One of the unexpected pleasures of getting older is that you constantly get to challenge your old musical prejudices and, as you do so, get the joy of discovering that the artists you had initially, ignorantly, dismissed in your youth as ‘uncool’ are actually wonderful musicians and the quality of their songs is undeniable.
In the late nineteen seventies, when Stars would regularly appear on Countdown, they seemed to be such an anachronism to me. Singing their country rock-ish tunes, they seemed to plod along unconvincingly compared to the brash new excitement generated by the myriad of punk and new wave acts I favoured at that time.
Now, after seeing Stars deliver such an impressive set at The Gov as part of this year’s Fringe, I have had to re-evaluate their canon and my previously snobbishly dismissive attitude!
Opening with ‘Time Stands Still‘ the emotional first track from their comeback album of 2018, they deftly set the tone for the terrific show that followed:
‘I look back on those days, a smile on my face –
a calm before the storm.
Sailin’ our way over friendly seas
To answer our muse’s call.
But we were wrecked in the wake
of a mighty rock,
and a life taken down so young.
[Now] when I hear those songs again
Time stands still’
What then followed was a generous coverage of songs from their first two albums, Paradise and Land of Fortune, as well as a range of tunes from the two impressive studio albums they have recorded since their reformation a few years ago. The newer tunes proved to be surprisingly strong, and blended in well with the older material to make the two hour show a consistently enjoyable experience.
The selection of songs written by Andrew Durant, a member of the original line-up whose untimely death from cancer was a major factor in the band calling it a day back in the early eighties, have certainly stood the test of time and have come to assume an irresistibly evocative power. It was clear that the crowd were particularly moved by hearing his ballads such as ‘Look After Yourself‘ and ‘Last Of The River Boats’ once again.
Singer Mick Pealing’s voice still sounds as youthfully clear and as full of energy as it did way back then, and he was ably supported by guitarist Nick Charles and bass player Roger McLachlan’s vocal harmonies.
With Mal Eastick absent from the line-up, the band’s replacement guitarist was the internationally acclaimed bluesman, Jeff Achison. Achison’s playing was exquisite throughout. He dutifully faithful to the old riffs when needed, but when given the chance to solo, he soared.
The current line-up also included Ed Bates on pedal steel, and Erik Chess on drums, who ensured that the band’s sound was full and rich throughout.
Whilst the band did not play their earliest single ‘Quick On The Draw‘, they did up the tempo with songs like ‘Mighty Rock‘, ‘Red Neck Boogie‘, and their old solo showcasing version of ‘Rocky Mountain Way‘ – much to the delight of the old faithful amongst the Gov punters. The duelling guitar outro to ‘Mick’s Dream‘ was a clear highlight and sounded as good as anything the Allman Brothers Band or Lynyrd Skynyrd could serve up.
I left the gig with both of their latest albums in my hand, and added six or seven of their older songs to my car’s playlist as soon as I got back to the car park after the show. I played them at full volume all the way home.
What a great afternoon of high quality Oz rock!
Rating: 5 stars
Stars played at The Gov as part of the Adelaide Fringe on Sunday 19 February 2023.