Saturday, May 14, 2005


I don’t think the tingle that comes with being in the presence of heroes ever fully leaves one. Take this year for example. In January I stood transfixed by the Gang of Four’s edgy post-punk brew while all the time thinking, Blimey, that’s Andy Gill over there. I sensed a similar frisson at the Millennium Stadium when, bizarrely enough, Ireland ran out to warm up: a glance over at O’Driscoll and a startling thought emerges that I was watching probably the finest rugby player on the planet (apologies, Christo) jog towards me. And I sadly confess to ruminating but a month or so ago that, heck, I was stood eight feet away from the bloke who wrote Everybody’s Happy Nowadays.

Last night I got two heroes for the price of one. Grant McLennan and Robert Forster have been making records with The Go-Betweens since 1978 and, frankly, I don’t believe they’ve made a bad one. This concert showcased the new long player Oceans Apart which is a perfect 40 minutes of soaring pop melodies and the band’s trademark acerbic wit and wisdom. The new songs are lovely. Forster’s Darlinghurst Nights is a beautiful portrait of the swagger of a cerebral youth and that the group, last night, followed this with McLennan’s gorgeous, multi-layered The Statue meant a beautiful ten minutes for the assembled aficionados. This purist delighted in a moving Part Company, a passionate rendition of Draining the Pool for You, a bewitching Cattle and Cane and a lilting Bye Bye Pride to end the evening. Every song was an event. Rarely at a gig, I knew every song well and I can’t recall the last time that happened. This was a great occasion.

It was super to see the two men in action. Forster, a towering dark presence, cut rather a camp figure with his somewhat exaggerated movements. S described him as a quite arch character and thought he resembled Keith Floyd. I reckoned he looked a bit like a slimmer Alan Bates or maybe Gordon Brown. I enjoyed his brooding on-stage persona, staring intently at the audience. McLennan, according to S, was dressed like a 26 year-old. He appeared more relaxed and good-humoured and seemed content to stay out of the spotlight. I greatly admire both these fellows.

Between 12.50 pm and 12.15 am all I consumed was three pints of lager shandy and a packet of Bombay Mix. On returning home I was spent and unwell, a rancid mixture of hunger and rotten heartburn. A cautionary tale here: always have a proper tea before popping to the second city to watch Antipodean pop heroes. The Bombay Mix was a panic buy at Frankley Services and, by heck, I regretted it five hours later.