It is hard to believe it has been over thirty years since Melbourne folk-rock band Things Of Stone And Wood made their first steps towards establishing a place in the hearts and minds of discerning Australian music lovers.
Whilst they have only reconvened intermittently over the last twenty or so years, it was clear from their Adelaide Fringe show that the band have not lost their passion for live performance and that their love and friendship for each other still burns strong. Their recollections and reflections on their long associations with each other were full of warmth and humour, adding to the intimate feel of the show.
In the aftermath of the government’s recommendation that mass gatherings should be avoided, the crowd was much smaller than their performance deserved – although drummer, Tony Floyd, did see a silver lining in the situation, reflecting on what a good thing it is that the band is not more popular than they are because attracting only small crowds will allow them to keep playing gigs during the current health scare crisis!
Singer Greg Arnold did actually have a bit of a throat issue himself and apologised on more than one occasion for his unexpected Joe Cocker-esque vocal timbre, but he successfully soldiered through a set of well-loved tunes mostly from the early period of their recording career.
It was a wonderful experience to see the joyful reaction of some obviously hard-core fans to the opening strains of songs such as Wildflowers, Churchill’s Black Dog and the gorgeous Beautiful, Wonderful.
The band also played other staples such as She Will Survive, Rain Fell Down and their biggest hit Happy Birthday Helen – all still performed with an infectiously enthusiastic fervour.
The harmonies that Arnold, Floyd and bassist, Michael Allen were so well-known for are still a powerful and affecting element of their sound and, even with a slightly rough edge to Arnold’s voice, sounded wonderful.
The band’s former producer and one-time manager, the multi-talented James Black (ex-Mondo Rock and Russell Morris Band member) also added layers of guitar, mandolin and keyboard textures to effectively enhance these songs.
The great surprise in the set was the strength of the band’s latest recording, If You Go Down The River, a single released as a precursor to their first album of original material in seventeen years. It’s a song that showcases all of the band’s greatest strengths – it has an appealing melody and contains some wonderful vocal harmonies.
At the end of the set, the band were given a standing ovation complete with disproportionately loud applause continuing long after the band left the stage.
Let’s hope the new album is a success that will ensure this evergreen Australian band keep touring for some years yet!
By: Ken Grady
Rating: 4 1/2 stars
Things Of Stone & Wood – 30 Year Anniversary Tour was performed in the Fortuna Spiegeltent at The Garden Of Unearthly Delights on Saturday 14 March 2020.