Jimmy Barnes' performs Working Class Man at Saraton Theatre in May.
Jimmy Barnes' performs Working Class Man at Saraton Theatre in May. Adam Hourigan

Clarence Valley's top live acts of 2018

IT WAS a big year for live entertainment in the Clarence Valley with lots of venues amping up booking opportunities with touring entertainers giving locals the chance to see shows they might normally have to travel for.

Here's a rundown and reflection of some of the biggest drawcards and names to perform in our backyard in 2018:

Jimmy Barnes's Working Class Man @ Saraton Theatre in May

The sequel to Working Class Boy proved just as popular with another sellout show at Grafton's 950-seat Saraton Theatre in May. The Cold Chisel frontman and legendary solo artist didn't disappoint with his tales of turmoil, self-loathing and rock-bottom moments juxtaposed with plenty of lightness thanks to some very hilarious stories and antidotes. It was inspiring and entertaining ride delivered by one of Australia's music legends.

Julia Morris @ Saraton Theatre in May

You can't help but laugh once Julia Morris gets going. She is a natural comic, effortlessly funny as she performs and ad libs her way through her Lift and Separate Golden Jubilee Show. The way Julia tells a story, which usually has her own foibles at the centre of the gag, is side splittingly hilarious. There wasn't a dry eye in the house (or perhaps seat too) as Julia had the place in stitches from the moment she set foot on stage to her exit.

Next to Normal @ Pelican Playhouse in November

A scene from the Pelican Playhouse's production of the Broadway hit Next to Normal which blew audiences away in November.
A scene from the Pelican Playhouse's production of the Broadway hit Next to Normal which blew audiences away in November. Simon Hughes

Arguably the best Clarence stage production of 2018 if not the past few years, Next to Normal was a feast for the senses delivered by the best in the Clarence's theatrical circles with standout performance by the two female leads Kate Joseph and NIDA graduate McKenzie Harvison who made her Pelican debut after some time off the stage. The confronting, dramatic musical has audiences mesmerised from go to whoa and talking about it for some time later. The bar set for 2019 is a high one.

Beccy Cole @ Clarence Valley Country Muster in October

One of Australia's best loved country music artists and a top chick to boot, Beccy Cole was a popular drawcard for the muster that just keeps getting bigger. Her frankness and warm personality has garnered her a legion of fans and her popularity has only grown, not diminished since she opened up about her personal choice and how she met her wife. More than 800 vans rocked up to see the Muster's drawcard, many of them following her since her tour started in South Australia.

Ian Moss @ Saraton Theatre in August

Ian Moss filled the Saraton Theatre with some amazing sounds in August.
Ian Moss filled the Saraton Theatre with some amazing sounds in August. Bill North

Another piece of musical bedrock in the Cold Chisel foundations, guitarist Ian Moss's prowess with his instrument is the stuff of legend. Able to eke out sounds you have to hear to believe, his talent doesn't just stop at the fretboard. He voice is just as soulful and bluesy if not underrated, and those who were lucky enough to catch his one-man show on stage at the Saraton Theatre received it in doses, the venue's acoustic-friendly cavity was a match made in musical heaven.

Jacarok @ Grafton Racecourse in October

This blast from the past is back up and running thanks to musician and tutor Luke Gough after he felt the youth of the day were missing out on what he experienced growing up in Grafton. He and his team of helpers have brought live bands back to the annual festival in grand style, assembled a huge line-up from around the region and beyond to take part in this family-friendly rock event.

Richard Gill and the Sydney Chamber Choir @ Clarence Valley Conservatorium in May

Acclaimed conductor Richard Gill performed at the Clarence Valley Conservatorium in May with the Sydney Chamber Choir. Mr Gill died in October 2018.
Acclaimed conductor Richard Gill performed at the Clarence Valley Conservatorium in May with the Sydney Chamber Choir. Mr Gill died in October 2018.

If you were fortunate enough to see Australia's maestro conductor Richard Gill in action when he was here in May then you will hold this concert even more dearly. Gill died in October but leaves a legacy of musical genuis throughout the country's classical scene. The concert he performed with the Sydney Chamber Choir at the Clarence Valley Conservatorium was an extraordinary opportunity for the region, the inspiring workshops he undertook with students young and old while he was in Grafton are something they are sure to cherish even more so now.

Eric Bogle (May) and Mike McClellan (August) @ Maclean Services Club

Songwriting troubadour Eric Bogle was a sell-out at Maclean Services Club. The legendary international wooed audiences with a selection from his huge catalogue of works including five songbooks and more than a dozen albums, his signature classic And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda resonating through many generations of Australians.

Bogle's Maclean Services show was followed by another legendary craftsman, Mike McClellan, who showcased songs from his latest album No Intermission as well as all his classics that earned him an honoured place in the history of Australian music including Song and Danceman, The One I Love and Rock'n Roll Lady.

Marina Prior and David Hobson @ Saraton Theatre in May

Stars of stage Marina Prior and David Hobson performed together at the Saraton Theatre in May.
Stars of stage Marina Prior and David Hobson performed together at the Saraton Theatre in May.

