The Go-Betweens: London, The Forum, 9th june 1997
The London Talluah Chapter (International Division) made quite an evening
of it: from the initial gathering in the Medina; "Able" t-shirts by now
replacing bananas as the identifier, through to being left in the bar
upstairs after the gig, every else having gone, except for the security
personnel, and with a great evening in between.
This wasn't an exercise in nostalgia; these songs are *alive*, and with the
freshness and energy of the performance, it's hard to credit that the band
dosn't actually exist anymore, and hasn't for a long time. This is helped
by the fact that the rhythm section is probably the best the songs have
had: the ever wonderful Adele, who is nothing but an asset, and the
sensitively dynamic Ross MACLennan (from Tenerife! Brisbane! Queensland!),
who played rather the anonymous druumer, hidden behind cymbals. No
whistling and guitar playing here! It wasn't til later that he revealed a
shirt sense perhaps similar to the Great Man himself.
The inter-song chat built through the set, and a great sense of rapport
with a very excited and enthusiastic audience and very obvious enjoyment on
the part of the band. The usual part of the crowd that shouts requests gave
up after a while, when they realised that the set included everything that
could be reasonably asked for, and joined in the singing. And the usual
London roar of conversation from the bar during the quiet bits, whatever
the gig, was relatively muted; people were listening.
Robert's choice for the evening was that black shirt with white doves, that
was seen at some gigs last year. The harmonica was mostly placed on the
stage or drum-riser, so there was no routine involving tight trousers; the
rock and roll accessory was the Sweaty White Towel. Hair natural, shortish,
with a small curl at the neck. The black semi-acoustic was played
Grant: usual no-nonsense grey t-shirt, jeans, and fairly permanent grin.
Two acoustic guitars.
To Reach Me
Headful of Steam
Bye Bye Pride
This Girl, Black Girl
Dive for Your Memory
Core of the Flame ("thanks, I can hear some great singing down
there..excellent!..excellent!..more of it!..it's fantastic!..best harmony
singers in the world!":GMcL)
Right Here (with the Adele Pickvance and Audience ending)
Rock and Roll Friend (with the RF lead guitar part in the middle: "did you
hear that guitar solo?...oh!": GMcL)
People Say (RF's mother's favourite song: "sometimes I agree with his
Draining the Pool for You (with extended North London Unwashed Strawberries
mix [Jennifer had told us to watch for the nod to the drummer])
Love Goes On
Cattle & Cane ("normally this song is very very sensitive, but tonight it's
gonna thrashed ":RF)
Was There Anything I Could Do? ("this next song is dedicated to the
Easybeats...did you say you wanted rock and roll?": RF)
Love Is A Sign
"On geetar! vocals! charisma! grooviness!: Mr Grant McLennan!": RF
"With the best shirt that I've..ah.. seen for about twenty years: Mr Robert
On leaving: "thanks and good night; it's been an absolute pleasure!"
"Groovis Extremitis!": RF
Highlight? All of it really; perhaps "Bye, Bye Pride", "This Girl", "Dive
for Your Memory", "Karen" and "Apology Accepted" stood out for me...but...
Thanks to Steve for making the after the show bit possible. Everybody had a
chance to talk to band members in a very relaxed way. It was all very
casual, so I can't remember much more than that RF revealed he has five or
so songs ready, one very commercial and radio friendly, and is thinking of
an early next year release. Grant's album is ready, and the release date is
still being discussed as we know. It was great to meet other Tallulah
people, and good that so many people got along (try and hear Austin's story
some time! And Jonathan's Forster type song title: "Robert Forster Wrote on
RF's parting words were that, after these gigs, the band is going to "think
"Do think about it Robert", were our last words.
