The Go-Betweens London Astoria
Danny Kelly New Musical Express, 28 June 1988
Sometimes it's nice to be proven wrong. In a brain possibly softened by The Seekers I'd harboured a notion that the back-from-Oz Go-Betweens would struggle to fill the Astoria. In the event, however, it's serious sardine time. Self indulgent dreamers that they are, the Go-Bs have always wanted to be as hip as the Velvets and as big as a Beatles-backed Jesus! This heaving theatre seems like an honourable compromise.
I've long since stopped banging the drum for the Go-Betweens. Five LPs in, they've become the Turin Shroud of rock; you either believe in them or you don't. From the squeals that greet the marvellous, set-opening, Bye Bye Pride to the frantic, futile, braying for a fourth encore, it's steamingly obvious where the sardines stand.
The cause of their enthusiasm is the flowering of the latest Go-Betweens incarnation. There's a new bassist John Wilsteed replacing the domesticated Robert Vickers but the real shift is the convincing integration of Amanda Brown. Now that the shock of her role Violins (Not To Mention Oboes) In Rock! and her clothes (the woman couldn't dress a salad) has receded, it's clear that she's brought to the Go-Betweens something more than just a lick of paint.
As tonight's The Clarke Sisters and Bow Down, showed, both her voice and brooding violin (the work of Emmylou Harris and Scarlet Riviera on Dylan's Desire is strangely echoed) draw new tones and twitters from songs in danger of becoming overly familiar.
Her is-she-really-going-out-with-him relationship with Grant McLennan has also of course added new plot lines to The Go-Betweens' perpetual soap opera, and tonight was something of a classic for dedicated GB-watchers. Grant's cryptic asides and some fairly evident tension between him and Amanda Robert Forster caught in the middle like a reluctant UN observer didn't suggest the full Terry 'n' June bliss-quotient. Adding to this impression was Grant's singing, the snarled anger of which turned Someone Else's Wife and the new Was There Anything I Could Do? into the highlights of this set.
The downside of all this fun is that The Go-Betweens' heartbeat the impeccable balance between McLennan and Forster seems slightly askew. Great songs like Right Here and Apology Accepted never quite took good-night flight, while a lumpy stumble through Cut It Out was downright crook. In these circumstances, all those encores seemed just a touch excessive.
That said, The Go-Betweens, in their artistry, instinctive feel, and sheer bloodymindedness, remain a shining beacon, forthwith rock's potential fulfilled. As such, the government should nationalise them forthwith and pay the to carry on indefinitely. Tonight, like most every night, even Mrs T would've had to admit it was taxpayers money well spent.
The Go-Betweens never to bow down, and still the reigning pleasure!