Terrey Hills Tavern, 29th May 2015
After forming in 1978 in Hamilton, New Zealand, Mi-Sex burst onto the airwaves soon after in 1979. With their unique ‘new wave’, others might say ‘progressive rock’, sound, one thing was clearly obvious, we had not heard a sound quite like this before. At the time there were bands in the UK who were doing things with electronic keyboards and synthesizers, but this was something different and was evident with the release of their first single, ‘Computer Games’, in 1979.
The hits then kept on coming. Also in 1979, they showed that they were not a one-hit wonder with the release of their next single ‘But you don’t care’. In 1980 other hits followed, including ‘People’, ‘It only hurts when I’m laughing’ and ‘Space Race’. The band released four albums; Graffiti Crimes (1979), Space Race (1980), Shanghaied (1981) and the last in 1983 titled Where do they go?. These albums contained other popular Mi-Sex songs, ‘Falling in and out’ (’81), ‘Castaway’ (’82), ‘Lost time’ (’83), and ‘Blue Day’ (’83).
In November 1991, Mi-Sex lead singer Steve Gilpin was involved in a car accident on the way home from a gig in Coolangatta. He was severely injured and taken to Southport Hospital where he lapsed into a coma from which he never recovered. He died on January 6th, 1992, aged 42.
In 2011, at a private party in New Zealand, Steve Balbi accepted the invitation to front Mi-Sex. This led to the band performing at the “Christchurch Quake Relief Concert” with original band members Don Martin (bass), Murray Burns (keyboards), Paul Dunningham (drums), Colin Bayley (guitar), and another newcomer Luke Cuerden (lead guitar). Since that fateful concert the guys haven’t looked back. Mi-Sex has been consistently touring New Zealand and Australia to audiences both young and old, ever since.
Friday night, 29th May, at the Terrey Hills Tavern was no exception. The audience tonight was peppered with people aged 18 years old to those in their 60’s, some even older. Whatever their age, they were here for only one reason….. Mi-Sex!!!!!
As 9.30pm approached the crowd built up to 30-40 deep from the front of the stage. At the very front were two wheelchair assisted fans who were sharing the mounting excitement. Also at tonight’s performance were two special guests; Mi-Sex original lead singer Steve Gilpin’s daughter, Sarah, who has seen the band perform on many occasions, as well as new lead singer Steve Balbi’s mum, Mrs Balbi. Just to our left, a few young ladies who were seeing the band for the first time because their parents are long-time fans and they wanted to see what the fuss was about.
When the house lights went out the stage was in darkness and we could just make out the silhouettes of the band taking their positions. After a few moments the eerie sound of Murray’s keyboards playing the intro to 'Graffiti Crimes’ started, and with a jolt the spotlight shone on Steve Balbi’s face as he whispered in that distinctive voice …..
‘Graffiti crimes shall be written upon your walls
But I shall spray them so bold so tall
Just you wait 'til you read this one’
And then the stage came alight, and alive, to the sights and sounds of Mi-Sex! The audience was loving it from the get go, most singing along, some pumping their arms into the air while others were head banging or doing whatever it is that they do to show their total appreciation and synergy with the musicians on stage. One of the young ladies said “you didn’t tell me Johnny Depp was the lead singer”…. I think a new fan was born…..
As the band launched into ‘But you don’t care’ it was obvious that the band were enjoying the performance just as much as the audience. For myself, I was re-living the songs I had grown up on in the 70s and 80s, and now, at 55, I am loving just as much, if not more. The familiar songs just kept coming, ‘Wot do you want’, ‘Space Race’, ‘Not such a bad boy’, ‘Falling in and out with you’, each and every one ingrained like muscle memory.
As for Don Martin, what can I say… a person should not be able to have that much fun standing up! His passion and love of performing is unequalled. He still performs in his leather vest and leather pants AND barefoot, of course! Sadly the only thing missing was, as Don put it himself “the love of my life, my 1962 Fender Jazz Bass which I have cherished and loved since 1972 was stolen from the band’s dressing room at a recent performance at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne”. We would all love to see Don re-united with his Bass. If anyone has any information on its whereabouts, please contact the band via their website or Facebook page. You can also contact Crimestoppers, or contact us at www.livemusic.sydney.
Steve Balbi’s stage presence is both hypnotic and mesmerising. The dark eye shadow, together with the long spaghetti-like hair obscuring his face under the black bowler hat, his moustache and goatee and even his black shirt, red and green striped tie and black velvet waistcoat all add air to the sense of dark mystery, enticing and enchanting at the same time. His energy and theatrics on stage are fabulous and he sometimes appears to be off somewhere in a faraway place, possibly even some other time. He reminds me of other theatrical performers such as Marcel Marceau or Charlie Chaplin, or even as the young lady said, Johnny Depp?
Travis New (lead guitar) is a fantastic addition to the band. His youth and great lead guitar breaks just gel with the more senior members.
The other three, original band members, I would describe as “the engine room”. Murray Burns playing keyboards, Paul Dunningham on drums and last but not least, Colin Bayley on guitar. Their experience and love of performing was not lost on the audience. Colin had a smile as big as “Luna Park” all night! Paul was in his element behind the drums, playing with determination and sweat dripping from his entire body. Murray always puts on a great show, without fail, and the sounds coming from his keyboard are phenomenal!
The band had the audience in the palms of their hands all night as the familiar songs just kept coming…. ‘Stills’, ‘Down the line’, 'Ghosts’, ‘Living in September’ and ‘Blue Day’....... but, as we were all enjoying our trip down memory lane, someone unfortunately became too obnoxious and tried to spoil it for everyone. From down near the stage one “fan” began falling over and pushing those around him, going way too far when he yelled out telling Steve Balbi to play a Dragon song in memory of Marc Hunter. Steve was quick to shut him down with his rapid fire “which song do you want asshole”, which did the job of making the offender retreat back into the asshole from whence he came!
Much of the songs from tonight’s performance came from the album “Graffiti Crimes” and the highly successful follow-up album “Space Race”. ‘Computer Games’, ‘Castaway’ and ‘People’ rounded off the performance nicely. The band sincerely thanked all in attendance for being a great audience before leaving the stage. But the crowd was not happy to leave just yet! The cheers and applause made no sign of diminishing and when the band returned to the stage Colin Bayley took on the lead vocals for the song he penned ‘I wanna be with you’. The audience loved it!!!! Steve then resumed the microphone for the final song of the evening ‘It only hurts when I’m laughing’.
I have to say, I had a wonderful time reliving and singing along to these great songs. It was obvious I wasn’t alone. When the house lights went on there was nothing to see but happy faces, smiles of contentment and animated chatter as fans compared notes on their highlights.
I, and the friends that came with me to this show, are now eagerly looking forward to the next Mi-Sex gig at the State Theatre on August 21st where they will be sharing the stage with Mondo Rock.
As the guy in the cowboy hat used to say, “do yourself a favour” and get tickets to that one!
Vlad Pocuca and Adrian Alders (photos)
see more photos here