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Pub Review: Five Cups in Fremantle

Indian

To visit Fremantle is to understand that this earth is essentially good and bright and joyous. I’ve had a remarkable afternoon.

I guess it’s an emblem of country-boy faith that not for the first time, hotel concierge staff consider it appropriate to swear at me, in cheerful, inoffensive and welcoming ways. Perhaps I’ve an inviting face, for when I ask about public transport, the smiley front-desk person said, “Don’t use a travel card, for they’re shit.” Oh.

I spoke. “Where’s the city station?”

The well-groomed, nicely-vowelled girl then replied, ” Oh, you’ll know it’s Perth station because there’ll be people pissing out of it.”

I blinked. “Thanks.”

On this Sunday the sun splashed on my face all afternoon. It had the redemptive power of Mykonos or Napoli. I asked some locals if it was extraordinary and most nodded in a dismissive way. I imagine this is typical in Fremantle.

On the train down I glance up at the network and note the Mandurah line stops at Murdoch and then Bull Creek. I suspect, given the deplorable mass media of this country that this is ironic. The sun is wholly magical, for a July day. So, I went to five pubs.

Surprising, I know.

pub

 

National Hotel – it’s bustling, and a fierce footy locale when I stroll in to Sandy Roberts chirping about North and the Gold Coast Suns, who I am told, are an AFL team. I ask for a Panhead Extra Pale Ale from NZ. It’s satisfactory, and I’ve got down here on a train trip for only $4.80. As I walk up to the balcony bar there’s a 2013 Grand Final Freo jumper and rock concert posters such as Hendrix, Woodstock, and of course, the iconic, groundbreaking Leo Sayer. The red brick, the exposed brick is lovely. As the Roos v Suns progress a Harley eases past the open doors. I talk with an old mate, who’s a Dockers bloke. He’s unmoved by the deplorable state of Tassie footy. Exiting, I see Monday’s industry night with an Old Skool arcade machine that I trust is Frogger.

Sail and Anchor– I remember our old friend Shelly urging us to look up! Look Up! And there’s a beautiful pressed tin ceiling. The air is high and effervescent, with a blue light. I order a Nail Brewing Pilsner but it’s circumspect; stand-offish; spikally brash beyond what a modest chap might ask of a pilsner. If a pilsner won’t behave, then where do we actually stand, in 2018? For the most isolated city on our tiny planet, there’s people everywhere, all in rude health; their kids behaving; nostalgic music a comfy bed as all attack the schnitzel and chip with a rare gusto. I then remember that it’s mid-winter but observe every second bugger is slopping about in thongs. Gee, I love this place.

Ball and Chains- Immediately, I mistrust this boozer. There’s an artifice and confection that’s worrying. I nervously order a Minimum Chips lager, and then order, as an incestuous accompaniment, a minimum chips. There’s a pensive mood about it all. I gulp my beer, so I can leave. However, the sunlight here is ridiculous. Big blokes wolf Emu Export. I avoid eye contact. I sit at a big timber outdoor table on the impossibly fetching esplanade. A Morton Bay Fig is among the Norfolk Island Pines. I’m drenched in sun, and instantly drunk on light. But, I scarper.

rope chandelier

Bathers Beach is right on the beach and beyond ridiculous. I’m with a Cheeky Monkey Pale Ale, on a sun lounger right on the sand, by a post with the waves crashing and the sun washing over me in a deeply medicinal way. A gull yarps while flapping above my head. By me are two English girls who surely can’t comprehend their enormous luck. It doesn’t matter, but the beer is pure muck; a modern nonsense that is profoundly difficult to love, even by a leviathan such as Sir Les or Thommo. I’ve rarely spent a better fifteen minutes, in the heart of winter, anywhere, including Luton, despite the toxic lager.

Sail

Little Creatures Brewing: Interrogating the bar-keep as the hugely wonderous sun rolls in, I ask about the Session Ale. I repair to the balcony and watch the boats wade in. The beer is affectionate, but lacks the warmth of the Coopers equivalent. A seagull drifts across my vision. The water looks warm enough that I could swim. How could this be? Perth is more Mediterranean than Mykonos or Capri.

