FRINGE REVIEW: THE BARKERS & THOSE KODIAKS AT THE GOV FRONT BAR

In a different, fairer, universe, both Adelaide’s Stuart Day and Terry Bradford would be household names by now – rightfully revered for their peerless song-craft as much as for their excellent stagecraft.

These two local legends have both been hugely prolific over the years and have written, recorded, performed and produced quality material for decades under a variety of guises – but, criminally, none of their musical adventures have ever brought them the level of widespread success they deserve.

For this year’s Fringe, Day & Bradford have revived two of their long-dormant bands: the traditional folksy ensemble, The Barkers; and the more alt-country oriented and slightly better known incarnation, Those Kodiaks.

This time around, the bands feature pretty much the same line-ups, with their accordionist maestro, Richard Tonkin, more heavily featured in The Barkers set, whilst in the second half of the show, which features songs from the Those Kodiaks repertoire, female vocalist, Therese Willis steps onto the stage to bolster the vocal power of the band and to sing a couple of showcase tunes herself.

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What is obvious in both brackets on this first night of their 2017 Fringe run – just in case we have forgotten in the ensuing twenty years or so since these bands last graced an Adelaide stage – is that these guys are all great musicians, and they have an onstage chemistry that cannot be repressed or resisted.

The Barkers hour-long set was filled with buoyant, uplifting reels and jigs such as the magnificent, Lark in The Morning, balanced by poignant autobiographical vignettes in song, such as Kings Row, Whyalla, Single Mother’s Waltz and the lively and raucous rambunctiousness of Love Life Of The Ordinary.

The exhilarating fiddle playing of academic musicologist, Ashley Turner, was a revelation. How he has not graced Adelaide stages in bands before now is one of life’s great mysteries.

Percussionist Holly Thomas did not miss a beat and provided great rhythmic support for the core band of Day, Bradford and bassist/singer, Steve Fleming, all of whom seemed to be really enjoying getting to know these songs once again.

After a short break the band returned to the stage to dip into a broad selection of songs from the Kodiak catalogue.

Every song in the second half of the show was a delight – and from the opening number, For All Time, through the fan favourites, Big Ben, Sea Of Love and Running Like Americans and onto Therese Willis’s powerhouse showcase, Because Of The Night – which brought the crowd to its feet – before finishing the main bracket with great renditions of Dutchman’s Ship and Raining In My Heart, the band really shone. It was a joyous celebration of the power of music.

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 The brief two song encore, glorious run-throughs of God’s On Holiday and Kangaroo, only served to confirm that this band really had every right to expect greater success than they achieved because they had it, and still have it, all – beautifully constructed, memorable songs; great musicianship; strong, emotive vocalists; energy and dynamism…

For each of the next two scheduled shows, the band promises the setlist will be entirely different each night, such is the depth and quality of their material and their confidence and belief in their own repertoire.

If tonight’s two-hour show is anything to go by, then those who do make the effort to get along to the front bar of The Gov on either March 6 or 13 (or go along on both nights), will not be disappointed. They will get to hear some of the finest local songs ever penned.

Highly recommended.

4 1/2 stars.

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