GUY SEBASTIAN @ The State Theatre, 6/3/2008
So, what kind of audience is it that turns up to see Guy Sebastian play with some of the most respected soul musicians in the world?
Well, it’s an odd one.
There are the obligatory tweeny-boppers, invariably accompanied by their over-eager parents.
Then there are the old guys who have been hoarding Stax and Decca records since their 15th birthday in 1963, and have finally got the chance to see some of their heroes play live. They don’t really know who Guy Sebastian is, other than through a general, vague awareness, but as far as they are concerned this band could be fronted by the reanimated corpse of Mussolini, just as long as they get to see Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn and Steve ‘The Colonel’ Cropper.
Then there are the large gaggles of middle-aged women – those who don’t listen to much music, but like non-threatening singers like Guy Sebastian. These women have music libraries filled with Cliff Richard, Il Divo and various Idol winners from around the world. Their interest in these men is never purely musical, of course. Indeed, they wistfully dream of these clean-cut Casanovas coming to their house, singing to them while they complete their tedious housework, and then making love to them in a way that their husbands (“One-Minute Mike” and “Two-Inch Tom”, as they joke to their friends) haven’t done since the dying days of the Reagan administration.
Aside from the old soul fans, those present went all gushy for the support act. I don’t remember his name, but that isn’t a great loss – he was Guy Sebastian, but less in every aspect. His voice isn’t nearly as good, his songs are about as interesting as 3a.m. T.V, and instead of sounding like a nice, intelligent, humble person when he spoke, instead he managed both to forget the phrase “crowning glory” and sound like a complete gronk in the process. This man will never trouble the ARIA judges.
As for Guy Sebastian himself?
So before Guy came out, they played us this video about the history of Stax Records. And as story after story about Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Al Green and Booker T & The MGs, you began to think about these titans of music: about how this music was born in the cotton fields of the South, how white men and black played this music together at a time when they couldn’t sit in the same area of a McDonalds, and how these immortal voices carried the urgency and the rage of an entire race trying to break through the hate and rage of centuries.
And then Guy Sebastian comes on stage, and his voice is flawless, and his energy is relentless, and the love from the audience is tangible – but something is missing. It lacks, dare I say it, any soul.
When Wilson Pickett sings “I’m going to wait ‘til the midnight hour”, you know EXACTLY what is going to go down in the midnight hour. When Guy Sebastian sings it, you just aren’t sure. Is he going help your kids with their homework? Is he going to sit on your couch and watch Scream with you and hold you close when you get frightened?
In fact, the show only kicked up out of karaoke mode three times:
1 – Guy sung a new song of his called Fire, and you could absolutely feel the passion, the urgency and the sheer need in his voice. It didn’t sound like mimicry, and it didn’t sound hollow – it was pure energy and total desire.
2 – When the rest of the band left the stage, and the MGs played their classic instrumental Green Onions. Everyone was out of their seat, dancing like mad as this most brilliant of bands played this most brilliant of tracks.
3 – Just as the set was getting warmed up, Jimmy Barnes came on stage for a special surprise appearance. He sang two songs, Sam & Dave’s classic Hold On, I’m Coming and When Something Is Wrong With My Baby, and really showed everyone what a frontman should be about. It really seemed like something was wrong with his baby, and that it really hurt him to the depths of his being. Guy, on the other hand, made it seem slightly hypothetical, as though if something ever happened to his baby, it probably would, you know, be kinda crap.
It was a really fun gig, and it was something of a dream realised to see the MGs. But it never really kicked out of 2nd gear. What it was missing was real soul.