The amazing Dami Im performed at Grafton's Saraton Theatre in August last year, one of the best Clarence Valley concerts of 2019.
The amazing Dami Im performed at Grafton's Saraton Theatre in August last year, one of the best Clarence Valley concerts of 2019.

Year in review: best live gigs of 2019

2019 was a stellar year for live entertainment so let’s hope 2020 follows suit. Here’s a look back at the best of the touring acts and shows that ventured into Clarence Valley territory last year:

JANUARY

Tex Perkins and the Loose Rubber Band, Yamba Bowling Club

Possessing a swagger few Australian rockers can match, Tex Perkins was back in the Clarence and in fine musical form during the holiday period last January with his latest band of players delivering a mix of new stuff and some of his classics. While relatively quiet on the musical radar these days, the Cruel Sea frontman got off to a flying start this year after flipping the bird across Sydney Harbour to the PM during a New Year’s concert before dedicating their hit the Honeymoon is Over to the besieged leader who was under attack for his handling of the bushfire crisis.

FEBRUARY

James Blundell, Maclean Bowling Club

Despite some years away from the intense limelight he was under in the 90s, James Blundell hadn’t lost his ability to put on a show. Armed with a truckload of hits and bucketloads of charm, the country music star who was added to Tamworth’s Roll of Renown in 2019, is about a laid back and frank as professional entertainer can get. This characteristic was lapped up by the Maclean audience while he serenaded with song and amused with stories befitting a career that spans more than three decades.

MARCH

Headliner Tigerlily plays at G-Fest.
Headliner Tigerlily plays at G-Fest.

G Fest with DJ Tigerlily, Clarence River Jockey Club

One of Australia’s and the world’s hottest DJs on the circuit today, it was a real coup to have her in Grafton to headline its newest musical event G Fest. EDM fans were in their element as Tigerlily, fresh from her Sydney and Melbourne shows at the Ultra festival, the international music sensation and activist, had them eating from her talented hands.

Troy and Jem Cassar Daley, Coutts Crossing Hall and Yamba Bowling Club.

The ultimate father/daughter show, the touring duo of Cassar-Daleys were welcomed with open arms when they hit the Clarence stage for the first time together. Jem decided to have a gap year to tour with her famous dad and absolutely nailed it, her exceptionally beautiful vocals and natural affinity with the piano brought many to tears including dad. He was no slouch of course and the acoustic show really showcased the sheer raw talent TCD possesses after three decades on stage. Together they demonstrated just how sublime they can sound when DNA and hard work comes together.

APRIL

Toni Childs, Saraton Theatre Grafton

Audiences were transported back to the 90s when one of the decade’s biggest stars was front and centrestage at the Saraton.

Despite having only lost her brother the day prior Childs dug deep, sharing many personal stories and future dream among the sea of hits that made her a household name. She had lost none of the vocal power or distinctive Childs delivery audiences members flocked there to see. When she launched in her classic I’ve Got to Go Now you had no choice but to well up and singalong such was the magnetism felt in the theatre that night.

Toni Childs will performed at Grafton’s Saraton Theatre in April 2019.
Toni Childs will performed at Grafton’s Saraton Theatre in April 2019.

MAY

Lee Kernaghan, Saraton Theatre Grafton

Kernaghan kicked off his national Backroad Nation tour at the historic theatre he cited as one of the country’s best. The country music legend brought the newly crowned kings of Tamworth The Wolfe Brothers with him for the rockin’ ride, the band taking home a swag of Golden Guitars at the 2019 ceremony. Kernaghan was in fine fit form, delivering from a gluttonous back catalogue of hits as well as showcasing what the future holds. The theatre handles hi-octane shows very well so it’s worth putting the next one in your diary.

The Popular Mechanicals, Pelican Playhouse South Grafton

Probably one of the funniest, most slapstick, and brilliantly executed shows delivered by the Clarence’s A-lister thespians. Their take on the Shakespeare parody was something to behold and demonstrated not only their acting and singing abilities but also choreography and direction. Look forward to more from this crew in 2020. We’re lucky to have them in our midst.

