REVIEW: Bryget Chrisfield PHOTOS: Jason Rosewarne
As we stroll down Rundle Street bathed in glorious sunshine admiring the cloudless, azure skies, we already know Harvest Rock II has a head start over last year’s inaugural edition purely based on the fact that we’re sans plastic ponchos (last year it rained on our parade, both days).
Australian Musician is onsite across both Saturday Nov 28 and Sunday Nov 29 at Rymill and King Rodney Parks to bring you the highlights. Please welcome the below three stand-out winners of Saturday’s lineup to the victory podium for 2023’s (unfortunately not real) Harvest Rock medal ceremony!
Nile Rodgers & Chic
Soon after arriving on Harvest Rock Stage, Nile Rodgers told us he and his band Chic wouldn’t be “fucking around” tonight and he sure ain’t lying: they open with their biggest hit Le Freak, ferchrissakes! Synchronised chorey, matching salmon ensembles and a medley of (ahem!) “some of his number one hits” – when it comes to performing live, Nile is “Le freak, c’est chic”.
Everybody Dance has its own inbuilt audience-participation chorus cues – “Everybody dance… clap your hands…” – and that we do. Even though her appearance alongside Chic for Melbourne International Jazz Festival last weekend was billed as an Australian exclusive, we were still secretly hoping Chaka Khan would somehow materialise for a cheeky feat. tonight (no such luck), but oh, man! The vocal performances of Kimberly Davis and Audrey Martells require the collection of our jaws from the floor at regular intervals throughout. Rodgers actually drops to his knees beside Davis at one point – we’re not worthy-style – following her extended vocal riffing that closes out I Want Your Love.
I Want Your Love: https://youtu.be/rpuPCcw-cDU?si=0lDTcDj9vSrzqJnA
After telling us they’ve never been disappointed by our reception during Chic’s previous visits to our shores, Rodgers gushes this time around has been “something like phenomenal”. “I’m dead serious,” he adds, sincerely. Rodgers’ #1-hit medley includes I’m Coming Out and Upside Down (Diana Ross), He’s The Greatest Dancer and We Are Family (Sister Sledge) with no punter remaining motionless as far as the eye can see.
On working with Madonna when she was just starting out in the early ‘80s, Rodgers tells us he suggested she call the resulting album, and its lead single, Material Girl. He then reveals Madonna responded, “You can kiss my material ass,” ‘cause she had already decided on Like A Virgin. “I guess Madonna got it right,” he admits before Chic perform both aforementioned Rodgers-produced Madonna singles back to back. Keyboardist Russell Graham then takes lead vocals on Bowie’s Modern Love and the Harvest massive goes absolutely apeshit during Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, belting out super-appropriate lyrics: “We’ve come too far/ To give up who we are/ So let’s/ Raise the bar/ And our cups/ To the staaaaaaars!”
Following another Daft Punk belter, Lose Yourself To Dance, Nile informs us we’ve achieved “maximum funkocity” so it’s time to test out the volume of our collective hollers. The PB to beat is 98.7, which last night’s Fremantle Prison audience allegedly achieved. Challenge accepted. The Harvest massive peak at 99.8, according to Rodgers.
Bowie’s Let’s Dance – ooft, what a moment! This rhythm section – drummer Ralf Rolle and ace of bass, Jerry Barnes (that Good Times solo, though!) – is dynamite and our fervent, Rodgers-led, “CHIC! CHIC!” chant-along at set’s conclusion doesn’t even come close to expressing our gratitude and admiration for this matchless outfit.
The Chic Organisation is synonymous with Good Times and set an impossibly high bar for Harvest Rock II’s remaining acts. Bow down to The Hitmaker! We’re still buzzing while penning these words.
Do not miss Nile Rodgers & Chic’s final show of this current Australian tour at Melbourne’s Forum Theatre tonight!
Given that Jamiroquai is performing his Australian-exclusive show as Harvest Rock II’s Saturday night headliner, we kind of expected the hat game of festival attendees to be stronger today, to be honest. There’s a few scattered fluffy, oversized bucket hats to pledge allegiance to the man affectionately known as The Twat In The Hat, but that’s about it!
Jamiroquai mastermind Jay Kay is still a nimble-footed geezer with enviable, soulful pipes – and he pretty much nails the Aussie accent (be sure to check out his hilarious roo-spotting, fly-swatting social media posts from Down Under) – but even he questions the logic behind Day 1’s pecking order during his headline slot this evening: “Dunno whose crazy idea it was to put me on after Nile Rodgers! Nearly gave me a fuckin’ heart attack. Isn’t he fucking great?… Absolute legend.” Still, we “dance [our] blues away tonight” from opener Main Vein right through all the expected hits – Little L, Space Cowboy, Alright, Cosmic Girl, Canned Heat, Virtual Insanity – until Kay hotsteps off stage into the wings.
Sporting black trakkies, white trainers and trademark Native American headdress (has he still not received the cultural-appropriation memo?), Kay points out it’s a full moon tonight. He acknowledges the traditional custodians of our country while introducing Jamiroquai’s first-ever track When You Gonna Learn? before recalling an argument he had with this song’s producer (“a right little shit,” according to our headliner). “You can’t play the yidaki with the strings,” we’re told said producer claimed. Kay’s response? “Of course you can!” On yidaki this evening, Dave Booth absolutely dominates and the vibratory rumble is real. When Kay takes a minute to remember Rock Dust Light Star’s opening line, he jests, “Early onset… It’s all that fucking Afghan hash in the ‘90s!”
When You Gonna Learn?: https://youtu.be/eo7iwlMFPrM?si=QY0gM8YCvqS7L8sB
His band – including a sublime trio of background singers – is awesome and Jamiroquai certainly create an “interplanetary good vibe zone” this evening, however Nile Rodgers & Chic are an untouchable live act. Fact.
Chromeo bring the supreme cheese. How good is Vocoder!? (Even though it kinda looks like ol’ mate is siphoning petrol up there.) The Canadian electro-funk duo kickstart the Harvest Rock II, Day 1 party throughout their pre-sunset slot. As the dude behind us announces mid-set, “It’s going off!”
Their matching silver chrome guitars glisten in the late-arvo sunlight and David “Dave 1” Macklovitch and Patrick “P-Thugg” Gemayel wear all black outfits. They also favour relatively simple lighting design – bright white with splashes of lilac – to juxtapose the iridescence of their tunes, which call to mind ‘80s soundtrack classics such as Axel F (from Beverly Hills Cop) with a generous sprinkling of Daft Punk thrown in for good measure.
P-Thugg’s Vocodered audience-participation calls are hilarious: “I said, can I hear you scream?” – like a bossy robot. We try harder next time and RoboBoss seems satisfied, “Much better. Thank you.” Some Vine Stage revellers blow bubbles, which float up and hover above our heads, adding playfulness to the already joyous atmosphere.
Dave 1 claims Chromeo can’t perform Over Your Shoulder until at least one punter gets up on a mate’s shoulders and many oblige. Once they’re up, he insists they remain elevated for this song’s entirety. It’s wholesome, daggy fun that makes our cheeks ache from grinning.
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