Photos: Angie Paton
Mark Seymour and the Undertow are currently touring the country, performing songs from their album, Roll Back the Stone, a retrospective collection of songs written and recorded by Mark over the past three decades. It’s an album that perfectly showcases his prolific song writing and storytelling skills. A number of these songs, as Mark explained throughout the show, have been ‘reconstructed’ but that certainly doesn’t take anything away from them as every one of those tunes still sounds as good as, if not better than they ever did.
With 24 tracks on Roll Back the Stone, trying to choose the best of them to fit into one set would be a hard task. The solution? We were treated to not one but two sets from Mark and his band. Yes, that’s right. They were on stage the entire night… well, except for that short break in between that we all need.
Mark has a gift for telling stories in his songs; while some are based on his own life experiences, others tell a tale through someone else’s eyes. Friday night’s concert at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre was a wonderful journey through many of those tales, with Mark explaining the stories behind the songs as he introduced them. Some are rather obvious from the title and lyrics but others, as he explained, seem to have taken on a life of their own over the years. Take, for instance, ‘Holy Grail’, one of Hunters & Collectors’ biggest hits which eventually became closely identified with sport in this country, specifically the AFL and Cricket. Not exactly the original plan but it’s still a great song regardless and slotting it in early in the first set was a stroke of genius, getting the crowd seriously onboard from the outset.
The set list wasn’t performed in chronological order nor did it need to be. While we are taken on a journey, the timeline is of little relevance. It’s the songs and their stories that take us there and, to borrow from one of the most famous of those songs, it’s one hell of a story!
We heard stories of his youth and childhood, like the time his father took the family for a long drive through the snow country, negotiating steep winding roads in their Hillman Hunter (now that brings back memories!) and how it became the inspiration for the very catchy ‘Kosciusko’. And the stories of his mother, a teacher, and the inspiration behind ‘Classrooms and Kitchens’. Hearing the stories and having some insight into the inspiration behind them gave the evening a sense of ‘intimacy’ with the songs despite the fact we were in a crowded theatre.
Mark’s vocals are as strong as ever and there is what I could only describe as a down-to-earth honesty in the delivery of his tunes; a somewhat comforting feeling after some of the over-the-top music that permeates the airwaves today. To sum up: it’s real. No need for any added extras to make it work. His band, The Undertow, is a group of incredibly skilled musicians: Cameron McKenzie (Horsehead) on guitars, John Favaro (The Badloves) on bass and Peter Maslen (Boom Crash Opera) on drums and they were all in fine form on Friday night, providing the perfect backing to Mark’s vocals.
And speaking of vocals, accompanying Mark in the singing department was his daughter Hannah and while the young singer did an excellent job throughout the show, her real chance to shine came when it was just Hannah and her father on stage, performing the much-loved Hunters & Collectors hit song, ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’. Mark declared that this was one song he always does at his shows and I imagine it would be difficult for him to avoid that, given the song’s immense and enduring popularity which was pretty obvious on Friday night. It was a beautiful rendition and the fact that he was sharing the stage with his daughter made it even more special.
After two sets, we had still not had quite enough. The audience just seemed to be entranced and I think most of us would have quite happily stayed to hear more… much more! (Yes, we are a greedy bunch 😉) but, sooner or later, the evening had to come to an end… although just not quite yet. After some loud applause, whistling and foot stomping, the band returned for the encore and after the finale, yet another Hunters & Collectors classic, ‘Do You See What I See?’. The rest of the band left the stage, leaving Mark alone to sing the closer; a traditional Irish song, ‘The Parting Glass’. This was a show definitely worthy of the standing ovation it received. And then it was time to go home. Oh well. Nothing lasts forever but on Friday night, I kind of wished it would.
Mark Seymour & The Undertow continue their national tour next Saturday in Adelaide. For a full list of tour dates and booking info, click here.
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2017. All rights reserved