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REVIEW: CELEBRATION OF EDWARD VAN HALEN – SIMON HOSFORD’S FAIR WARNING – CORNER HOTEL

Review: Greg Phillips Photos: Jason Rosewarne

Anyone who attended the 2019 Melbourne Guitar Show will fondly remember Fair Warning’s amazing performance of Van Halen’s debut album in track order. Longtime EVH fan, Fair Warning co-founder and lead guitarist Simon Hosford showed why he is one of Australia’s finest exponents of the electric guitar. Gerry Pantazis supplied the crash and bang (with finesse of course), Jason Vorherr, the thunder and boom (meticulously) and Eugene Hamilton provided the Diamond Dave cheek (with all the character minus the spandex and leaps). The guys had been threatening to repeat the show but like everything else, the gig was cancelled and rescheduled 5 frickin’ times due to the pandemic.

Finally last night, in front of a packed house at Melbourne’s Corner Hotel, Fair Warning were able to bring the EVH magic back to the stage. Significantly, the major difference between this show and the 2019 Melbourne Guitar Show gig was that Eddie Van Halen had unexpectedly passed away in October 2020, which turned this show into a real celebration of the man and his music. Phil Ceberano had already warmed up the crowd, spinning his classic rock tunes and by the time the band launched into Runnin’ With The Devil, everyone was well oiled and ready to rock. The first half of the show tonight was the reproduction of the VH1 album as performed at the guitar show and watched by over 200,000 on Simon’s Youtube channel. This was a knowledgeable EVH crowd and it was amusing to hear bits and pieces of conversation around me about the nuances of the performance and acknowledgement of the attention to detail the guys had paid to the music.

With the Van Halen debut album done, the guys took a well earned break and returned for the real EVH party featuring hits and obscurities from the Van Halen back catalogue, beginning with the track Unchained from the Fair Warning album. From there they ventured into Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen, playing Good Enough and Summer Nights from 5150 with Darren Constable on lead vocals. For Summer Nights, in front of his huge Marshall stack, Simon donned a Ned Steinberg headless guitar, loaned to him by local guitar repair legend Paul Gale, who told us it was the only guitar capable of achieving the authentic tunings for the song.

The band was then joined on stage by more Melbourne musician greats, Chris Bekker on bass, Johnny Salerno on drums and Nina Ferro for a joyous version of Why Can’t This Be Love. By the time the band hit Jump, the crowd were singing and shouting along and reminded us of the pure elation that you can get from the shared experience of being in a packed house listening to a great band. It’s been way too long and the appreciative crowd were letting loose. Another exceptional local vocalist Jimmy Cupples joined the stage for a couple more tunes and you couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride in this city and it’s amazing community of musicians. The cast returned for an encore, with Nina Ferro upfront delivering a blistering version of the euphoric Dreams. Congratulations to Simon Hosford, Gerry Pantazis, Jason Vorherr (check out his new solo album Living In The Suburbs), Eugene Hamilton and tonight’s special guests, on an amazing performance and for providing us punters with a much needed injection of rock n roll fun.