by Christine Kane
This was the eve of the 20th Anniversary of The Dismissal. Watching The Whitlams tonight, I had a profound sense that the next nights gig would undoubtedly embrace the spirit of November 11, 1975 with greater gusto than November 10 1995 could ever hope to muster. (According to those who were lucky enough to be there, it went off!). Nevertheless, we raised our glasses to Gough, we sang his name “Edward Gough Whitlam”, we lamented the “days of wine and roses” and we knew in our hearts that this was but a prelude.
I’ve seen The Whitlams more times than I can count and this was another corker! Notably absent, however, was one Stu Eadie, drummer extraordinaire. In his place, new recruit Hanuman Dass who, it must be said, tried his darndest. Not an easy task with Messrs Freedman and Plunder leading the set in their own disordered fashion, and relatively new bassist Michael Vidale already displaying noticeable signs of Whitlam infiltration.
Apparently the day had started badly – a Triple J interview/acoustic session where Murphy’s Law prevailed. They were still swapping knowing grins and nods into the second song but picked up their errant biorhythms in time to do justice to the oldest oldies Where is She, Winter Lovin’, Ballad of Lester Walker and the newer oldies 1995, Met My Match, Following My Own Tracks, the new single I Make Hamburgers and the infuriating Hollow Log. Maybe I’m missing something but, despite my search for double entendres in Plunder’s lyrics, I can find nothing but a tale about a rabbit and his family?! Tim Freedman added a new self-penned number entitled Love is Everywhere (But I Don’t Want to Bend Down and Pick it Up). Go figure! Nonsense and irreverence sat side by side throughout two punchy sets.
You get good times with The Whitlams. I didn’t spot a bored face amongst the crowd or catch a stifled yawn. They keep you too busy. Tonight bodies jiggled and bits bounced. Plunder and Freedman, the former with his blue collar ethic bagging the latter for his suave, urban �lan, exchange the bitchiest dialogue you’ll hear outside of a drag club’s toilets. All in jest, of course. Underneath lurks a buddy system one supposes will never be undermined, but is encapsulated in I Get High, a little ditty omitted from tonights set.
Beyond Canberra, beyond Newtown, even beyond Balmain where will you hear such wonderful lines as “Jesus has got an erection and I’m in the mood for romance” set to an easy singalong Christian Fellowship Camp melody? Or “I am a dumb bloke, especially when I’ve had a smoke”, with its ska influenced beat? And this from the man (Freedman) who can put together some of the most beautiful odes to love lost. And don’t be fooled by Stevie Plunder – You Don’t Even Know My Name is the sweetest swooning, crooning loser’s tune since Johnny Ray. (I saw couples actually swaying to this one!)
The Whitlams are an experience in something. What, you ask? Who knows? And if you ever find out, don’t tell me, that would spoil it.