what matters most. An experience and connection that you don’t forget.
As the Venue doors open and the crowd spills out into the Balmain streets, a twenty year old voice can be heard saying ‘that was the best concert I have ever been to”. He might just be right.
Rick and John Brewster are right also.“Dave Gleeson – he is our guy”.
see more photos here