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David Elfick reviews the Melbourne concert

A new type of Australian rock scene was born when in four hectic days of last week Free, Manfred Mann, Deep Purple and Pirana smashed rock attendance records in a four-State Australian tour.

The tour opened to capacity houses in Perth and Adelaide, reaching Melbourne on Saturday night. An estimated five thousand people were turned away from the Melbourne Festival Hall. The groups sensing that this tour was without precedent in Australia played four inspired sets in Melbourne, extending the finishing time from the projected 11 p.m. to well after 1.00 a.m. Tour organisers announced that a further Melbourne concert would be held that evening to satisfy the many disappointed fans who couldn't get tickets.

Meanwhile the groups grabbed a few hours sleep and flew the 600 miles to Sidney for their open-air show at the Randwick racecourse.

The Randwick show, which I attended, had an audience of between 25 and 35 thousand, wiping the memory of the badly attended and weather plagued festivals which have been the only big rock action in Australia over the past few years.
Althought none of the groups on the show have ever featured as top fourty single acts they drew a crowd of people whose ages were mainly around the 16 to 20 group. Before this tour, promoters were convinced that hit record groups would be the only drawcard for this type of audience.
The tour had all the feeling, the excitement of the big rock shows a decade ago when Chuck Berry and Little Richard and later the stones and the beatles packed in the screaming, squealing fans. This audience was different. Totally involved in the sound, clapping and cheering virtuoso performances, but not mobbing the stage. Woodstock, the peace movement and the changing face of rock music have helped evolve a new style of fan.

Pirana opened the event with music that set the tone of all group's performances. Relying heavily on driving rhythmic material they got the huge sprawling crowd together and ended to a standing ovation.
Manfred Mann Chapter III followed. Manfred had brought a four-piece group with him featuring australian Mick Rogers on vocals and guitar and Manfred with his organ, mellotron vc3 and other sophisticated electronic gadgetry. Manfred was both electronic musician and magician, casting spells over his equipment and having it answer with a stunning variety of sounds. He finished his set with a super radical "Mighty Quinn" and the second standing ovation of the day. Again volume and rhythm created the atmosphere for the group's sound.

For fifteen minutes the crowd watched the stage as roadies piled Marshall amp tops on the Lenard speaker boxes, and put the drum kit into position. Then from around the racecourse track came a rented luminous green Ford Transit with Free inside. Their set was outstanding, despite the problems with the lead guitar amp in the opening numbers. They finished with their big number "All Right Now", Paul Rodgers flinging his mike stand into the wings on the final defiant note.

Then came Deep Purple. The audience, excited by the three previous acts, were poised for something special.
The audience had never heard a guitarist or an organist or a singer like it (not to mention the rhythm section) - Deep Purple - powerful, erotic, progressive rock. Fans stood and began moving on spot dancing to the power of Deep Purple. Some of the audience seated the ground threw rubbish at the standing figures obscuring their view - the Australian Football Spectator Syndrome, then it caught everybody, everybody was standing and clapping and smiling, caught in something much more than sound. Deep Purple just played loud and soft, slow and fast, screeching and soothing, and the guys in the band were happy and digging it like hell. It was the sort of thing Australian fans read about but never get the chance to become part of.

Now that it's over you think about why you go to a rock concert. You go because the group has made good records or they come from overseas and you probably won't see them again or you are just curious because others dig their music and so you would be like to get into it. You go and as the big overseas acts begin playing you get really excited because you know that this performance is special because you will probably never witness it again.

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Article © GO-SET 1971. // supplied by Colin Hadden.
HTML work by Andreas Thul. // © The Highway Star 1998.
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