I’ve had an afternoon of astonishment and glee. It’s been a Beatles album; a Hyde Park concert; an opening wicket from your first-born on a crisp morning as the sun stretches across your face.

How can I not have been to Fremantle until now?

Creatures

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Melbourne Footy Trip- Cream of Cauliflower Soup and the No Repeat Workday

CG

My work colleague was aghast.

“You get up just after four to go to a lunch?”

I nodded. “It’s my favourite lunch of the year. There’s significant tradition attached. I look forward to it like a bear does a nap.”

The flight from Adelaide to Melbourne means we’re in the city early with a big day of ritual and rigour ahead. At the Princess Theatre’s Federici Bistro we have a coffee and hot breakfast to open proceedings. The table service is a treat and sets an amicable tone.

For the third year running the weather is bright and sunny although it’s Colorado crisp. We then set off on a much-loved walk past Carlton Gardens, and along Nicholson Street. We pause at a fetching terrace house whose for sale sign and engaging photos catch our eye.

“Righto. Let’s see who can guess the asking price,” suggests Trev.

“Eight hundred,” offers Andrew, a Port Lincoln resident where the real estate agents are often more aggressive than Boston Bay’s great white sharks.

“1.2,” I murmur without confidence.

“1.4,” Trev bids.

I check my phone. “1.6,” I announce. We walk on.

NFA

We swerve eastwards onto Rae Street. It’s technically afternoon when we push open the front door of the North Fitzroy Arms, but only just. Perce is sitting at his table with what appears to be a thimble of lager in his hand.

With a galaxy of stars on deck the Footy Almanac lunch is soon underway. Jack Hawkins is generous and humble. Gastronomically, three votes go to the Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Toasted Hazelnuts and Truffle Oil.

It’s a typically terrific afternoon of conversation and cups. Our old school mate and new recruit Andrew is related to half the planet. Of course, he and JTH are second cousins. As I’d expect for a footy community, I enjoy chatting over lunch and then in the bar about Tim Rogers, building schools in Uganda, Battery Point’s Prince of Wales hotel and Paul McCartney, among other topics.

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Saturday, we take an Uber to Richmond’s All Nations pub. It’s the first in an endless stream of Toyota Camrys. I think it’s the law. Three votes go to the bangers and mash. It’s perfect pre-game tucker.

We then take my favourite annual bus journey in the All Nation’s slightly battered white van around the surrounding streets to the MCG. And before we can chorus, “complimentary shuttle” we’re on the 50-metre arc for Port and Carlton.

van

It’s a decent game with the conclusion in doubt until late in the narrative, but despite the affixed occasion of Kade Simpson’s 300th there’s a certitude about Port and their superior weaponry. Absent friend Chrisso’s nephew Justin Westhoff continues his evergreen form while Robbie Gray’s rubbery evasion allows the teal tribe to triumph. Ouch, it hurt my fingers to type this.

We’re then contractually obliged to adjourn to the Young and Jackson pub for the Crows and Eagles. It’s mostly a dispiriting affair and just as the season threatens to scarper to Bali on a cheap Jetstar flight we kick six goals to sneak home. We ring old friend and my cousin, Boogly for his birthday.

*

Sunday is yet another bright, wintry day and we venture by Uber’s ubiquitous Toyota Camry to Lygon Street for lunch. We get that it’s highly competitive and times are tough, but vow to walk past any restaurant touting for our custom. Complimentary garlic bread fails to win us over. Call us stubborn.

italian

We then find ourselves in the sun at a red-check tablecloth with a glass of Peroni. Our hosts are playing acid-jazz funk while the neighbouring diner has what sounds like Cannonball Adderley tinkling away. Somehow, this mash-up works and we munch our pizza and enjoy a languid hour.

Our weekend traditionally concludes at South Wharf’s General Assembly and in the Toyota Camry on the way there our Uber driver has the radio on Gold 104.3. He talks of its 10k No Repeat Workday as if it’s a triumph of modern marketing- “Just last week Narelle from Nunawading won the 10k!” Perhaps it is.

In the bar we’re sleepy and winding down like clocks. There’s an acoustic guitar duo playing in the corner and they have the rare skill of making every song, including some of rock’s finest tunes, sound like a Matchbox Twenty out-take. It seems sonically impossible.

