Monday, August 27, 2012

DVD Reviews: Divinyls / Rose Tattoo Live, Boggo Road Prison 1993

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen Blog, 2012
Images from the Internet

I have put these two reviews together because they were recorded at the same show.

Divinyls: Jailhouse Rock, Recorded Live at the Boggo Road Prison, Queensland 1993
Directed by Chris Fitz-Gibbon
Umbrella Music
85 minutes, 1993 / 2012

I can still remember the first time I heard / saw the Divinyls play on some television concert series, back in 1984. It was jaw-dropping.

Lead singer Christina Amphlett came onstage wearing the adult Catholic School Girl outfit equivalent to AC/DC guitarist Angus Young, but her character seemed to be a bit, well, tetched, as they may say in the southern US. The songs were hard, sharp, and earnest, as Christina roamed the stage, doing some odd dances and head shakes, writing on her own face with lipstick, and pouring a pitcher of water over her head. But more than the theatrics, there was an edge to the songs and her voice, a yearning and sharpness, whether it was the desperation of “Boys in Town” or the slow burn and build-up of one of my favorites of this period, the extended “Elsie.”

Then they soon had their hits Stateside, like “Pleasure and Pain” and especially “I Tough Myself,” turning Christina more into a Sheena Easton (“Sugar Walls” period). Another equivalent would be Slade’s anachronistic “My Oh My” from that same era.

Later, in 1993, an infamous prison closed back in Brisbane, Queensland, so what else to do but to put on a huge rock concert at the grounds?

When the Divinyls start their set, with their tremendous “Boys in Town,” I had a shock. Great, powerful song about moving on, and, well, while the band is in full tilt mode, Amphlett basically goes through the motions. What a difference in tone from when I saw that televised concert ten years earlier to this performance. “Crap,” I said, “I hope the whole show isn’t like this,” a limp version of greatest hits. Thankfully, I was wrong.

Even by their second song, “I’ll Make You Happy,” off my fave of their albums, Desperation, the tempo and emotion had come up substantially. The material they cover on the DVD encompasses their five albums to date, including “Open Windows,” “Sex Will Keep Us Together,” “Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore,” and of course, “I Touch Myself” and “Strut”… I mean “Pleasure and Pain.“

Of course, the two songs that I would have loved to have heard, “Siren (Never Let You Go)” and the aforementioned “Elsie” were MIA. Still, I’m not complaining, because despite its limp start, the Divinyls prove to be made of hardier stuff, and they bring on their A- game. Sure, some of that early edge and brittleness is long worn down, but even at this level, the Divinyls were better than just about anything coming out of Down Under, such as the overrated Midnight Oil and Men at Work.

Yes, this DVD is worth getting, putting on, and enjoying it for the period piece that it certainly is, not to mention a more-than-decent repertoire. And then follow it up with Desperate and perhaps a cuppa.

Christina Amphlett: vocals
Lee Borkman: keyboards / guitar
Charlie Drayton: drums
Mark McEntee: guitar
Jerome Smith: bass

Set List:
Boys in Town
I’ll Make You Happy
Only Lovely
Guillotine Day
Need a Lover
Open Windows
Love School
Lay Your Body Down
Science Fiction
Sex Will Keep Us Together
Make Out Alright
Bless My Soul
I Touch Myself
Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore
Pleasure and Pain

Rose Tattoo: Live in 1993 From Boggo Road Jail
Directed by Chris Fitz-Gibbon
Umbrella Music
54 minutes, 1993 / 2012

Rose Tattoo was known as the “Bad Boys of Australian rock” (hey, it says so right on the back of the DVD box). In a land that released the likes of AC/DC and the Saints, that’s saying something, I guess.

Vocalist Angry Anderson (aka Gary) is diminutive and imposing, his muscles and tattoos on display. And while his vocal range is certainly limited, he sure can produce some strength behind that scope. He does have an AC/DC/Bon Scott vibe going, and he flogs it for all its worth, with benefit. The song titles alone show you the direction they have taken, such as “Bad Boy for Love,” “Assault & Battery,” and “Rock’n’Roll Outlaw.” Surprisingly, “We Can’t Be Beaten” is not present, although they do quite a rousing version of the Stones’ “Street Fightin’ Man.”

It’s said that those with a troubled and violent youth either go into social work, the priesthood, or prison. Angry has managed to touch nearly all bases, in a sort. He is an advocate for juvies in the courts, acted in such films as Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and is a forceful member of the conservative National Front. He’s also a spokesperson for men’s health; not surprising since five members of his band has died from some form of cancer. As for prison, well, Anderson quips quite early on about how everyone expected him to end up in Boggo Road Gaol, and there he is. Ha!

Anderson’s voice definitely has a flint-striking-stone element that is appealing to a metal genre, and it is certainly no surprise that Rose Tattoo – er – rose to among the top of the heavy rock field. I do, however, think that perhaps the band is better suited for the studio in that Angry tends to have a small number of musical stage moves, where he walks to a spot, turns the microphone to the side of his head, moves his head to face the mic (giving the audience half a face), and his other hand straight out from his body. End of stanza, move to another place, repeat. I’m sure there are going to be RT fans who will disagree, but I’m just sayin’.

The guitarwork by Peter Wells (d. 2006) and Mick Cocks (d. 2009) is superb, as is the rest of the musicianship, as they grind down the metal to a primitive sound that is actually quite sophisticated in its form.

Honestly, during their heyday, Rose Tattoo never really registered on my meter much. I didn’t have MTV and was listening mostly to US-centric punk, but I am glad for this opportunity to do a bit of enjoyable post-catch-up.

Angry Anderson: vocals
Georgie Leech: bass
Peter Wells: slide guitar
Mick Cocks: rhythm guitar
Paul De Marco: drums

Set List:
Out of This Place
Bad Boy for Love
Assault & Battery
The Butcher & Fast Eddie
Rock’n’roll is King
Street Fighting Man
Rock’n’roll Outlaw
One of the Boys
Nice Boys
Going Down

Bonus Video:

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