Bruce Mathiske, Clarence Valley Conservatorium

This guitar hero has been a favourite with Clarence Valley music fans since the 1990s when we discovered him through the now defunct Rotary Jazz and Blues Festival.

While his appearances here are scarcer, when he does add one to his busy schedule it’s always a sell out. Again his intimate Conservatorium was a hit with audiences, his mind-blowing repertoire with his instrument of choice, a visual treat as much as it is for the ears. Mathiske is of international calibre so next time you see his distinctive name in the gig guide, make a beeline to get a ticket. Seeing him perform live here should be on your bucket list.

JULY

Justice Crew, Yamba Bowling Club

Okay you either love or hate boy bands but these guys are more than just pretty faces that sing cheerful songs. They are firstly dancers who leave you wondering how they can go from multiple backflips into full song. It’s choreography on Redbull with all the bells and whistle you would expect live from Las Vegas. Rap, hip-hop, and pop all rolled into, despite their almost retro appeal the crew were bouncing like they were in the charts yesterday.

JUNE

Amber Lawrence, Coutts Crossing Hall

Becoming one of the Clarence’s favourite off the beaten track venues for touring artists, the little hall that could provided Amber Hall with all the acoustic surroundings she needed to deliver another outstanding afternoon rich and raw performance. The singer/songwriter was in her element there, the hall provided the perfect accompaniment to one of Australia’s finest country music artists.

NOVEMBER

Club Briefs, New School of Arts, South Grafton

Whoa. Where are we? Oxford St, Sydney, Las Vegas, Miami. Nope. South Grafton. The New School of Arts building came alive during the Jacaranda Festival when the Club Briefs boys arrived on stage. With its mix of circus, cabaret, comedy, burlesque and stage stunts involving whips and contortion, these very cheeky chaps could just be hear over the roar of the jam packed hall. It was feathers and sequins at 20 paces as they fired off in spectacular fashion. The diversity of the back-to-back performances left you exhausted by the end but totally exhilarated by their unbridled brand of entertainment. No wonder they’re a hit internationally.

Carl Barron, Saraton Theatre Grafton

What can you say about Carl.

He’s a minimum two-show man in Grafton. Probably Australia’s most laid back comedian, Barron is no slouch when it comes to selling tickets here as previous tours will attest. Whether it’s his finely-executed ordinariness, or razor sharp observational wit, the t-shirt clad Barron always looks like he’s come straight from the pub to the stage which in there lies his appeal. Behind the seemingly goofball persona is a man who knows his stuff. He is also very good at piano even though he pretends he’s not. He’s sure to back, maybe not this year but he will return for at least a couple of shows.

Carl Barron’s a Grafton favourite.
Carl Barron’s a Grafton favourite.

Dave Graney & Clare Moore, Pelican Playhouse South Grafton

The Pelican Playhouse continues to bring some pretty amazing one-offs into South Grafton and this pairing was one of the best touring opportunities to secure.

The Melbourne based husband and wife brought the inner city to the Clarence this evening.

The irreverent Doctor Dave Graney (I don’t now if he is but he should be) had the packed venue hypnotised with his mystical musicianship and wry storytelling. His ability to blur the boundaries of reality and taking the p**s a calling card not many entertainers can carry so effortlessly.

Beautifully accompanied by his talented multi-instrumentalist partner Clare, the evening was a poetic ride into musical madness and back again with some of the funkiest acoustic and percussive sounds the audience, and walls of the vintage venue, have probably ever heard.

OCTOBER

Adam Harvey at Clarence Valley Country Muster

After Troy, Adam is probably our favourite adopted country son. He always pulls a crowd and while he did have captive audience at the muster, he still played for hell of a long time, such was the relaxed friendly atmosphere that muster exudes. The star was at the event for the whole five days, hanging out and supporting a few of his country music mates which also added to camaraderie on the main stage when he took to it on the Saturday night.

There’s no way anyone was sitting in their seat without moving no matter how old they were. Harvey was also back in the Clarence in December for a show at the Coutts Crossing Hall. Another full house for that afternoon of acoustic brilliance.

