Chevron Festival Gardens
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
On Tuesday night, Archie Roach sat me down and gave me a talking to as I witnessed a sold out performance by one of Australia’s most important songwriters.
I was at the bar when I heard Archie Roach start singing; a voice I have rarely heard before that felt like so much nostalgia. He sounded like an old mate I hadn’t seen in years, bumping into him in the strangest of places and feeling like we were at home. He sounded like some old soul singer I heard through a shitty car stereo one night driving near Nannup just as the car broke down, and he sounded absolutely real.
Taking my seat I took in the presence of this man sitting with his trusty band and his (maybe) trustier guitar. The words “What a boss” echoed through my brain several times. With a voice like Sam Cooke had just done 12 rounds with the bunyip, he made me feel like a child craving another story before bed time. In the back row of a temporary stadium, I felt like I was sitting alone with him, asking nicely if he would stick around for another drink and strum up one more sing song. Imagination is a beautiful thing.
The setting is a strange one to be taking in such deep songs of forced removal, stolen generations and oppressed culture, with the towers of mining heavies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton looming over the venue. I was distracted by this presence and energy. I forced myself to be washed over by Archie’s unique voice, telling his stories, stories making me wonder what it would be like if those buildings weren’t there, if culture had been respected all those years ago when whitey came to town. Chances are he wouldn’t have been playing the show in Perth there and maybe would never have even picked up a guitar so I guess there’s a good side to every evil. Fact is, Archie was there, and so were the buildings, and so were the punters, and it was plain to see that Archie Roach is an absolute boss.
If anyone had attended the concert hoping for bullshit from Archie, they would have been very disappointed.
A man of the stolen generation, Archie Roach has definitely been through some shit. He beat lung cancer, lost his family, literally fought for a living and there he was, singing to a crowd of mostly white faces sipping $10 cups of chardonnay and $12.50 beers like it was just another day. Archie Roach has seen some shit.
Archie and his band told me of places I’ve never been and injustices I’ve never experienced, to mostly country style tunes. They did so powerfully, honestly and openly, and with big big love and beauty: something I had noticed being executed poorly that day to a great extent across the streets of Perth’s CBD and it’s greater public transport system in the name of some character named St Valentine.
A lot of people got engaged that night, I’m sure. I was staring into the light polluted sky looking for the Emu In The Dark in between songs when the crowd cheered – someone got engaged in the limelight, on the stage or something. Archie was warm to the situation but I guessed he didn’t actually give a fuck (I could be very wrong). From what I could see, he had truth to tell rather than cheesily timed engagements to endure. I’m all for love and happiness but my engagement that evening was with Archie Roach, who broke my heart and made me laugh all in the space of an hour.