Reyne reigns supreme in celebration of classic Australian Crawl, solo songs

James Reyne (centre) and band performing at the Enmore Theatre on Wednesday, 15 December. Photo: Danny Waterson.

Review: The Boys Light Up 40th Anniversary Tour, Enmore Theatre, Newtown – Wednesday, 15 December, 2021. Reviewed by music writer Danny Waterson.

★★★★ 

Iconic Australian band Australian Crawl – founded and led by James Reyne – had a run of very popular and defining albums and singles in the 1980s. Perhaps the most enduring was The Boys Light Up album, released in April 1980. This show was a celebration the 40th anniversary of that trend-setting album, as well as a celebration of Reyne’s popular and cavernous solo catalogue.

Reyne last performed in Sydney in March (as reviewed by the Sentinel) as part of a duo ensemble. This time, Reyne brought the cavalry: the strong, talented and respected four-piece band that has been with him for many years, comprising Brett Kingman and Josh Owen on guitar, Andy McIvor on bass and John Watson, who featured in the Australian Crawl line-up, on drums.

Fresh Covid-19 outbreaks and a summer thunderstorm were no deterrent for the appreciative Wednesday night crowd, assembled to enjoy tracks from one of Australia’s leading singer-songwriters and his songbook (the Sydney dates were originally scheduled for June, then again for August and finally, December).

Audiences were treated to a special guest support act this time around: Australian 1990s rock band Baby Animals lead singer Suze DeMarchi performed a sizzling and dynamic acoustic set, along with her brother on guitar.

With the stage draped in dark blue and red lighting, with only the silhouettes of Reyne and the band visible, Reyne’s set launched in blistering style to the tribal beats of ‘I Can’t Help Myself’, a lesser known song from the James Reyne and the Magnificent Few EP (2015).

Reyne and the band wasted no time in owning the stage. The opening bars of Australian Crawl rock-pop anthem ‘Beautiful People’ had people cheering and singing (through their face masks). ‘Daughters of the Northern Coast’ kept the momentum going, complete with an epic guitar solo duel from lead guitarists Owen and Kingman.

Although the tour is billed as The Boys Light Up 40th Anniversary Tour, Reyne stuck to the well-known hits; there were no Boys Light Up deep cuts performed during the show, only singles.

The band comprised some of Australia’s finest musicians in peak form, sounding as though they have been constantly playing during the last two years. Reyne’s vocals were pitch perfect and powerful as ever. The newly renovated Enmore Theatre shone brightly with an amazing, colourful stage light show, which only enhanced the moody atmosphere.

During his on-stage banter Reyne referenced the relatively subdued and behaved Wednesday night audience, and its difference to a Saturday night crowd. “We haven’t had a Saturday night for two years,” Reyne quipped. Judging by the laughter and applause, the crowd easily related.

James Reyne displayed an easy banter with the crowd during the show. Photo: Danny Waterson.

Unofficial Australian anthem ‘Reckless’ was a highlight of the evening, its powerful sing-a-long chorus resonating deeply with the audience. The crowd was captivated by the poignant lyrics referencing Sydney Harbour, deep bassline and magnificent drum solo by John ‘Watto’ Watson towards the end of the song. This was followed by the classic radio-friendly song ‘Downhearted’, the audience swaying and singing.

As the show progressed, Reyne brought out the hits as well as more subtle choices from his songbook. Songs from his popular 1987 self-titled debut album, ‘Motor’s Too Fast’ and ‘Hammerhead’, always go down well with his enthusiastic audience.

The 1991 smash hit ‘Slave’ had everyone singing, while acoustic-rock gem ’Water, Water’ (both from the Platinum Electric Digger Dandy album) displayed Reyne’s songwriting prowess. ‘One Little Kiss’, a country-esque tune from The Magnificent Few EP, provided a sweet diversion.

Prior to launching into #2 single ‘Way Out West’ (which featured Australian country music artist James Blundell in 1992), Reyne told a brief anecdote about Blundell. Apparently, as the story goes, Blundell eventually ended up with an ex-flame of Reyne’s. “But he’s a great guy,” Reyne insisted to the amused audience.

Reyne’s latest album Toon Town Lullaby was released last year, and was mysteriously missing from the setlist. Last month, Reyne released a striking black and white music video for the song ‘Burning Books’ from Toon Town Lullaby, featuring images referencing climate change, which relate to the lyrical content of the song.

Official music video to ‘Burning Books’, from Reyne’s new album, Toon Town Lullaby. Video: James Reyne/YouTube.

Finishing the set with a blazing encore of Australian Crawl’s biggest hits including ‘Errol’, ‘The Boys Light Up’ and ‘Things Don’t Seem’, Reyne and co. rocked the venue and had people on their feet, singing and dancing. It was a much needed outlet of good fun for an audience which had been in lockdown for months. Reyne seemed genuinely pleased with the warm reception and for a Wednesday night crowd, Sydney impressed.

James Reyne is known for being one of Australia’s most talented and enduring performers, and at this show yet again showcased his talents and immense songbook. The new album Toon Town Lullaby is available now, with more shows in Sydney and NSW planned for 2022.

For details of upcoming James Reyne concerts, visit https://jamesreyne.com.au/tours/.

Danny Waterson is the Sydney Sentinel’s music writer.