The Way Out West Tour rolled on for the second night of two WA shows after a sell out opener at Freo.Social on Friday night. Tonight, The Astor Theatre played host to nearly one thousand expectant music lovers and not one would have left disappointed.
The wonderful Ella Hooper opened the evening with her cheerful, engaging persona flooding the room and a smile to warm a thousand hearts. Tonight she is joined onstage by the super talented Seany Johnston (Palace of the King) manning the keys. The Rockpit had the pleasure of catching Ella perform many of these songs with her full band late last year, so to hear these stripped back was something really special.
Declaring The Astor as her favourite venue in Australia, Ella takes us on her journey through her recently released album ‘Small Town Temple’. Launched on James Reyne’s very own Reckless Records, the album is a love story to her hometown & to life. With the opening track dedicated to the small town temple that is her mum’s house in country Victoria, a safe haven & lockdown location. Ella sings of her home & “It’s a place where all feel welcome, And you can’t ask for much more than that”.
Hooper’s vocals were divine and we were given a glimpse of how these songs were created and just how personal they are to her. Sparkling in gold pants, Ella warmed the crowd with her tales of growing up in rural Victoria, the mischief she got up to, as well as the heartache she had to endure at the time of the album’s release. Stand outs in the set included ‘Old News’, Grow Wild’, the catchy ‘Words Like These’ and title track ‘Small Town Temple’. Finishing up with ‘Oh My Goddess’, a song full of self talk & empowerment, it’s a candid admission that whilst the last couple of years have been shit, she knows she’s got this! And she does! Exuding brilliant energy to match the positive mental attitude Ella brings us to a close on her story telling set. Her voice is powerful and rich and weaves through intricate tapestries of story telling with ease & contagious energy. A gorgeous start.
The patrons flood back into the Astor, like a fast moving tide they start to fill every vacant seat – as the lighting and house music dim the speed of their purpose increases. James Reyne enters the performing arena with his group of talented artists (seven in tow) with his Gretsch guitar slung over his shoulder – the crowd begins their admiration in the form of applause and waits with baited breathe.
James’s back catalogue (from his solo works and Australian Crawl) spilled out of the speakers and all over the chairs of the Astor – like a fine wine the Reyne faithful appreciated the rich full-bodied entertainment that filled their senses. His cheeky conversations with the audience and the rest of his band reminded us just how personable James really is – he is just like us… down to earth, honest and real. He appreciated the company and loved the opportunity to play us some music… what more could you ask for. The Astor feels like it was built just for you – a purpose built musical restaurant, delivering a 5-star meal, with wine to match and James Reyne as the Michelin star chef… Table for two please!
Throughout the course of his amazing set (18+ songs) he talked, he gave us insight into the lyrical menu and mesmerized the crowd. It was such a diverse crowd as well, such a healthy mix of young and old. A beautiful reflection of his talent and just how his music transfers so well across different generations, proving that his music will continue to stand the test of time (like a great wine, aging well).
Highlights for me were ‘Hammerhead’ (1987 off the James Reyne Album), ‘Way Out West’ dueting with a returning Ella Hooper – an amazing adaptation (1992 classic originally with James Blundell) wow can she sing, the sing along for both ‘Down Hearted’ (1980 from Australian Crawl) and ‘Reckless’ (1983 from Australian Crawl) were both amazing and goose bump moments for me!
I loved the classic 1988 ‘Motors Too Fast’ and the 1987 song ‘Fall of Rome’, although we didn’t get to hear the full song ‘One More River’ as James teased us with a full chorus sing-a-long requested from some eager punters to the right of stage… and as always the boys did light up during ‘The Boys Light Up’.
All up it was an amazing selection of music reflective of the venue, the atmosphere and the sheer joy on everyone’s faces. We were left full, plates were empty at the musical restaurant, we had had our fill, we drank, we enjoyed, we loved. Thank you to the chef James Reyne, an amazing meal with amazing company…..5 stars!
Make sure you get out this show when they roll into your town – it’s a musical feast not to be missed.
Photos by Hunter Brothers Media