Gig review – Billy Gibbons at Anita’s Theatre, Thirroul, January 6, 2018By
By TONY WATSON
I WAS at a family gathering at a park just after Christmas when I received a message from a friend that Billy F Gibbons was touring and playing at Thirroul in 10 days.
I was quite surprised as the gig announcement was so recent and that I hadn’t heard about it. However I still thought it sounded appealing and made plans to attend. It turned out that my friend couldn’t make it after all but I decided I’d make the trip alone and go on the Saturday night, the second of the two shows. I knew that it hadn’t sold out so I bought a ticket on Saturday afternoon, pleased to see that I had saved $40 or so for an “on the day” purchase. It turned out that I’d be far happier about that saving later.
I’d heard a few good things in recent times about the restored Anita’s Theatre and found it a very nice venue, probably better suited to drama and acoustic music than rock, but still a decent venue. The beer options were good and were priced reasonably for a theatre. I chose a box seat, which turned out to be a good choice as it was a fixed seat rather than a temporary seat on the main floor.
So to the gig. It all started reasonably enough. The lights went down shortly after the announced starting time of 8:30pm and the band for the evening (the Billy Ts) started a serviceable rendition of “Gimme All Your Loving”. The band playing the opening song was reasonable enough. Then the announcer introduced Billy Gibbons, who emerged from backstage and launched into “La Grange”. An unusual choice as it’s often a set closer, but it was still a good way to get the crowd into it. The band behind him was OK without being sensational and it looked like being an entertaining evening. After “La Grange”, a host walked on. This guy was completely devoid of any hosting or interviewing skills whatsoever and sounded like he lived down the road from the venue. It was as if the promoters (more on them later) were sitting around planning the evening and were trying to work out who they could get to host it when one of the staff said “I’ve got a mate who never shuts up and has the gift of the gab. He might do it.”. It was probably late in the day, they said “Yeah, that’s probably OK” and thought no more of it.
The host sat down with Gibbons on a couch and “interviewed” him. The interview consisted of the host saying “It’s an honour to have you with us” a lot and then asking meandering questions that aren’t questions, in the way of the modern interviewer. These questions that weren’t questions generally elicited confusion from Gibbons, as he couldn’t understand either the question or the host’s accent, or both, or he gave one-word answers, as they weren’t questions in the first place. If you make a statement as an interviewer and expect someone to respond to it, and they don’t, that’s not their fault, it’s yours. In any event, the interview was a complete waste of time, and the crowd was already a little restless. Sensing this, and after the latest in a series of uncomfortable silences, Gibbons announced that he was going to play another song, much to the relief of all. The band came back out and they launched into “Tush”, with vocals competently handled by the band’s guitar player. Then they all walked off, it was announced that we were at interval and there would be a 15 minute break. We’d been going for 20-25 minutes. Some of the audience were starting to smell a rat at this time but it was possible that there was a venue obligation to have a break so they could sell some refreshments, so the benefit of the doubt remained with the performers.
After the break, a young acoustic guitar player, Jacob Lee (the son of the band’s bass player), came on dressed in a long robe and looking very much the hipster. Totally the wrong look for the crowd. He played what I assume was an original composition, again, totally the wrong fit for the crowd. He and the band then played Billy Thorpe’s “Most People I Know Think That I’m Crazy”. It was serviceable at best and the crowd were somewhat frustrated by now. Lee can sing, but that’s not why we were there. When he announced that his third song would be his last, the calls started coming from the crowd that we were there to see Billy Gibbons and not him. It turned out that this third song was “Viva Las Vegas” and that Gibbons did in fact come back on stage to play it with him and the band.
Then we stopped again. The host re-emerged and introduced Jimmy Shine. To be fair, it was advertised that he would be part of the show and it was advertised that there would be a chat section. After a brief and somewhat clunky set up, they took questions from the audience. I did actually enjoy this part of the show for the most part. Shine is quite the raconteur and the questions were a mix of excellent and poor, none of which was the fault of the promoters or the artists. Unfortunately though, Shine dominated the proceedings and Gibbons seemed to disengage for most of it. Occasionally he had something to say that was quite entertaining or informative but at other times he either couldn’t hear or chose not to directly answer the questions that were asked. Shine was clearly not drinking his first beer either and I don’t know whether Gibbons had been doing so as well but he did not drink on stage.
Following this, Gibbons got up to play another set. The set consisted of “Sharp Dressed Man”, then, to the complete bemusement of all, “La Grange” a second time. Then it was over. The lights came up very quickly, the host announced that there was a memorabilia sale and most of us got out of there as quickly as we could. While the crowd was unhappy, they reacted with disappointment and resignation rather than anger. Those I spoke to after the show were still wondering what on earth they had just witnessed. There were also several posts on the venue’s Facebook page describing how poor the show was. It was little surprise that the Newcastle gig turned nasty and that Brisbane was then cancelled.
So how could this happen? There is very little on line about the promoters, other than an uninformative Facebook page littered with spelling mistakes. Their Twitter account is inactive. How dod they have connections to Billy Gibbons? There’s a clip on You Tube of him playing on the Gold Coast with the same group two years ago. Other searching shows that there’s a Jimmy Shine Classic at Bribie Island on the 14th of January. The promotional poster lists Gibbons as the special guest but the venue’s website does not. At this stage I am unsure whether he not he will appear or if he has gone back to the US as announced.
It appears as though it’s a hot rod community connection between the promoters and Jimmy Shine and that Gibbons was the add on, rather than the other way around. Social media and modern concert goers being what they are, though, it is surprising that they thought that they would be able to get away with something so shoddy for long. Most people who would go to see Gibbons play 35 years after Eliminator’s release are not going to the gig to pretend that it’s still 1983. They are fans of the blues and want to hear Gibbons play some deep cuts, and tell some stories about his time in music. None of that happened. Sadly, we didn’t even get a greatest hits show, what we got was a complete mess.