Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Go-Betweens: Live at the Barbican program (2004)

The Go-Betweens performed at the Barbican, "Europe's largest multi-arts and conference venue" (according to its website), on June 27, 2004. The concert was released the following year as a two-disc set, Live in London, which was sold only at the Go-Betweens' shows and through their online shop. Six songs from the concert were also included as a bonus disc with some pressings of the Go-Betweens' 2005 album Oceans Apart.

My pal Richard Arthur sent me an original copy of the four-page program from the show, so I scanned it for other Go-Betweens fans to enjoy. The notes include several quotations from Forster and are transcribed below. Click on the images to see a larger version. 

The band lineup for this show was: 

Robert Forster – Vocals, electric and acoustic guitars
Grant McLennan – Vocals, electric and acoustic guitars
Glenn Thompson – Vocals, drums
Adele Pickvance – Vocals, bass


Audrey Riley – Cello, arranger
Chris Tombling – Violin
Richard George – Violin
Sue Dench – Viola
Dominic Kelly – Oboe


If there's one band that really gives the lie to the expression 'talent will out', it has to be The Go-Betweens. Described by critic Robert Christgau as 'the greatest cult band of the 80s', Australia's quintessential rock balladeers were always popular with the press. But somehow, they never quite managed to translate cult status into significant record sales. Their 'striped sunlight sound' seemed to fall between the cracks wherever they took it. 

You probably know about their early days in Brisbane in the late 70s. How they swapped the bright light for the bright lights. The bittersweet five-year sojourn in London, and a subsequent messy dissolution in Sydney at the very end of the 80s. The six classic albums they left in their wake – now sumptuously repackaged with bonus discs of loveable leftovers. The Robert Forster and Grant McLennan solo recordings and their periodic, teasingly fleeting reunions during the 90s. And the triumphant reformation for the new millennium, which has so far produced two more albums. Tonight's gig is a celebration [of] The Go-Betweens Mk.2 and a fond gaze over a back catalogue to die for. 

Things have come full circle for Forster and McLennan. They both live back in 'Brissie', and though their lives have changed, the 'creative friendship' which has always been the basis of their work together is back in flower, given added impetus by proximity. In many ways, it's just like the old days, as Robert explains:

'I just get in the car and drive over to his place, and we just sit and play guitar, like, toe to toe, playing the songs and just sitting and talking about them, basically.'

'There's an ever-persistent garage rock revival going on in Australia. So we feel just as much a fish-out-of-water as we ever did.'

Otherwise, they're happy to be home. But it also feels good to be back in this part of the world, with a whole double bill at their disposal. 

'I've wanted to do this for some time. Not just to play the current album and selected bits from the back catalogue, like when we tour, but instead to really get into it. Throw off the shackles and become The Grateful Dead or Bruce Springsteen ... we could play pure quality for, I'd say, 4 and a half, 5 hours! It would not dip.'

Adele Pickvance and Glenn Thompson complete the current Go-betweens line-up, and they'll be helped out by a four-piece string section led by Audrey Riley, a veteran of both Liberty Bell, the Black Diamond Express and Tallulah. They'll be giving an extraordinary pop-rock legacy the red carpet treatment it surely deserves. So enjoy listening out for your favourites. And maybe a few expected treats. 

'I don't wanna give away what we're gonna play. But it's not gonna be some crazy zig-zag though B-sides. There will be excursions into other corners – but from a position of comfort. A lot of thought has gone into what we're playing. And we're enormously excited. We're looking back, we're looking at now and we're looking forward. That's important. And we're scared. But we're confident.'

Jon Lusk

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