I spent several hours at Canberra airport on Friday night waiting for a plane. Storm-tossed Sydney was hosting my ride, so I bided my time in the nation’s capital waiting for a lift to Brisbane, hoping to make it north in time for the Robert Forster sings the Velvet Underground set booked to launch the new Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art’s Warhol blockbuster.
The gallery opened late last year with the Asia-Pacific Triennial and Katherina Grosse’s immersive and surprisingly direct Picture Park, but all that’s a soft launch compared with the huge Warhol collection. Arriving in Brisbane you couldn’t miss it – billboards, banners and coverage everywhere. For someone who’s rarely seen Warhol’s work outside print, it’s something of a revelation.
Brisbane royalty turned out for the launch, half at least – and the plush VIP and public launch marquee was filled with silver pillow-shaped balloons (a la Warhol’s ’66 installation Silver Balloons) and Robert Forster, the ex-Go Between, his partner Karin Baeumler (violin, vocals), Dylan McCormack (The Polaroids), Adele Pickvance (Go Betweens) and Susie Patten (I Heart Hiroshima) covering the Velvet Underground.
That’s Forster’s comb poking out of his pocket. Some people commented (unfavourably) that the band played the songs pretty straight – which is true – but it was far from a by-the-numbers performance. It was the first time the five musicians got together on stage – Forster said he’d only met Patten the Tuesday before the show – and they radiated a kind of contagious excitement.
‘White Light/White Heat’ got a remake though. And how. Drenched in white lights, the band was blistering, coruscating, electric. Here’s a video I shot on my compact camera. It’s distorted, but it’ll give you an idea.
A cameraman from ABC’s Sunday Arts program recorded most of the show (though not from the stage, Forster warned him off early on: “The people should be able to see the stage”), so there should be proper footage appearing before long.
(it looks like the band took it to the next level, with half time costume changes. not true. they played two nights – same set, right down to the northern soul dj and the disco dj playing the same songs in the same order – still great both times though)
Read my review at Mess + Noise. Despite my long love affair with that magazine, and the fact that I was listed on their contributor list when the mag first kicked off, this is my first.
My experience at the show was no doubt accentuated by the stress of waiting in an airport hoping I’d make it in time, and then making it with minutes to spare, but the long and the short of it is that even at 30 minutes long this was one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve been to all year.