Last week the Brewsters performed their show, ‘Brothers, Angels and Demons’ to a sold out audience at The Promethean in Adelaide and this weekend they are bringing it to Sydney. Brothers Rick and John Brewster are no strangers to performing. They have been doing it for over 40 years, much of that time with one of Australia’s most legendary rock bands, The Angels. But the concept for their latest project, ‘Brothers, Angels and Demons’ is a little bit out of the ordinary for these two seasoned rock ‘n’ roll musicians. “We’re not really used to this sort of show,” admits Rick during our recent interview. “We’re so used to doing a sort of standard rock show with The Angels but this is something different. It’s really sort of intimate theatre. We talk between the songs and there are rear projection photos, video footage and other things going on.”
So what exactly is the show about? I guess the ‘Brothers and Angels’ part of the title is self-explanatory but what about the ‘Demons’?
“Along the way, there have been various incidents that can happen to anyone who has been around as long as we have,” he acknowledges. “There’s the 1980 turn of the decade New Year’s Eve show at the Opera House. That was a pretty major demon, with our singer and bass player being knocked out. I got hit by a beer glass at a show in Sweetwater, Auckland in the early eighties. That nearly knocked me out. You know what it’s like with a head injury? It was on my forehead and they bleed so I finished the show but I didn’t actually know what had happened at first. I couldn’t see and it turned out my glasses had filled up with blood. I came off stage and the medic, when he finally arrived, was pretty out of it; drunk. And he washed it with beer! I suppose there is some sense in that, washing it with alcohol. There was supposed to be a medic on duty but he didn’t have anything with him.”
Rick concedes that there have been a few demons along the way. “Things like that, and near plane crashes. Well, there was only one of those. It doesn’t happen every day,” he assures me with a laugh.
“It’s basically the story of me and John and where we came from and where we went and where we’re going to because we have John’s three sons playing with us as well so it’s five Brewster Brothers on stage but, because of that, it allows us to play all music that has brought us to where we are, starting from the Jug Band that we started in 1970 or something, so there are a few Jug Band songs, some Angels songs and some Brewster Brothers songs which, I guess, are a bit different again; a bit more atmospheric. We kind of cover all our roots and present day as well. Most of the night is music but between songs, we’ve actually got a great friend of ours, Bob Yates, who’s going to be like an MC asking questions and mostly John answers those.”
Essentially, the show tells the story of the Brewster Brothers but, as Rick points out, The Angels has been a major part of their musical life. “We’ve been doing that for forty years but the thing that people find interesting is where that came from because it’s not really your normal rock band beginnings. I started out on classical piano and John was learning Bob Dylan songs on acoustic guitar and from there we went to a jug band. I played washboard and John played banjo. We just decided one day to form an electric band with John and Doc and me and that’s when we started The Angels.”
Ironically, Rick never had any aspirations to be in a rock band when he was young. “None at all,” he admits. “I was very content playing Beethoven but, you know, I was still at school then and didn’t really think of a musical career at all. I liked playing piano and then I started to learn guitar when John picked it up. I just started learning a bit on my own and I was mostly interested in some of the blues players. I just picked up bits and pieces along the way and then somewhere along there we started the Jug Band and I thought it would be great to play a washboard so I went and had lessons from a friend who gave me a washboard which I still have. It’s a great washboard. I’ve had lots along the way but that was the best one I’ve ever had. It’s got the sound.”
Rick plays the washboard in ‘Brothers, Angels and Demons’. “And occasionally we form the Jug Band,” he tells me. “That happens every year or two. It’s good fun.”
John and Rick were both born with music in their blood. “We talk about that in the show too,” Rick explains. “It really began with our grandfather who’s a great musician. Some people refer to him as a child prodigy. He was quite amazing. At seven years old, he was doing his first concert on the organ in the Adelaide Town Hall and things like that. He was a composer and pianist and organist and conductor. He composed an amazing amount of music, all handwritten manuscripts. All classical of course and then his son, our father, followed in his footsteps. He became a great cellist and he was actually a very good pianist too and conductor. He followed a musical career but he hooked up with the ABC for security reasons because there wasn’t much money in being a professional musician so he got a job with the ABC and worked his way up to be Director of Music, looking after the orchestra.”
And the musical gene continues as John’s sons are part of the show as well. Sam on bass, Tom on drums and Harry on guitar. “They’re amazing,” says Rick. “All three of them are great musicians. I’ve quite likely got a couple on the way too. They’re showing promise. That will be another generation again.”
So it could end up being The Brewster Orchestra? “Probably,” he laughs. “It’s quite incredible actually because obviously the music is in the genes but it goes further than that. We’ve all sort of got the same lean when it comes to how we interpret the tune and feel it. I don’t know if you know what I’m talking about.” I assure him that I do. “You can play with great musicians but sometimes they just feel it a different way and you don’t quite click. The chemistry is all there.”
The show was first performed at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival to rave reviews and late last year,the Brewsters took the show on the road and now they are back in 2015, adding more shows to their itinerary, with two in Sydney this weekend.
Of course, Rick and John continue to tour and record with The Angels. “We’ve got a couple of shows at The Bridge Hotel in Sydney this weekend (Friday and Saturday) and we do the ‘Brothers, Angels and Demons’ show at Camelot on Sunday. After that, it will be pretty much Angels for the next few months.”
And The Angels will soon embark on their A to Z Tour where, Rick explains, they will play a song for every letter in the alphabet. “The letter A is ‘Am I Ever Going to See Your Face Again?’ which we rerecorded just like the original single from 1976.”
And the Z song? “We don’t have one,” he laughs. “So we recorded ZZ Top’s ‘La Grange’ with a blistering harp harmonica solo from John.” The single is out now and should be available at the band’s Sydney shows this weekend.
You can see ‘Brothers, Angels and Demons’ at The Camelot Lounge in Sydney this Sunday, with another show scheduled at Lizottes in Dee Why on 20th February.
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2015. All rights reserved
To book tickets for Brothers, Angels and Demons, please contact the venue
Sunday 8th February 2015
Camelot Lounge, MARRICKVILLE NSW
Friday 20th February 2015
Lizottes, DEE WHY NSW
For more information, please visit