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MEDIA: Reviews: Live '92

Universal Theatre


review by Richard Plunkett - The Age, 18 August 1992

Cummings proves that rock still sounds as good as a CD

The Universal Theatre was the perfect venue for a show by two prominent Melbourne anti-rockers. Instead of the customary cigarette smoke and rowdy pub atmosphere, there was a quiet but appreciative audience listening to every word from Stephen Cummings and Dave Graney.

It was a show for the CD crowd, for people who love modern music but can't bear to be without ideal listening conditions.

Dave Graney played what he calls "soft, sexy" music, his songs inhabited by retro icons such as Jack Kerouac, Serge Gainsbourg and Ava Gardner. Suitably, he appeared as the perfect beatnik, with Rembrandt facial hair, pointy boots and slicked hair. He took the smooth, mature image almost to parody with his elegant stage moves and rich voice, leavened with a sharp if peculiar sense of humour.

Most typical of this show was a long introduction in which Graney spoke on the horrors of travelling with a rock band - the noise, the vulgarity, the farting. The smartly dressed audience shuddered in sympathy.

Stephen Cummings, one-time lead singer of The Sports and now the local Prince of Cool, gave one of the best shows I have seen. Much of his appeal lay in an aspect that was clearer in a live setting - the natural charm and modesty he exudes. Such talent as his is usually seen only with artists who relentlessly expose their tortured soul, or artists who live in some musicians' dreamland.

With guitarist Shane O'Mara, singer Rebecca Barnard and Joe Camilleri on the keyboards (relishing the chance to ham it up in classic keyboardist style - Ray Charles meets Stevie Wonder), bass and drums, he moved seamlessly through a set of first class songs. Thankfully he left out the dreadful 'Gymnasium', making room for songs such as 'Heart for Heart', 'Melancholy Hour', and the funky belter 'Hell (You Put Me Through)'.

Funk is a difficult music to play - it hits every groove or it fails miserably. Fortunately Cummings and the band nailed every word and beat.

The show proved that rock can still sound as good as a CD.

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