Gig Review: Peter Combe @ Rats, 11th September

Last night, in one of the strangest gigs of my life, I saw children’s entertainer and the first musician I ever listened to, Peter Combe, play a show at Rats to a hoard of adoring twenty-something-year-old fans.

It was remarkable how many songs I remembered, having not listened to his music for a good 12 years. It was also remarkable how his songs have lost none of their charm over the years, providing for a nostalgic and thoroughly enjoyable night.

I arrived a bit late at the venue, missing out on the first act of the night, The Thod, who are awesome by the way. However I was in time to see all of the second support act, none other than The Bedroom Philosopher, who I also saw perform in a headline slot last week.

Justin Heazlewood and his Awkwardstra struggled initially with a lack of attention from the crowd and poor acoustics. Their live show is driven by banter and lyrics, and so not being able to clearly hear their voices understandably made for a bit of a lacklustre start.

Perhaps sensing this, Justin broke into the inspired I’m So Postmodern (not mentioned on the setlist), which immediately caught the attention of everyone in the venue. He hadn’t played this at their headline show, so I was delighted to hear it, and the live version was just awesome, featuring many of the wonderful lyrics of the studio version as well as a bit of improv and crowd interaction.

From this moment on the rest of the set went off without a hitch. New Media was of course one of the highlights, and once again uncannily described much of my own life. I just love the ending refrain of “Look around you Melbourne, do you know where you are? IT’S LIKE NEW YORK WITH TRAMS!”.

Sans costume this time, Justin also played probably his best known song, Northcote (So Hungover), which was greeted with rousing applause from the crowd. He finished with Generation ABC, a song that actually mentions Peter Combe and was the perfect warmup for the main act.

The lack of Trishine was a bit disappointing (judging by the setlist it was excluded in favour of I’m So Postmodern), but it was remarkable just how much Justin and the Awkwardstra managed to fit into a half hour set. Even more impressive was the way they adapted to some of the initial problems of the set, to the point where they had the crowd in the palms of their hands by the end of the set.

It was a more clinical set than the madness that was the Northcote Social Club gig of theirs I went to, and understandably featured much less banter, but it was also hilarious, eclectic, and very entertaining.

Next up was the main act, Peter Combe. I didn’t really know what to expect. This was after all the musician whose music I grew up listening to, and in fact I’m pretty sure I even went to one of his concerts as a kid. His decision to play overage gigs was a risky and unconventional one, but, as this set proved, it was a masterstroke.

As soon as Peter arrived on stage the crowd went nuts, and it was almost surreal to see so many young adults showing such adoration for the children’s entertainer. It was endearing to see that Peter played pretty much the same show as I could imagine him playing 12 years ago. There was no effort to reinvent the songs, it was just the same music that we used to love, played by the same man, and to the same people. It was overwhelmingly nostalgic.

My knowledge of Peter’s backcatalogue is certainly not what it used to be, however it was incredible just how many songs I subconsciously recognised and knew the words to. The same could be said of many of the fans at the front, who seemed to know just as much as Peter’s music as they would have a decade ago.

A cover of Here Comes The Sun was surprisingly heartfelt and touching, and Peter pulled it off with such sincerity that it actually didn’t seem out of place amongst his own songs.

I had to wait for the finishing stages of the set for some songs that I really recognised. Mr Clicketty Cane was absolutely bizarre, as a hundred twenty-year-olds screamed out lyrics such as  “Wash your face with orange juice” and “Clean your teeth with bubblegum”. The cacophony of ‘Ewww’s and screaming that met “Belly flop on a pizza” couldn’t help but bring back childhood memories. It was so very fun.

“You sound just as loud as you did fifteen years ago,” said Peter, to huge applause and screams from the crowd. One of the shortest encore breaks I have ever seen followed, and Peter and his keyboardist were soon back on their mics to play two of Peter’s most well-known songs, Spaghetti Bolognaise and Juicy Juicy Green Grass. The former in particular was really great, and served to illustrate the timelessness of Peter Combe’s music, at least to the people who grew up listening to it.

And so, at 1am on a Sunday morning, the children’s entertainer finished performing.

Peter Combe was just as endearing as he was all those years ago, and his music was just as enjoyable and fun. It was so cool to see so many young adults, dressed in newspaper hats, having such a fun time to his music, just the same as we did so long ago (or perhaps not exactly the same, I don’t think there were any blow-up Breezer bottles in the crowd then).

More than anything, it was just an overwhelmingly cool thing to be a part of. It bought back so many memories, but also served to create its own, because I don’t think it will be anytime soon that I forget screaming “I LOVE IT EVERY DAY, SPAGHETTI BOLOGNAISE” at a small pub venue in the city at 1am, along with a hundred twenty-somethings, wearing newspaper hats.

2 Responses to “Gig Review: Peter Combe @ Rats, 11th September”

  1. I grew up on Peter Combe’s music too and have been dying to see him at one of his overage shows. He’s announced a Christmas show at the Corner which should be good to see.

  2. It was great to see, in fact! Second time I’ve seen him since he started his pub tours. So much fun.

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