After some indecisiveness, the decision was finally made to head up to Sydney for the inaugural Stone Music Festival, two days of music, life and freedom at ANZ Stadium. The two days could not have been more different in line ups, crowds and weather but after some Record Store Day fun, it was time to kick off the weekend at Olympic Park.
Admittedly, I missed Richie Ramone and Buckcherry (I need a Time-Turner!) but it didn’t matter given that I was completely blown away by Noiseworks. It’s definitely been a while, but there was an incredible energy to compliment the powerhouse that is Jon Stevens. The special dedication of ‘No Lies’ to Ms Gillard was a highlight, and after a few laughs brought the crowd together in fine voice for a singalong followed by ‘Touch’ and ‘Hot Chili Woman’. The band also treated the crowd to a newbie called ‘Let It Go’, and a cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Rock and Roll’.
I know that there were some seriously big acts hitting the stage on the Saturday, but I was really looking forward to seeing The Living End again. It was only a few months since the retrospective tour (back in December 2012) and you’d probably think that six consecutive nights of The Living End would be enough but it was brilliant to see those guys up on stage again powering through a set of well know favourites. An incredible live band, enjoyed by all based on the crowd’s response including the aging Aerosmith fan singing along to every word of Second Solution, West End Riot and everything in between (and good on him!) I’m not sure how Tooheys would have felt about the branding conflict but Chris Cheney playing guitar with a VB bottle was rather impressive, although I did feel a little sorry for the guitar getting covered in VB…
The stage was then cleared to make way for hair…and lots of it with Kings of Chaos hitting the stage. Dubbed ‘rock’s latest supergroup’, Kings of Chaos made their debut at Stone Fest with members from Guns n Roses, Deep Purple, Def Leppard and Skid Row alongside Steve Stevens from Billy Idol’s band. I’ll give the guys credit, they rocked and worked that stage but it wasn’t the highlight of the day for me. It may have something to do with the fact that I’d never really gotten into the bands they were all from, but there were certainly a few fans around.
Next up was Barnsey…need I say more? I haven’t see Jimmy Barnes live before, but he put forward an amazing performance with the band. Of course there were some newer songs but as expected, the classics were in the set too…complete with ‘Khe San’ and ‘Working Class Man’ to bring out the inner bogan in us all.
Then came Aerosmith, complete with all the spectacle and presence of those toxic twins. Steve Tyler and Joe Perry owned that stage, and along with ‘Love in an Elevator’ and ‘Livin’ on the Edge’ there was no escaping the big singalong for ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’, featuring the big white grand piano, the crowd’s finest karaoke vocals and copious amounts of smoke machine. Can’t wait to see them again in a few weeks’ time back in Melbourne!
Finally the moment everyone had been waiting for – Van Halen, the lights went down, the crowd screamed and that bass guitar roared to distorted levels. I hate to say it, but it was bloody torture to listen to! Sure, we got to hear Jump but I think I still felt that bass reverberating through me the next day. I’m not going to start laying blame, but it could have been so much more…
But Sunday saw a fresh start….with miscommunication on set times resulting in only catching the last song from Illumination Road but soon enough it was time for Mark Seymour and the Undertow to take the stage performing some newer material and a few Hunters and Collectors classics. Altogether, an enjoyable but much too short a set and far too little crowd appreciation for an incredible talent (especially considering the rousing response for a more lack lustre set from Shannon Noll that followed!)
Diesel was next on stage for what seemed like a really short set (again!), but didn’t disappoint with the crowd finally warming up on the opening chords of ‘Tip of my Tongue’, followed by a big old singalong to ‘Cry in Shame’. Some serious impressive guitar work, and glad I was close enough to watch the stage rather than the big screen to see it!
The last time I saw Guy Sebastian was during his Memphis tour back in 2008, and seeing him live at Stone fest reminded me why I should have gone to see him on his most recent tour. On stage with his band, I was somewhat expecting half the stadium to walk out – I didn’t pick this crowd as being too keen on seeing Guy but I was wrong….very wrong. Working through a set featuring heavily from the latest album the party had started with ‘Gold’, ‘Don’t worry, Be Happy’ and a beautiful performance of Armageddon with Angel Tupai before a broken track had Guy singing the rap and lyrics to ‘Battle Scars’ sans Lupe Fiasco (a stellar job!)
I was really looking forward to seeing Icehouse, and the evening’s performance proved that I should have taken the time to listen to more Icehouse. Iva Davies featuring on guitar, vocals and oboe (how often do you see that?!), spanning tracks across the bands 80’s releases including a mesmerising rendition of ‘Man of Colours’ featuring Melbourne’s Michael Paynter. Days later I’m still struggling to get ‘Electric Blue’ out of my head.
The surprise package of the day came with London Cries on the second stage. There had been a bit of talk about these guys leading up to the event, and I’m glad I trekked out amongst the maze of people and entrances to locate the stage and have a listen. Can’t wait to hear the debut album
After sprinting back to the main stage it was finally time for the piano man himself, Billy Joel opening with ‘Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)’. Following a false start on ‘The Entertainer’ (handled like a pro of course), and some general crowd banter between tracks it was time for ‘The River of Dreams’ (a personal fave). Could it get any better? Absolutely! After ‘We didn’t start the Fire’, Billy and the band break out into a cover of ‘Highway to Hell’ in association with all the biker references with Stone Fest, and after guest vocals from a random dude (seriously, who was he??!!!), out comes none other than Jon Stevens – very cool indeed. The set concluded fittingly with ‘The Piano Man’ (and no ‘Uptown Girl’ to be heard anywhere!)
Despite the numerous hiccups in the lead up to the festival, and things not being entirely perfect I have to say I had a brilliant time across the two days – maybe not consistently but there were certainly highlights that made it worthwhile. At the end of it all, the music prevails and it was bloody good.