Live Review: Red Hot Summer Tour at Gateway Lakes, Wodonga – 1 April 2023

by David Jackson – shotz by jackson

Red Hot Summer Tour
Gateway Lakes Wodonga Victoria
April 1st, 2023

featuring: Paul Kelly, Bernard Fanning and Missy Higgins, Mark Seymour, Vika & Linda, Ian Moss and Troy Cassar-Daley

Attending a Red-Hot Summer Tour is like witnessing the perfect storm without the rain. Combine an incredible line-up, a great venue, and a schedule that runs like clockwork. Add in near-perfect weather; seriously, what else could a person want? On Saturday, the crowd flocked to the Gateway Lakes in Wodonga, Victoria, selling out the show weeks before. Listening to the crowd on the way in this is the staple music diet of many, often buying tickets months in advance, and there is little wonder why. This is one of the country’s best venues to see a live act. Unlike many other venues, the venue has easy driving and parking access without the headache of waiting hours to get out. The mood throughout the day was one of ease and calmness. Children were welcome, with many getting an early education into some of the country’s best music and artists.   

Ian Moss and Troy Cassar-Daley started the line-up. Both artists spent much of 2022 playing an acoustic set around the country. Getting an opportunity to change acoustic for electric guitars or put “more petrol in the tank”, as Troy Cassar-Daley aptly put it, and just like that, the crowd got precisely that.

Opening with Moss’s first guitar-winning collaborative “South,” each artist traded lead vocals as they sang hit after hit. “Telephone Booth’ from Matchbook always works and draws more people to the stage. Cassar-Daley talked about home and family, referring to everyone in attendance as a new member. The haunting “Shadows On The Hill” was preceded by the story of not being allowed to go to a place close to home as a child due to the massacre of Aboriginal people there. Cassar-Daley, a proud Gumbaynggirr/Bundjalung man, brings the country and people to all corners; Ian Moss needs no introduction to anyone who has listened to music in this country for over 45 years. “Tuckers Daughter” and together with Cassar-Daley’s “Born to Survive were other memorable highlights from the set. Cassar-Daley, towards the end of the set, took the time to say, “Ian Moss was the reason he picked up a guitar”. That is the ultimate compliment.     

Mark Seymour & The Undertow were next on the bill. Seymour hit the stage claiming he had a “football” voice referring to a strain he incurred while barracking for his AFL team. The lead singer of Hunters and Collectors, one of Australia’s best bands, was joined on stage by his daughter Eva providing backing vocals. Taking the audience through an eclectic set of songs from the 80s right up to the most recent album. Seymour described the same as twelve country stories on one album, of which “Slow Dawn” was one of them. The undertow comprising Cameron McKenzie on guitar, Peter Maslen on drums and John Favaro on bass provided excellent accompaniment to Seymour whilst he rattled off Aussie pub classics one after the other. With “Holy Grail” and “Throw Your Arms Around Me” on the list, what more could you ask for? Seymour seemed to enjoy the set, with smiles all around. As for “The Dogs of Williamstown”, an Undertow recent well, it could be a footy anthem.

Sisters Vika and Linda Bull, dressed in hot pink, took the crowd along for an emotional ride highlighting two of the best vocal voices in the country. Opening with the Paul Kelly penned ‘What You Want’ The sisters shared harmonies throughout the set. ‘Since Your Gone’ from the 2021 album ‘The Wait’ was a treat. The backing band “The Bullets”, aptly named by Vika because they are “all guns”, complemented both powerful voices. ‘Raise your Hand’, written by Kasey Chambers, drew an emotional response from the swelling crowd down the front. Mark Seymour returned to the stage for ‘When Will You Fall For Me’ before finishing with the Nina Simone classic ‘Feeling Good.’

Missy Higgins arrived looking fabulous in a green velvet two-piece suit. At home on stage with her band, Higgins moved straight to the keyboards smiling excitedly to be playing to such an enthusiastic crowd. Opening with ‘Set Me On Fire from her album ‘The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle.’ Higgins moved quickly to ‘Ten Days’ featuring her on acoustic guitar. During the set, Higgins was candid about her personal life sighting her recent divorce and how to overcome the fear of all musician’s writer’s block. The later solution was simple, ‘write my way through it’, which seems easier said than done by most. ‘Watering Hole’ was a hit with the crowd, especially the kids, as it allowed them to release energy through screaming animal noises. Higgins confessed the song was written about “animals scratching around her head- a time when she couldn’t sleep”. The hits flowed with ‘The Special Two’, Scar’, and finally ‘Steer’, which bought about a fantastic ending.  

Bernard Fanning hit the stage smiling at a packed house. In the twelve years since leaving the Australian rock band Powderfinger the former front man, has been anything but idle instead, he has been carving out a solo career producing four stellar albums as well as collaborating with some of the country’s best artists.

Opening with ‘Hope and Validation’ from the 2005 solo album Tea & Sympathy, Fanning gave the audience a taste of why he remains one of Australian music’s greatest front man. Fanning requested assistance from the packed house, “For those sitting down, we’d like your participation”, before breaking into a killer version of Steve Miller’s ‘Fly like an Eagle’ acknowledging the music icon’s 79th birthday.

As the sun set, the lights focused on Fanning on keys playing the Powderfinger anthem ‘These Days’. The backing vocals by band members were a highlight.

At 68 years of age, Paul Kelly shows no signs of slowing down. When he is not collaborating with some of Australians top musicians, he is headlining significant festivals throughout the country. Saturday night was no exception, as Kelly played the almost perfect setlist.

Opening with the classic ‘Leaps and Bounds’ from the 1986 double album ‘Gossip’, Kelly took the packed house on a journey of Australian history through song and voice. ‘Every day my Mothers Voice’, a song written by Kelly for the Adam Goodes documentary “The Final Quarter”, highlighted the vocals of indigenous vocalist Jess Hitchcock. Kelly has that unique ability through music to educate and bring to the forefront some of Australia’s most essential issues reaching across the barrier to both old and new. ‘Forty Miles to Saturday’ night worked a treat. Watching Kelly and his nephew Dan Kelly together, reaching back into the catalogue to sing ‘From St Kilda to Kings Cross’.

Looking out to the audience, Kelly was attracted to a young fan holding a sign. When given the card, Kelly was taken aback by its contents. “Dear Paul Kelly, I am excited to watch you sing; you are my favourite singer. I am 7 years old; I love to sing and dance and have fun on stage, from Lucy”. “That’s what keeps us going,” an emotional Kelly said.

The show was kept to a first-name basis; after introducing each band member by first name, Kelly introduced his best-known song by naming each character personally. “This song is about Dan, Joe, Stella, Angus, Frank, Dolly, Rita, Mary and Roger” before breaking into ‘How to make gravy’. Closing out with ‘From Little Things, Big Things Grow’ complete with Digeredoo before finishing with Darling it Hurts completed an actual day of highlights of Australian music.  

Walking out of this venue, I can’t help but again highlight the positives. To the security personnel that allowed kids to sit and watch these great artists share their craft, kudos to you.