Last Friday night I went down (up really from Dee Why) to the crossroads, not the Mississippi Delta location made famous by the legendary blues guitarist, Robert Johnson, but the Elenora variety – where Kalang Road meets Powderworks Road. Specifically, The Racquet Bar, where Anything Goes, comprising, Steve, Bruce, Ernie and Marty entertained an appreciate throng of AG fans and anyone else living within two hundred metres of this Mecca of Elenora night time entertainment. Regular bassist Fred was a notable absentee having been invited to the United Kingdom to perform as a special guest at the prestigious London Bass Guitar Show.
I was able to park my vintage Ford Fairmont pleasingly close to the venue and as I opened the car door, the pulsating familiar chord progression of the even more vintage Ben E King’s Stand By Me, reverberated around the Elenora “CBD”. I had missed the early part of the set with multi instrumentalist Steve on rhythm guitar, but was assured later (by Steve) that before switching to the bass, his six string acoustic work was faultless.
Next up was J J Cale’s After Midnight. Admittedly, the band had got their timing awry as my watch only reflected 7.54 p.m. but this had to be squeezed in early, as most Elenora locals are in bed by 9.30 p.m. Mark Knopfler’s So Far Away and Fastball’s cookie one hit wonder The Way, featured superb stick work by Bruce Neill on the skins with lead vocalist Marty and stand in bassman Steve, chiming in with great effect on the chorus of the Fastball number (Whatever happened to Fastball?).
The set concluded with a rocking version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising. As a I closed my eyes and massaged a pure blonde (beer), lead guitarist Ernie’s precision double stop licks evoked thoughts of my sitting on the banks of a Louisiana bayou exchanging memories of gigs gone by with CCR’s John Fogerty. It should be said that Fogerty had a good few more memories than me!
While Steve, Bruce and Ernie took a well earned break, we were treated to a return to musical modernity with Shallow from “A Star is Born.” Backed by her father Marty on acoustic guitar, Ishara offered a delightful rendition of both Bradley Cooper’s and Lady Ga Ga’s parts from the popular hit. To tactfully avoid overshadowing his daughter’s flawless act, Marty refrained from the interpreting the Bradley Cooper slice of the Academy Award winning song. Although, if I am to be blunt, the only resemblance between Marty and Ga Ga’s partner in song, Cooper, would be their three day growth and that both are male.
Back to the main event and Ernie’s Fender Stratocaster was in top form on Black Magic Woman, merging songwriter Peter Green’s original Fleetwood Mac take with the silky Carlos Santana Tex Mex blues feel. It was fitting that with the Jimmy Barnes look alike, Steve on stage (though I must add that I consider Steve is more handsome than the Working Class Man), the band should rip through Cold Chisel’s My Baby and then Cry In Shame, made popular by Jimmy Barnes’s brother in law (and therefore Steve’s by default), Johnny Diesel.
As the set unfolded, Anything Goes powered through classic pop / rock as we were treated to the late Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down, The Box Tops’ The Letter and of course Robert Johnson’s Crossroads with Ernie’s Mesa Boogie amp cranked up to “11” in true Spinal Tap fashion. No doubt those Kalang Road residents still awake, were enjoying rock history being played out in their own front yards. The Clash may have rocked the Casbah but on this particular night, Anything Goes were rocking The Racquet Bar.
Bruce Neill, starved of his beloved microphone, more than compensated for the cutting of his umbilical vocal chord with additional verve in his drumming. Marty too, had expended so much vocal energy that he saw fit to revive his larynx, with an oversized bowl of the best hot chips you could find in Elenora on a balmy Friday evening in March.
As the heat continued to rise in the sweaty rock cauldron, many patrons would have gladly swapped their Carlton Draughts, for a cool Carlton draught blowing up from the Melbourne suburb of the same name. The band had to wind down relatively early as Steve had to get up for “proper work” at 6.00 a.m. the following morning (the Racquet Bar is no cash cow!). We still had time though, to enjoy Steve Miller’s The Joker, where the lyric “I’m a midnight toker” seemed a little unlikely in sleepy Elenora. There were also very plausible versions of the ever present (did I say monotonous?) Brown Eyed Girl and a crunching performance of the Marvin Gaye hit I Heard it Through The Grapevine. Classic Aussie rock in the form of the The Sunnyboys Alone With You and The Angels No Secrets reminded this listener of 6.00 p.m. Sunday nights watching the bumbling Molly Meldrum on Countdown and the golden age of local music. Both tracks were presented by Anything Goes as more than competent replicas of the original tracks.
To close the show, this reviewer was offered the chance to accompany Bruce, Marty, Steve and Ernie on Chuck Berry’s classic Johnny Be Goode. Marty kindly offered me his acoustic six string and immediately I could tell that this guitar had special musical lineage. The amount of liquid paper on the guitar neck, clearly indicated that this instrument had spent considerable time in the home of Monkee Mike Nesmith’s family home in Dallas, Texas (some readers might need to Google “liquid paper” to understand).
The musical magic of the band was complemented by the dance performance of Ishara’s mum, Niro. Celebrating her birthday, Niro ripped up the dance floor, accompanied by her little sidekick, the pocket dynamo Liliarna. Lily, of very tender years but extraordinary feet, dazzled the crowd and made the John Travolta of Saturday Night Fever, look like an arthritic eighty year old who had forgotten to take his anti inflammatories. You can bet that the recently toured front man of Artic Monkeys Alex Turner, would have remarked that the dancing duo did in fact “look (very) good on the dance floor.”
I managed to negotiate the entire three chord challenge of the Chuck Berry song without embarrassing myself as the curtain came down on a very enjoyable evening. It was 10.30 p.m. and although those neighbours still awake in Kalang and Powderworks Roads clamoured for an encore, by then Bruce, Marty and Ernie had settled into the inevitable signing of autographs and the taking of selfies with the Anything Goes faithful. Steve was on his way to work.
Anything Goes perform on the second Friday of each month at The Racquet Bar, Kalang Road, Elanora.