I've just been on a complete nostalgia trip. It could have been the UWA
Guild Hall (1979) or the Paddington RSL (circa 1988) but it was the
Forum, London 1997. All too short - each song was just over a minute it
seemed, but glorious minutes, Bachelor Kisses, Right Here, Spring Rain,
Was there anything I could do, Bye Bye Pride, Love is a sign, Rock n
Roll Friend, Dive for your memory, Lee Remick, Karen, Quiet Heart, Love
goes on Anyway, Apology Accepted, and of course Cattle & Cain, but oh so
short and the only other gig was last Saturday - I feel cheated!
It was a superb ego trip on their part - a crowd gagging for their
quirky eccentricities and yes, Robert Forster is as camp as I ever
remember him (even without the dress) - even more than when I travelled
70km from Dusseldorf to Ubach Pallenburg to see him at some bizarre barn
called ‘The Factory’ and Grant still thanked everyone as much as he did
at his solo gig at the Borderline in 1991.
But I'm left with the feeling that they milked us for what we were
worth, four encores after only an hour set is a bit much for a band that
had its prime in 1988 and they didn't even grace us with the delights of
Tallulah, The Clark Sisters or even Streets of your Town and I would
have killed to hear Dusty in Here. Perhaps if they'd just played rather
than listening to us scream and stomp for more there would have been
And where were the girls, Bye Bye Pride just wasn't the same without
Amanda's dulcet tones and Spring Rain could really have done with
Lindy’s incredibly talented rhythmic beat, but instead we had some
English girl on bass and Grant's brother on drums (well it had to be
with a name like McClennen from Brisbane). I think I would have
preferred to see just the guys, which reminds me of the time I went to
see Lloyd Cole in Madrid only because Grant & Robert posing as the
Go-Betweens, which they will never officially be as just the two of them
as far as I'm concerned, we're supporting (I didn't go just for the gig
- I was living there at the time). The strangest thing was that as they
we're playing Robert Vickers walked past me in the crowd and he must
have seen my jaw drop as he stopped and chatted for a while, it seemed
so Ironic that he was playing bass for Lloyd Cole at the time (he still
played with his tongue in his cheek, I used to think it was so cute).
Anyway enough of my past experiences - it was a great show and well
played but guys next time don't be in such a hurry to run off stage!
"...when the band were playing a fantastic version of Right Here I
Grant had a huge grin on his face. I looked around and so did everyone
the audience. I also had a big grin..." (quote by Alister black on the
Glasgow Gig) - probably sums up my feeling of the night too!
Julie Savill 9/9/97 The Forum, London
The Forum, London
DURING their 10-year career, Brisbane's Go-Betweens made an artform
of commercial failure. The quintessential "critics' band," they
received the press coverage of U2 with the record sales of a garage
But despite the music press's ululations about their finely-etched
love songs, ("tangled sobriety and gorgeous melody lines," etc) the
public stubbornly refused to get it.
Typically, it was a music paper that persuaded them to reform, nine
years after they split up. France's Les Inrocktuptibles' writers'
poll voted them the best group of all time, which was all the
convincing they needed to interrupt their solo careers and do it once
more for old times' sake.
Only two of the quartet on stage in London were the original Gobs (as
they're unsavourily known in Australia), but they were the crucial
two. Robert Forster, the dark, melancholy one, and Grant McLennan, a
cross between Phil Collins and Grant Mitchell from EastEnders, are
the singers, writers and collective soul. Their long partnership enabled
Forster to introduce McLennan with "And on guitar, charisma and
broodiness ..." with a straight face.
Similarly, it gave the music - basically indie rock with a folky
slant - plesingly smooth contours, which Forster occasionally
scruffed up by whipping out a harmonica. They've written no new songs
but old ones were conveyed with an almost paternal devotion.
Familiarity with songs like Core of a Flame was necessary to get the
full value from its lovelorn lyric, but you could easily have been
swept away by McLennan's pretty little guitar figures alone.
On People Say they sounded so much like REM it was hard to tell who
had influenced who. The audience, frothing at the gills, could have
When they returned for an encore of Cattle and Cane, their nearest
thing to a hit, the crowd got the vapours as if it were Boyzone up
there. No other gigs are planned, so this one was one to cherish.