Diesel enlivens a soggy Sydney night with spirited greatest hits, blues show

Diesel takes to the stage at the Factory Theatre, Marrickville on Friday, 4 March, 2022. Photo: Danny Waterson.

Review: Greatest Hits and Alone with Blues Tour by Diesel, Factory Theatre, Marrickville – Friday, 4 March, 2022. Reviewed by music editor Danny Waterson.

Mark Lizotte, better known to audiences as Diesel, is a much loved music figure on the Australian music scene. Celebrating a 30 year career in music just a few years ago with a greatest hits album (aptly titled 30: The Greatest Hits) Diesel has been a prolific singer-songwriter spanning pop, rock, funk and blues music. Along the way, his hits have included ‘All Come Together’, ‘Come To Me’, ‘Never Miss Your Water’ and ‘Cry in Shame’, a couple of which have reached Aussie anthem status.

Tonight’s once-postponed show at the Factory Theatre in Marrickville is a greatest hits set, also featuring a selection from last year’s acclaimed latest album Alone with Blues.

Taking to the sparse, darkly lit stage, decorated by his reliably sizzling amps, and an amazing selection of eight different guitars, Diesel – dressed in black with embroidered country-style shirt and a western bow tie – opened with ‘Lost and Lookin’’ from Alone with Blues. With his smooth, husky, textured vocals, accompanied by a huge double-bass, the audience were about to be treated to a dynamic one-man show boasting top-notch musicianship.

Next up was the Johnny Diesel and the Injectors blues-infused single ‘Since I Fell for You’ (a Buddy Johnson cover) from their 1988 debut album, showcasing the exquisite guitar skills and excellent vocals.

Diesel was happy to be performing again after Covid-19 interruptions to live music, and to be performing in his home town of Sydney to an appreciative all-ages audience. “Live music at one point was almost illegal, dancing was illegal. Sports can go ahead, but not music and dancing,” he quipped.  

Alone with Blues was released mid-2021 and was a project born out of boredom and lockdown. In between tracks from the album, Diesel explained to the crowd: “It was my son who said to me, ‘Dad you should make a blues album.’ So I had no argument and went upstairs and started work on it”.

Introducing ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, a song originally recorded by blues legend Willie Dixon, Diesel told the audience he included the song on the album by way of tribute to Australian blues artist Chris Wilson, who passed away in 2019. They made a successful blues album in 1996, Short Cool Ones. “I had to do a Willie Dixon song for Chris and Michael (Gudinski)” said Diesel, before launching into a passionate and swampy version of the track.

For each song Diesel, chooses a different guitar or instrument from his musical armoury, demonstrating why he is considered one of Australia’s finest guitarist and musicians. It’s impressive to watch a master at work much like a chef in a kitchen. The show is split into two halves; blues material followed by a greatest hits set.

Diesel is a master musician whose prowess was on full display on Friday night. Photo: Danny Waterson.

After the intermission, Diesel strode back on stage and opened with a rousing acoustic version of ‘One More Time’, one of the five hit-singles from 1992’s Hepfidelity album, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. The funk greatness of ‘Masterplan’ from 1993’s The Lobbyist album had everyone singing and clapping.

More well-known and much loved tunes followed in succession; ‘All Come Together’ and the soft rock ballad ’15 Feet of Snow’ from 1994’s Solid State Rhyme album; ‘In Reverse’ from 2020’s superb album Sunset Suburbia. It’s during these songs Diesel demonstrated his vast vocal range, which seems to get better every tour (if that is possible), and guitar pedal effects which enhance the sound of each song, making this one-man show sound like they’re performed by a whole band.

Diesel told the crowd many amusing anecdotes, including stories about the early days, touring with Johnny Diesel and the Injectors. When arriving from Perth to Sydney in the late 1980s, Diesel was advised to “head to Newcastle for a great live music scene”. Playing on weeknights at a club called Fanny’s, the band was often derided and out-played volume wise by an over-zealous DJ. Diesel told of hearing that Fanny’s has closed down, and of feeling a sense of guilty satisfaction, to laughter from the audience, before launching into an energetic version of the Injectors classic ‘Soul Revival’.

At one stage during a song Diesel was playing harmonica, guitar, working the guitar pedals and singing, all at once. The audience was captivated in awe. An encore of the hugely popular 1992 hit ‘Come To Me’ was followed by the acoustic pop rock anthem ‘Tip of my Tongue’ and 1988’s ‘Cry In Shame’, which had the audience on their feet with a standing ovation.

The audience left on a wet Sydney evening thoroughly entertained by one of Australia’s best artists, showcasing an eclectic Australian songbook with his voice and guitar.

Diesel’s Alone with Blues album is out now. The Greatest Hits & Alone With Blues Tour continues across Australia, with shows scheduled through to October, including several more dates in Sydney. Visit https://dieselmusic.com.au for details,

Danny Waterson is the music editor of the Sydney Sentinel.

For further news, features, reviews, interviews, opinion, podcasts and more, visit https://sydneysentinel.com.au. You can also like/follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.