A performance by The Whitlams is always a guarantee of a great night out. These days it’s an annual visit, an opportunity to catch up with old friends and remember just how much you enjoy their company.
It doesn’t matter they haven’t put out a new album in a decade, there remains a spirit of spontaneity about their on-stage chemistry that keeps things fresh. And the energy that comes from the audience singing along to nearly every lyric is certainly something special.
Tim Freedman and company having been coming back to The Gov for so long now it would be unthinkable for them to play anywhere else in town. Always the most comfortable of front-men, Freedman sits behind his keyboard, sipping wine and chatting away with the audience with good humoured banter; the bandroom at The Gov feels like you’re in his lounge-room.
Ben Wright Smith proved an appropriate choice for the opening slot, with a set of singer-songwriter material that sat well with this crowd. Switching between an acoustic guitar and a telecaster, Wright Smith bears a resemblance to Jeff Buckley. With his collaborator Francesca providing keyboards and some sweet harmonies, this was an engaging set of well crafted songs that effectively warmed up the evening.
The Whitlams started their performance with perhaps their most well known song, ‘Blow Up The Pokies’, but it soon apparent this was not just going to be a rendering of the greatest hits album, the outfit alternating big hits with album tracks, and dusting off a few numbers absent from set-lists for a while. Material from 2006 album, Little Cloud and the ’97 breakthrough, Eternal Nightcap featured strongly. But we also dipped into Freedman’s solo album, got a Harry Nilsson cover and saw guitarist Jak Housden take the lead vocal for a version or Bowie’s ‘All You Pretty Things’. The Bowie number, in particular, worked very well, with Housden momentarily let loose in the frontman role.
All of these variations were important; in the absence of new material, it ensured the show was clearly differentiated from last year’s visit, and will keep the audience coming back for more next time.
Tim’s banter was in fine form. It was the second night in Adelaide, and after a sold out Friday night show, the Saturday performance found itself in competition with the Crows footy final, leaving a little more space in the room. Freedman quipped this was completely fine as The Whitlams probably had a greater affinity with Port fans anyway (given Whitlam protégé Mick Young had been the federal member there).
A raucous version of ‘I Will Not Go Quietly’ ended the main set, while the encore wound up with ‘Laugh In Their Faces’ from Eternal Nightcap. It was the kind of surprising gem that epitomised the night.
Tim hinted that another visit wouldn’t be too far away. We look forward to the next opportunity to catch-up.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor
Pictures by Libby Parker