Rosemount Hotel, Saturday, March 15, 2014
It was a hell of a weekend for Perth music and certainly a hell of a weekend for one James Baker. The Scientists drummer and Australian music icon had all reasons to celebrate, this reunion tour of the seminal Perth band being just one of them.
The founding lineup of The Scientists performed last November at The Bakery to great response and, somewhat more shambolically, in 1995 at the Grosvenor Hotel Rooftop. However, this particularly evening was clearly a siren call to those who’d been a part of the Perth scene back in the day and a legion of punk/rock ‘n’ roll enthusiasts who’d been influenced by the band’s memory and music.
The support bill echoed this spirit excellently. The frontline of Helta Skelta somehow still look too young to have heard of any such things, but they’re seasoned of course and they played with a determinedness and a late ‘70s melodic punk ethic that would have made the headliners proud. Singer Jon struck an Ian Curtis-like pose while shouting spite that would have resulted in a winning thirst.
The New Invincibles took a more dapper approach to affairs, with matching purple suits, but the ties were off and their set was as grizzled and enjoyably dark as one would come to expect.
The Volcanics were leaving the next day for Spain but were showing no pre-flight nerves. Another band that has knelt at the altar of The Scientists, they took a vice-like grip on proceedings and ball-tore through Little Richard’s Long Tall Sally, before bringing on their own Get A Move On – yes, a classic Aussie rock song was released in 2013 – with a horn section who then helped them though a rollicking tilt at the Rolling Stones’ Bitch.
The true story of The Scientists’ performance lasts over two nights, not just the one. At James Baker’s 60th birthday party (where his engagement to Cath was announced – congrats!) at Mojos on Sunday, amongst a jam-spangled lineup that included local rock royalty such as Martyn P. Casey, Greg Dear, Richard Lane, Dom Mariani, Greg Hitchcock and more, The Scientists payed a carefree mini-set that clearly benefitted from having performed on Saturday. Sunday’s chalk was Saturday’s cheese (so to speak) as there was an unsteadiness in the performance, but the kind of nervous tension that makes such things fascinating.
Opening with Scientists nugget, Girl, and then another Stones missive in a punkish Sympathy For The Devil (sadly, the most of the Rolling Stones we’d end up hearing all week) the set was edgy, if occasionally lopsided, with the upbeat ‘hits’ such as Frantic Romantic (always the bona fide classic), Last Night (the band’s Countdown song, no less!) and the-song-the-Scientists-lost-but-the-Beasts-Of-Bourbon-picked-up, Drop Out, buried somewhat in the middle of the playlist.
Even so, Pretty Girl and She Said She Loves Me were lively as all get-out and indicated how energised messrs. Salmon, Baker, Radalj and Sudjovic – joined on occasion by alumni guitarist, Ben Juniper – are for these songs and for the act of playing them. With encores that included the New York Dolls’ Pills as well as the thick waft of Swampland, it was a celebration of everything good about then and now.
It’s an epic thing to do, now and then. Let’s drink to that.