Great Southern Land – Concert Series

11 February 2023

Sidney Myer Music Bowl

Setting the scene for Live at the bowl with an audience primed for an Icehouse comeback were Motor Ace, Frentē, and Eskimo Joe.

Motor Ace set the atmosphere with their rock sound, pumping tunes to a thankful crowd who watched on in sweltering Melbourne heat.

Frentē remarked it had been 30 years since the release of their first album. Impressively, their sound has not changed, and the crowd were delighted to hear the singles ‘Ordinary Angels’ and ‘Accidentally Kelly Street’. However their choice to perform a number of acoustic tunes did not gel as well in the massive amphitheater environment as the fuller sounding bands they were billed alongside. 

Eskimo Joe then took to the stage with their big, bold style – with rock attitudes to match – and knocked their set out of the park. The audience jumped to their feet with ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’, which was easily the most kicking song of their performance. These guys know how to do crowd engagement, and clearly love what they do, which can be felt from anywhere in the venue. The final song of the set, ‘From the Sea’, finished with a drum solo, and each band member discarding their instruments one at a time, ‘til they were all joining the rhythmic clapping of the crowd.

Well fed and entertained, the waiting crowd were now cooler, and ready for reminiscing via some Icehouse 80s throwbacks. And Icehouse did not disappoint. After the opening self-titled track, Ivor Davies announced, “We’re back”, and they absolutely were. The set list traveled seamlessly through the decades and genres that make up the Icehouse discography. A full setlist is below, however this writer’s personal highlight was ‘Hey Little Girl’, which had the perfect mix of Davies’ landmark oscillation between his low register and high tenor vocals fronting perhaps the smoothest backing vocal mix that could be achieved by a rock band live. The crowd crooned along with the bigger hits, ‘Electric Blue’ and ‘Crazy’ (the most expressive crowd-participation track of the night), while enjoying original film clips used as a backdrop to pay homage to Davies’ 80s mullet. Special mention to Michael Paynter, who is a recent addition to the band, but at this concert stepped forward to take lead vocals in both ‘Touch the Fire’ and ‘Man of Colours’. Sometimes changing a lead vocal can create disappointment, especially replacing a voice as distinct as Davies… but man, Paynter can sing. Davies played oboe in the latter, and the whole song had a fresh and haunting quality that was quite unexpected.

Special mention also to Hugo Lee, whose sax contributions all night were simply sublime. These two guys are such a great addition to the Icehouse lineup and add a fullness and freshness without overtaking the original sound and energy that gained the band fame.

On to ‘Great Southern Land’, which reached its 40-year anniversary last year, and the crowd loved singing along. By this point Davies appeared to flounder a little, whether the lyrics escaped him, or his energy was flagging – but the crowd and rest of the band were more than happy to do the heavy lifting.

The set finished with another guest, with Kav Temperley (from Eskimo Joe), reappearing on stage to sing a tag-team duet with Davies of ‘We Can Get Together’, the energy of which was right in the sweet spot of the whole gig.

A two-song encore including an Angels cover rounded out the night, before Icehouse signed off with a manic celebration of ‘Nothing Too Serious’.


Words – Heather Packett

Photos – Lucas Packett


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