“You are a national treasure, Archie,” shouted one fan as Archie Roach settled in for the encore, “Let Your Spirits Fly”, at his Dunstan Playhouse gig.
The place was fan-filled and enthusiastic, with patrons applauding the opening bars of many songs in a knowing, clubby manner.
Not so me. I have followed Roach’s career from a distance, but never been closely involved, so I was reasonably objective. And Archie was well worth it – a treasure indeed.
The act began with a blues-based song about moving on, or rather being moved on. Then three girl singers appeared for “Took the Children Away”. They stayed for a few songs to give a gospel-pop feel to the show. There was Ruby Hunter’s “Down City Streets”, which showed perfect pop sensibilities; it had me thinking of some of the better New Wave songs around 1980. There was “Nowhere to Go”, about Jeff Kennett trying to close down Archie’s kids’ school in the 1990s; more message with “Heal the People, Heal the Land”, and real emotion in “Old Mission Road”. There were even country and western hints in one or two songs.
Throughout the show, Roach was chatty, telling stories in his quiet, husky voice. He was charming without trying too hard to be. His voice was compelling, hitting sustained bass notes that filled the room and from time to time growling further down the register and making it more interesting again with high yips at the end of some lines.
The band was, as Archie said, “deadly”: beside the three singers there were bass and drums with a keyboardist and another player who picked up a variety of instruments including guitar and violin. All this was led by beautiful riffs and fills from guitarist Craig Pilkington, who doubles as Roach’s record producer at times.
Listen to your inner child, says Roach. There was plenty of good feeling towards fellow humanity, about what real relationships are, about trust and love. He told stories about his teenage days on the streets, about Ruby, about journey – it’s never too late.
Hopefully we will see Archie Roach in Adelaide again.
Archie Roach performed as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, which finished on the weekend. See all InDaily’s reviews at the 2014 Adelaide Cabaret Festival hub.
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