In this rare event, the Saraton audience were able to see two of Australia's finest stage professionals up close and personal. Marina Prior and David Hobson performed classics from Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Guys & Dolls, Westside Story and La Boheme, throwing in a few hilarious backstage stories for good measure.

Chamber Music Festival @ Clarence Valley Conservatorium in April

For the first of what is now going to be an annual event, conservatorium director Adam Wills brought a range of contemporary classical outfits from all corners to the Clarence for one big weekend of chamber performances. With the New England Ensemble, Acacia Quartet, Ensemble Q, soprano Michelle Ryan, the weekend showcased internationally acclaimed performance - all conveniently in the one venue and for a very reasonable price.

Breabach + Tullara @ Eatonsville Hall in April

The Small Halls project has seen some great international touring acts head out to the sticks for a night of foot-stomping goodness in the charming surrounds of the Eatonsville Hall. This year Scottish sensations Breabach delivered in droves as they build their reputation at the forefront of the UK's world and roots music scene. They are at the very top of their game and this appearance was a rare opportunity for Clarence music lovers to indulge in. And who doesn't love Tullara Connors? Catching her at home in among her far and wide festival appearances and well attended solo shows is always a treat.

Brooke McClymont and Adam Eckersley @ Pelican Playhouse in March

Clarence's answer to June Carter and Johnny Cash were back for two big nights of music showcasing their debut album together Adam & Brooke featuring all-new material, a combination of previously unreleased music and new songs by the couple. Apart from the extraordinary musical talent on stage, the audience were also privy to stories and banter that only comes with a hometown performance.

Paul Hankinson @ Clarence Valley Conservatorium in July

International pianist and composer Paul Hankinson returned to his hometown of Grafton for a concert in July.
International pianist and composer Paul Hankinson returned to his hometown of Grafton for a concert in July. Adam Hourigan

Grafton's own international pianist and composer Paul Hankinson was back from Berlin, Germany for a family visit and, much to the delight of those who follow his career, spent an evening performing music from his critically acclaimed new solo piano album at the Clarence Valley Conservatorium. Described as "a tender painting of sound” the album Echoes of a Winter Journey certainly warmed the cockles of Clarence music lovers.

Waiting for Godot @ Pelican Playhouse in August

The Pelican Playhouse's August production of the classic play Waiting for Godot was a hit with audiences.
The Pelican Playhouse's August production of the classic play Waiting for Godot was a hit with audiences.

Tackling a classic play is hard enough, but when it's a Samuel Beckett you really need to know what you are doing. Enter seasoned thespians Mark Conaghan and Desan Padayachee and well, you get something that could be just as good as you might see in Sydney. The two leads had dreamed of bringing Beckett to the Clarence stage and it was obvious they drew deep to get this done - ably assisted by supporting cast who were also no slouches in this 20th century classic.

Shane Howard and John Schumann @ GDSC in December

It would have been great having just one of these legends play Grafton but to have two of them on stage together was a dream for fans of two of Australia's legendary protest bands Goanna and Redgum. Shane Howard and John Schumann have been mates for years and it showed when they took to the stage at the Grafton District Services Club in December. Adding a twist to the usual turnabout, both men also sang each other's classics including Solid Rock, I Was Only 19, Razor's Edge and I've Been To Bali.

Rhonda Burchmore @ Alumy Creek Christmas carols in December

Cabaret star Rhonda Burchmore was a hit at this year's Carols by Candlelight at Alumny Creek.
Cabaret star Rhonda Burchmore was a hit at this year's Carols by Candlelight at Alumny Creek. HJH Media

It's not often you get a nationally lauded star of the cabaret stage to help belt our your local Christmas carols but that's exactly what happened this year thanks to the Greg Butcher and Clarence Valley Orchestra and Choir who successfully wooed Melbourne-based Rhonda Burchmore up for the weekend. Ms Burchmore is famous for her sell-out musicals such as Hot Shoe Shuffle and more recently ABBAsolutely Fabulous. Naturally she was a hit and a talented and glamorous addition to festivities.

The Living End and Dragon @ Yamba Bowling Club in December

Finishing off a stellar year of live entertainment were two of Australia's legendary outfits. Appealing to multiple generations of music lovers, these two shows went off on consecutive nights much to the delight of locals and holidaymakers as they revisited the classics and showcased their latest wares.

The healthy attendances for all of these shows ensures the outlook for live entertainment in the Clarence Valley for 2019 is very promising. Watch this space.

Other standout shows in 2018

  • Catherine Britt @ the Criterion Theatre in
  • Radiators @ Maclean Bowling Club in April
  • Wedding Singer @ the Criterion Theatre
  • Charlie Landsborough @ CV Muster grounds at Calliope in May
  • Adam Brand @ Yamba Bowling Club in April
  • Melbourne Comedy Festival @ Saraton Theatre in June
  • Yamba Cinema International Film Festival @ Yamba Cinema in May
  • Evolution featuring Tenzin @ Crown Hotel in April
  • Set Mo @ Roches Hotel in April
  • Jason Freeman Fox @ Pelican Playhouse in October
  • Mental As Anything @ Maclean Bowling Club in October
  • Streeton Trio @ Clarence Valley Conservatorium in November
  • Salty Sounds @ Yamba Surf Club in May


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