Go-Betweens, Paris, France
can still remember the day, Christmas time 1989, when Robert Forster
and Grant McLennan put an end to their 10 year old group, The Go-Betweens.
Together, they crafted some of the most beautiful pop songs and
managed to go completely unnoticed by everyone except for a small
group of loyal fans. In the space of a year, they put out two incredible
albums Tallulah and 16 Lovers Lane and suddenly everyone started
to pay attention.
group had a new bassist and were rehearsing for a new album, when
suddenly they lost their way. And so, the band did what very few
bands have ever had the courage to do. They called it a day and
left one of the most valuable and enduring legacies to pop music.
the history. While not officially reformed, Robert and Grant's
friendship has remained strong enough for them to want to do a few
gigs from time to time. They've done a couple of gigs in Australia
over the last couple of months, and, perhaps as a token of appreciation
to the French fans, they decided to play Le Palace in Paris.
crowd was sitting around, waiting for the concert to begin, when
the lights went out and a tall, lanky man in a lemon yellow linen
suit and white shirt strode onto the stage, arms aloft, waving V
for victory. Robert looked pretty much the troubadour he ever was,
while Grant looked older. He's losing hair and thickening around
the waist; like a cross between Phil Collins and Frank Black. The
crowd went wild.
had seen them on a TV show the night before, and already knew that
Lindy Morrison and Amanda Brown were not part of the group. It turns
out that they have picked up two very competent musicians, Adele
Pickvance on bass and Glenn Thompson on drums.
songs chosen spanned the Go-Betweens' entire career. It was
heartening to see that the new members were familiar with all the
material. It was also clear to see that they had a hell of a lot
of fun, everyone laughing and winking. Everyone was miked for vocals,
and they hit those killer harmonies that at times make singing Go-Betweens
songs to oneself such a difficult proposition.
of the spookier moments was the rendering of Bye-bye Pride early
in the set, with Grant's acoustic guitar ringing out the melody...
but all I could hear was the ghost of Amanda Brown's oboe,
which makes the song so powerful on Tallulah. And I wondered if
this wasn't going to be a drag, but all up, it turned out that
the group infused the songs with a life of their own, and deftly
averted lapses into nostalgia.
played the showman, talked to us, listened to the hecklers and handed
out bottles of mineral water. He talked about how much they were
influenced in the early days by The Mamas & The Papas, and they
played This Girl, Black Girl, a definite tip o' the hat to
them. This was followed by a couple of other songs, including a
glorious Dive For Your Memory.
which, Robert announced that "it's time to play a little
bit of that music they call rock'n'roll", a let rip
In The Core of a Flame. The following song Right Here was dedicated
by Robert, aptly I thought, to absent friends, the previous members
of the group: Lindy Morrison, Amanda Brown and Robert Vickers.
introduced one song as recorded in France, with the assistance of
one Jacques Loussier. I think he was expecting Jacques to be in
the audience, but Jacques was not at the venue. This song, typical
of Go-Betweens' bitter-sweet sense of humour, was Draining
the Pool for You, that is, "I got tired of...".
on, Robert said that all the band members would have to turn around
and face each other, because the start of the next song was incredibly
difficult and very hard to do well. Very free, free jazz. Maybe,
maybe not, but the song turned out to be Spring Rain, the same song
they did the night before on television. This was followed by the
lovely Lee Remick and the set finished with Love Goes On.
punters roared, whistled and clapped, and after a few minutes the
group came back to perform Love Is A Sign and Was There Anything
I Could Do?, and then disappeared again.
screamed and shouted a bit more, and this time only Robert and Grant
returned. Grant picked up his acoustic guitar, and they launched
into a perfect version of Cattle and Cane and a haunting Clouds.
Unbelievably, thoroughly excellent. And then was it... or so the
audience wouldn't let them go that easily shouting,
clapping, and foot stomping, and then, success! the four
members returned back onto the stage.
slipped off a shoe and threw it into the audience. Odd. He then
took his other shoe, ripped off the sole (aha! which was already
half detached), and threw both pieces into the audience. So, there
are three Go-Betweens fans in the Paris region with Go-Betweens
icons no doubt gracing their mantlepieces. Grant threw a laconic
"only bought them two weeks ago" to the crowd, the only
thing he said all night. Robert commented, "I just want some
affection", and they launched into Karen. And this time, it
was well and truly over.
cap it all, Les Inrockuptibles, the premier French music weekly
gave audience members a free 11-track CD featuring eight acoustic
demos of material that wound up on 16 Lovers Lane. And, regarding
the question as to whether you will see the Go-Betweens in your
part of the world, I'm afraid I can't answer that, but
they did say that "they enjoy playing together." So who