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Stars shine bright on a Sunday afternoon

Music gigs on a Sunday afternoon are always an unexpected treat, and Sunday 26 Feb, delivered the Queen of treats in the normally quiet Melbourne suburb of Newport.

An overdue catchup with longtime friends watching one of our favourites, Stars, courtesy of Way Out West Roots Music Club…it couldn’t get better than this surely?

Well, the guys knocked it out of the park, and then some for their final gig in a run of February shows.

With a rich back catalogue of songs by the late Andy Durant, and two albums of new offerings from the pens of Mick Pealing and Nick Charles, the challenge was always going to be which songs to include.

The set was a seamless blend of old and new songs, moving from storytelling country ballads and reflective melodic tunes to blazing rock and roll. Opening with crossover tune ‘Time Stands Still’ detailing the bands history, moving them into the new era, the band hit the ground running and didn’t take a (metaphorical) breath till the last notes of their encore.

Andy faves were there; Look After Yourself, Last of the Riverboats, West is The Way, Land of Fortune and of course his final and most emotive song, Ocean Deep all beautifully rendered.

‘Land of Fortune’ video credit Geoff Cross

A selection of new tunes included ‘Driving Hungry’ featuring Nick’s time as a cab driver as well as ‘Boats and Songs’ and one of my favourites ‘A Little Heaven’ among others.

They closed out the set with a banging version of climate controversy ‘Big Wet, Long Dry’ (honestly never realised this song could be so heavy) setting up the encores for a very tight finish.

And did they ever. Well, this is a band who’s members have been at it for some time…they know their stuff. And having a cover in their arsenal  like ‘Rocky Mountain Way’ that the band have virtually made their own (sorry Joe!) and a final Andy penned song in ‘Mighty Rock’  ensured the crowd was on its feet howling in appreciation.

A bit about the band:

Stars at Way Out West Roots Club, Newport Bowls. Photo credit Robyn Liddy Darby

Band members from the beginning Mick Pealing and Roger McLachlan are well known and respected, and it’s no surprise honestly. Mick’s voice after nearly 50 years in the biz is still hitting all the right notes and his songwriting skills continue to grow.. He recently commented that he no longer felt the need to stretch to the outer reaches of his vocal register, and it’s evident singing with Stars whose songs lend to melodic vocals that he delivers beautifully, but also let me tell you when he does let fly…Yowser! 

Staying on the vocals momentarily, the harmonies of Mick, Roger and Nick Charles add to each song in a subtle but important way., And Roger is not just a sweet face and harmonies. I love when a bass guitarist steps out of the engine room and delivers something special.  Honestly Roger could do it on sheer talent, but he also adds that secret ingredient…personality. It steps his bass playing up into the stratosphere, and his engaging style provides another key element to the gig.

In fact, it might be that the rhythm section is on to something here with Erik Chess also displaying a quirky sense of humour (in addition to some solid drumming of course!)

Nick Charles joined Stars in 2018, following on the heels of a career seeing him feted as one of Australia’s premier blues guitarists. With his finger picking style close to Andy’s own, he slotted into the band effortlessly, building on the band’s sound with his unique feel for country and the blues. His smoky vocals add to the harmonies, and the occasional dual lead with Mick.

Ed Bates is a relative newcomer to the band, and despite the fact he was often hiding in the shadows of the amps on stage his lovely pedal steel offerings to the songs, were certainly not. They add a new and welcome facet to the band’s musicality.

Usually you would find founding member Mal Eastick on stage with his band mates, his lead guitar as much a signature of the band as Andy’s songwriting or Mick’s vocals. Sadly Mal has very recently announced his departure from the band. 

We wish you well Malcolm.

Malcolm Eastick

My friends were worried about the band without Mal, but Geoff Achison soon put any doubts to rest. He stepped in at short notice, and delivered…and then some.

Geoff, like all members of the band, brings an impressive musical CV to the stage. He has his own style that both complements Stars and brings in exciting new possibilities.  I predict the band will be turning the amps up on Geoff  in very short order.

Final thoughts:

In all, a great gig from a great band who sound very much like they’re about to embark on another  exciting new chapter…and we love it!

Support act James F Robinson – loved his set and he certainly got the room’s attention with some great covers including Harvest Moon, Valerie (my favourite) Jolene and Folsom Prison Blues. A local of Geelong and the Coast, what a treat to have him play here. Watch out for James, great vocal range and feel.

Rob Rowe of  Way out West Roots Club  does a tireless job (along with the whole team at WOWRC) bringing the best in roots and blues to us lucky punters.  Rob’s final words yesterday afternoon  ‘I love a room full of people who love music.’ Couldn’t agree more, Rob!

And my friends…. 40+ years of love, laughs and more than a smattering of shenanigans …all set to a great soundtrack. I couldn’t be luckier.

PS – I’ve added links to some the songs listed above so you northern hemisphere folk can watch YouTube videos and get a feel for this band and their music.

How to connect with Stars:

Website

Facebook

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Instagram

Spotify

Lynette Bamford
the authorLynette Bamford
Australian based writer and blogger. Can usually be found out and about at local gigs or scribbling at my desk. I love finding and promoting emerging bands.

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