Pictures: Paul Fuller (on Instagram @fullerpix)
MOST of us grow older convinced that the golden years of our youth were the best times ever for music.
But by any standard, the late 70s and early 80s witnessed an extraordinary roster of great Aussie bands, their live chops honed in pubs and clubs across the land as the era of pub rock hit its peak.
Any night of the week you’d find bands the calibre of Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil, INXS, The Angels, The Saints, Rose Tattoo and Hunters And Collectors – along with a myriad of lesser lights – playing their hearts out to heaving, sweating, smoking, drunken crowds crammed into the room door charges of $10 or less.
The Radiators, who played at Lizotte’s last Friday night, were very much a crowd favourite of the time, and their first album, Feel The Heat, in March 1980, is a stone cold pub-rock classic.
It was so good that nothing the Rads have done since – and that includes another eight studio albums up until the year 2000 – could ever match its levels of success.
That’s not to be cruel.
But it shows in the 20-song set list, which opened with Summer Holiday – the first track on Feel The Heat – and finished with another five of its tracks: Hit And Run, It’s Easy, 17 (I Wish I Was), Comin’ Home and Nancy Can’t Dance.
That run home also included the two Rads classics recorded as a September 1979 single, Fess’ Song and Gimme Head.
I had a lot of great nights out to the Radiators in the golden years, and I’m happy to report that they had a good-sized audience at Lizotte’s fired up and screaming for more on Friday night.
Or as fired up as you can be under “remain seated” COVID conditions!
Watching the show from the upstairs balcony, it was a sight to see a room full of partying women of a certain age belting out the risque lyrics to Fess’s Song and Gimme Head with unrestrained gusto.
The Rads have long promoted themselves as “the hardest working band in the land” and it’s a credit to their popularity that they are still playing and pulling crowds after more than 40 years on the road.
The original band was a five-piece: singer Brian Nichol, bassist Geoff Turner, lead guitarist Stephen “Fess” Parker, keyboardist Brendan Callinan and drummer Chris Tagg.
Today, Nichol and Turner are the only originals. Tagg left in 1983, Callinan in 1988 and Parker – after a final gig at Lizotte’s – in 2013.
Drummer Mark Lucas has been on the stool since 1989 and held the fort with a pretty classy drum solo while his bandmates caught their breath, mid-show.
New guitarist Martin Cilia has been with them for fewer than 10 shows.
Cilia is a stylish player and his CV includes six years with Mental As Anything.
As a tribute to Mentals singer the late “Greedy” Smith, who died in December 2019, The Rads cranked out their version of Live It Up, which Smith wrote, during a fired-up encore.
After watching Turner’s expressive bass-playing on Friday night I’ll go with ‘virtuoso’ as a description.
He’s also the main talker on stage, introducing the songs and drawing the audience in with a series of self-deprecating anecdotes about the ups and downs of the rock and roll life.
There are a few more lines on the faces but he and singer Nichol – prowling the stage in trademark white collared shirt and black jeans – are still instantly recognisable.
Friday night’s show had been postponed, thanks to COVID, from October last year, and Lizotte’s owner Brian Lizotte took to the stage afterwards to thank everyone for their support, and to point out the impact that coronavirus has had on the performing arts.
The Radiators are midway through a 22-show tour that includes Pelican RSL at Swansea on Saturday, February 26, and Stockton Bowling Club on Friday, March 25.
That’s two chances to be “17 again”, at least for the night . . .