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Review: Greg Phillips.
Photos: Jason Rosewarne.
Venue: The Fyrefly, St.Kilda. October 25,2019

Roger McLachlan is known to many as Little River Band’s original bass player and the guy who laid down the wonderful fretless bass parts of John Farnham’s global hit You’re The Voice. A lesser known fact is that Roger is also an accomplished composer in his own right and as we discovered last night at The Fyrefly, an entertaining front man too. Roger McLachlan: Past, Present and Future is a showcase which allows Roger to stand centre stage and perform music from the bands and artists he’s either been involved with or influenced by. It was also a chance to give his solo album Roger This, Roger That the launch it deserved but never really received when it was released back in 2012.

To make the night extra special, Roger assembled a group of world class musicians from different eras of his career to assist him in this celebratory concert. There was the rarely seen Ric Formosa, LRB’s original guitarist, drummer extraordinaire David Jones, who Roger played with in the seminal Australian jazz-rock band Pyramid, Stars vocalist Mick Pealing, one-time LRB lead singer Steve Wade, as well as Greg Clarkson (various brass and wind), Richard Tankard on keys and young Sam Watts, a talented student of Roger’s on bass.

Kicking off the evening with Rejoice, an instrumental from the Roger This, Roger That album, McLachlan proved straight up that he’s no slouch as a songwriter. Demonstrating both his flair and flexibility, he then took lead bass lines on Santo and Johnny’s classic tune Sleepwalk. An epic version of Miles Davis’ So What allowed the multi-skilled band to stretch out and deliver a stunning performance.

There was banter aplenty, with many tales from his days with LRB, Stars and more. Roger’s enthusiasm was contagious. It was great to hear stories of the Grainstore too, a wonderful Melbourne venue in King St in the 80s which gave exposure to so many progressive musicians such as David Jones, Bob Vinier, David Hirschfelder, Peter Cupples, Virgil Donati and more. It was also a venue which led to Roger’s days with Pyramid, a band which gained much kudos at the acclaimed Montreux Jazz Festival in 1983.

Roger brought out his full array of basses and tones for tonight’s event as well, including his famous P bass, the Lotus bass, Warwick custom Shop bass and several others, all which were profiled in our interview with Roger earlier this year (view it HERE).

Steve Wade and Mick Pealing were summoned to the stage to add a vocal element to the show, acknowledging Roger’s love of soul and RnB with a feel-good version of It Ain’t No Fun For Me, a track made famous by Al Green. Keyboard player Richard Tankard, who can be seen around town with his own fabulous outfit Tank Dilemma, performed a spirited version of one of his own tracks Gravitate, a tune which Roger told us meant a lot to him and his partner Desley. With such a variety of genres explored and so many skilled musicians on stage to call upon, it was quickly becoming a very special night indeed.  A return to instrumentals with an amazing rendition of Pyramid’s Song For Bobby showed just how far ahead of their time that classic Australian fusion band were. We then watched in awe as drum master David Jones gave us a lesson in percussive improvisation we won’t forget for some time. Jones makes the most complex rhythms look so effortless … and that was all in the first set.

After the break came the hits. Steve Wade’s version of LRB’s It’s A Long Way There and Broke Again were sublime. Equally impressive was Mick Pealing’s performance of the Stars’ timeless tunes West is the Way and Look After Yourself. Meanwhile the constant with all of them was Roger’s tasteful and supportive bass licks. Sorry To Bog You from Roger This, Roger  was further proof of McLachlan’s quality songcraft and musicianship.  You always knew that You’re The Voice would make the cut tonight but in what form was the question. A duo rendition with Wade on acoustic guitar and Roger on electric bass was the answer and it worked a treat, complete with audience participation. A jubilant version of Sam ’n’ Dave’s Something Is Wrong With My Baby delighted the crowd before it was well and truly party time, ending with Dylan’s Watching The River Flow.

More than a quality performance by some of Australia’s finest musicians, it was a celebration of Roger’s stellar career. In fact, so joyous was the occasion that it would be a crime not to extend the concept further and lock in some more shows.



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