October 20, 2011

Jack’s back with a whisper and cheers

Filed under: 2011,Archive,Music

October 4, 2011


John Farnham
Whispering Jack…25 years on

Adelaide Entertainment Centre
October 4. Tickets: $99 – $ 149. Bookings Ticketek 132 849
Until October 8.
Sydney: State Theatre. October 11-22.
Bookings Ticketmaster 1300 139 588
Brisbane: Lyric Theatre QPAC. November 1-6
Bookings 136 246
Melbourne: Palais Theatre . November 9-19
Bookings: Ticketmaster 136 100
Perth: Burswood Theatre. November 22-26
Bookings: Ticketek 132 849

In just two weeks time, John Farnham celebrates, to the day, the 25th anniversary of the release of his 12th album, Whispering Jack. Produced at a time when people still bought records and companies still sold them, Whispering Jack not only had the distinction of being the first Oz record released in CD format, it went 24 times Platinum, selling 1.7 million copies – a figure unlikely ever to be matched in this century of file sharing and unsanctioned replication.

Epitomising what radio calls Adult Contemporary Rock, Whispering Jack represents, to those millions who bought it and loved it, a golden age of popular music, and Australian pop at that. Here was an Australian artist outselling Michael Jackson, Dire Straits, Abba, and even -recent MCG disappointment- Meatloaf.

Back in Adelaide, scene of some of his earliest 60s TV success, John Farnham begins yet another return tour : 28 nights in five cities, performing an opening set of familiar hits in unplugged mode, followed by a full serve of the 80s album that really changed it all. Surrounded by a first-rate band, including longtime collaborators Brett Garsed on guitar, drummer Angus Burchall, Chong Lim on keyboards, and veteran back-up singers Lisa Edwards and Lindsay Field, Farnham is his familiar cheery self. Greeting the ecstatic faithful he rolls out the self-deprecating gags, the comeback jokes, the whole breezy cockney-ocker patter which has endeared him to audiences who never wanted the mystique of Nick Cave or Spandau Ballet anyway.

Vocally, he is in fine form, that stretching, keening voice working its way through radio hits like That’s Freedom and Age of Reason. The band is all genial encouragement. Garsed provides some unexpected banjo for Talk of the Town, Steve Williams adds harmonica to Simple Life, the four back-up singers excel everywhere, and Farnham surges through the octaves with Everytime You Cry and, his showstopper, Lennon and McCartney’s Help.

But it’s the second half’s full stage, just-like-the-record-only-on-steroids rendering of Whispering Jack – in sequence and in its entirety- that fires the crowd. With big monochrome screen images of Jack from back in the day, the band, in 21st century black, recreate the big-note signature tropes of 80s rock.

On Pressure Down, Angus Burchall’s rifleshot drumming and splash cymbal is matched by the fanfare fills from Chong Lim, hunched behind a stack of Roland synthesizers. Then comes the clappy intro and You’re the Voice, anthem for the ages – at least for the Farnham army. He sang the whole album, both sides you might say – Reasons, No One Comes Close, Trouble, A Touch of Paradise and Let Me Out. From there, where else to go but back to You’re The Voice for one last grand encore ? Jack’s back, it would seem, and he is very welcome.

Murray Bramwell

“Jack’s back with a whisper and cheers”
The Australian, October 6, 2011, p.18.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment