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Review: Greg Phillips. Photos: by Jackson/David Jackson.

With not a cloud in the sky, The Rochford winery in Victoria’s Yarra Valley is indeed one of our prettiest outdoor venues and this day marked their 69th hosting of an A Day On The Green event. With little preparation time, Stephen Cummings stepped in to fill the day’s opening spot, left void by the cancellation of Died Pretty. Sadly Died Pretty’s charismatic singer Ron Peno has been diagnosed with oesophegeal cancer and is in need of urgent treatment. We wish Ron well in his recovery.

Former frontman of The Sports and successful solo artist in his own right, Stephen has always erred on the eccentric side of personalities and that’s simply born out of shyness, an affliction which has affected his career to varying degrees for decades, as documented quite openly in his 2009 book Will It Be Funny Tomorrow, Billy?: Misadventures in Music. For Cummings, opening an arena-sized gig in bright sunlight may have been a prime opportunity to promote his excellent new album Prisoner of Love but it also magnified his personality quirks, leaving those unfamiliar with his style a little unsure of his offbeat humour. Yet, armed only with guitarist/producer Cam McKenzie and a drum machine, who couldn’t love being reminded of his acclaimed back catalogue with songs such as Don’t Throw Stones, She Set Fire To The House and Who Listens to The Radio. His recently released solo album Prisoner of Love, made in collaboration with The Ferrets’ Billy Miller is a quality work and I’d urge you to check it out, and perhaps also seek out Stephen in a more intimate setting.

With tongue firmly in cheek Melbourne’s kings of quirk-rock, Models opened their day with Kraftwerk’s The Model, easing into a groove and preparing us for a set full of 80’s alternative rock classics. Models’ aficionados have generally fallen into two camps, fans of their James Freud era pop or pre-Freud era alt-rock. Today the band offered a good spread of both. Energetic versions of Big On Love and Hold On from the more mainstream period of their career flowed from the stage before Unhappy, Local And or General and Two Cabs To The Toucan transported us back to the golden days of the thriving alt rock scene of inner city Melbourne, when venues like The Crystal Ballroom, The Club, Tiger Lounge, Bananas and The Venue ruled. Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight, their ‘MTV’ hit won the masses over followed by a killer version of I Hear Motion. For whatever reason, Models criminally missed out on global success. They well and truly had the songs and chops required to reach a larger audience and judging by today’s performance, they’ve still got what it takes to be a relevant and entertaining act in anyone’s music world.

While I’m Talking were never a household name and only ever released one studio album, they are known as the band that launched the career of Kate Ceberano. However, they’ve always been much more than just Kate, equally significant to the band’s allure was and still is co-vocalist Zan Abeyratne. Together with the two pronged, strong female vocal attack, backed by a brilliant rhythm section, I’m Talking are still able to deliver those spirited, infectious beats and had no trouble getting the Rochford crowd to their feet. With catchy tunes such as Holy Word, Lead The Way and Trust Me, the band easily generated pristine sounding dance grooves. As the Rochford sun headed south, a spectacular version of Rose Royce’s Love Don’t Live Here Anymore proved that Ceberano has lost none of her vocal prowess. Taking a well deserved bow, Kate reminded us that I’m Talking were Australia’s first dance band and proclaimed that they’re still pretty damn good. No argument here.

The Main Thing from Roxy Music’s Avalon album was a curious opener from Bryan Ferry, never a hit nor the strongest song off the record. It mattered little as it was followed Slave to Love and Don’t Stop The Dance, two hits from one of his most loved albums Boys and Girls. The 73 year old art-rock veteran not only sounded in fine voice but also looked the picture of elegance, surely the most dapper man in rock. A string of Roxy Music songs, Ladytron, Out of the Blue and Oh Yeah, ticked all the right boxes for a large portion of the audience. Ferry’s nine piece band created a mesmerising vibe, with a particularly spellbinding version of Windswept featuring Marina Moore on violin, Jorja Chalmers on sax and keys, with Chris Spedding shredding the distinctive guitar solo, originally recorded by David Gilmour. More Than This and Avalon gave Sydney-based sax player Jorja Chalmers even more time to shine as the show shifted into hit territory. Tonight Ferry was more about mood than movement and it wasn’t until show-enders Love Is The Drug, Virginia Plain and the encore Let’s Stick Together that the crowd really got to rock out. Do The Strand for instance, was sadly missing from the pointy end of the show. Performance-wise the show was grand and graceful but I can’t help but feel that a more dynamic set list may have taken the show’s energy up a notch. Still, the many dancing on the lawn like nobody was watching might argue otherwise.


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