Normie Rowe, Maclean Bowling Club

King of Pop, Vietnam Vet, legend of Australia rock, all those Normie Rowe’s were in attendance at the Maclean Bowlo show. It’s almost unAustralian to say you haven’t seen Rowe live on stage.

Despite more than 50 years of performing, Rowe doesn’t show any signs of winding down.

In fact if anything, he’s gaining momentum much like the foot-tapping and dancing that was going down that night. The energy the veteran rocker exudes on stage would put most people half his age to shame.

Legendary rocker Normie Rowe rocked the Maclean Bowling Club in October 2019.
Legendary rocker Normie Rowe rocked the Maclean Bowling Club in October 2019.

Once We Lived Here, Pelican Playhouse South Grafton

Following in the footsteps of 2018 runaway success, Next to Normal, this very fine production of an Australian story this time was a standout.

Again some the Pelican’s A-list were involved and given the level of emotion required to really demonstrate the complexities of family life on the land it probably was a good thing. Not an easy one to pull off, the crew outdid themselves again from the haunting vocals to set design and direction in this timely tale. They just keep getting better so look out for them in 2020.

The McClymonts, Saraton Theatre Grafton

The girls were back in town for Jacaranda Festival and a show on Jaca Thursday evening.

Seeing the sisters perform acoustically where you can really hear their much-touted harmonies and the orchestral beauty that can sometimes only be achieved through sibling connections was a treat. Hearing them in the golden chamber of sound that is the Saraton’s main theatre was the icing on the country music cake. Australia’s own Dixie Chicks, the trio have forged a remarkable career in one short decade so you can only imagine as their vocals continue to mature they will be a musical force to be reckoned with. Yee ha.

Hometown favourites The McClymonts were back for a show during the Jacaranda Festival.
Hometown favourites The McClymonts were back for a show during the Jacaranda Festival.

AUGUST

Dami Im, Saraton Theatre Grafton

If there was a standout show for the 2019 Clarence season, this was it. It would be safe to say that Dami Im is every bit the international performer. Im can quite easiliy match it with the like of Mariah Carey and Celine Dion but pips them with her prowess on the piano, the classically trained Im taking her talent to the next level. She had no problem filling the vast cavity of airspace of the Saraton, her soaring vocals, powerful and crystal clear, it was easy to see how she won the world over in the Eurovision competition. All eyes were on the tiny star with a big voice as her mesmerising deliveries and warm presence lit up the stage. More like this please. The Saraton can easily handle it.

DECEMBER

Kamahl, Saraton Theatre Grafton

As far as legends go, the man and his voice are it.

A Saturday afternoon performance by Kamahl in Grafton had the older crowd arrive in droves as he spoke and sung way through more than 60 years of music and stories.

If you haven’t hear those velvet tones live then you have missed out.

Even a pre-show interview with Kahmal turned into a five-star experience such is his commitment to being the consummate entertainer.

OTHER STANDOUTS:

May: Menopause the Musical, Saraton Theatre

July: Soweto Gospel Choir, Saraton Theatre Grafton

August: Shannon Noll, Maclean Bowling Club

June: Chamber Music Festival, Clarence Valley Conservatorium

June: Tania Kernaghan, Grafton District Services Club

January: Taylor Henderson, Saraton Theatre Grafton

August: Kenny Broberg and Lachy Hamilton, Clarence Valley Conservatorium

May: Fiona O’Loughlin, Yamba Bowling Club

April: Mamma Mia, Grafton District Services Club

January: Gangajang, Yamba Bowling Club

March: Banjo, Saraton Theatre

October: Afternoon at the Proms with Con the Fruiterer, Saraton Theatre Grafton

May: Taikoz, Clarence Valley Conservatorium

March: Emma Pask, Clarence Valley Conservatorium

February: Russell Morris, Grafton District Services Club.

March/April: Oliver, Criterion Theatre Grafton.

January: Hello Tut Tut, Pelican Playhouse South Grafton

January: The Black Sorrows, Yamba Golf Club

April: Adam Brand, Yamba Bowling Club

December: Denis Walter, Alumy Creek Christmas Carols



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