Still, it’s been yet another fun weekend of footy and giggles, and we look forward to the 2019 edition.

guitar

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Pub review: The Prince of Wales, Kapunda

prince

I’d driven non-stop for over four hours, dodging kangaroos, AM radio (up next the latest from Danni Minogue!) and berserk truckies like the one in Spielberg’s Duel, and Friday-exhausted, fell into the front bar around 8pm. It was a hike from Kimba.

“Hello West Coast smack-head,” greeted mine host. “Christ you’re getting fat, Mickey.” He continued. “Are you still driving that dopey sports car?”

Welcome to Kapunda’s Prince of Wales hotel, run with gruff affection by lumbering iconoclast Peter “Puffa” Jansen.

The blunt cranial and corporeal references are like warm handshakes. These are Puffa’s way of welcoming me into his cosy pub. His is an inclusive environment: no-one is spared his jibes, and these are all part of the boisterous charm. To not be abused would be offensive.

But to understand the publican we need to know more of his curiosities. He was fond of a mid-week luncheon and these sometimes included local identities such as Norton Schluter. Norton ran the Greenock Creek Tavern: a Barossan boozer with such similar atmospherics it could be a sister pub to the Prince.

Legend has it that Puffa and some captive chaps once when out to lunch. When traversing the state Puffa preferred to sip cans. He reckoned they “travelled better.” Post-dessert they inexplicably then drove to Broken Hill in the big publican’s even bigger Falcon and returned four days later.

The Prince of Wales is a snug pub with a front bar like a lounge room. It’s this spatial dynamic which assists the natural intimacy.  The decor is spartan and the space is dominated by the beautiful, antique pub fridge with timber doors and those ancient chrome door handles. About the bar are maybe ten black-topped stools.

bar

Often, early in the afternoon, there’d be but a single conversation with the tethered denizens such as Roger and Matesy, and the quips would shuttlecock about the bar and there’d be volleys of chirping from in their cups.

Retrospectively, I can see that chief among its attractions was a clear-minded absence of TAB, thumping music, big-screen TVs and dining options. The Prince was solely dedicated to conversation and cups although I recall watching the 1989 Grand Final in there on, I imagine, a boxy old Rank Arena, and willing on Ablett the Elder before the clock ran out.

It was a venue for personal firsts. On a lazy Sunday afternoon I was introduced to the English public school tradition of spoofy which initially only required three coins but, if you lost, it resulted in significantly more fiscal investment, especially if there were six or seven of you in a roaring circle. And the pain of loosing to Goose or Whitey went far beyond the mere monetary.

spoofy

Also in 1989 some mates and I hired a VN Commodore wagon and headed to Brisbane for about three weeks. Of course, we set off from the Prince. Ever the social benefactor Puffa said, “Here you yo-yo’s take my radar detector. I’ve seen how you blokes drive. It might save you a few bucks. Just bring me back a carton of that new Powers beer from Queensland.” And the detector did ping numerous times across New South Wales. We delivered Puffa his slab.

I also remember old mate Trev and his band ‘Imelda’s Shoes’ playing one Sunday afternoon in the bottle-o drive way. I stood by the war memorial as the drums and guitar blasted down Mildred Street.

Puffa loved a bet. Up on the wall behind his bar, next to the clocks, was a row of coasters on which the wagers had been scribbled. It was like a silent bookie. Puffa once said to me just after Christmas, “Don’t worry about the Sydney Test, smack head. It’ll be a draw. It’ll be rained out.”

I’d seen the forecast, so retorted, “I reckon it’ll stay dry.”

Puffa then barked, “I’ll give you 4 to 1 that it’ll rain. Easy money for me, you yo-yo!”

Of course, Fanie de Villiers bowled South Africa to victory in a rare, entirely rain-free Test. After I returned from New Zealand in late January Puffa took down the coaster and I enjoyed his cash momentarily, before donating it in yet another ill-conceived spoofy final. I had a skill for that.

Although it now offers a broader range of tap beers I’m sure we only drank West End Draught in either schooners or butchers. My A3s cricket captain Kym Ryan took his lager in a handled mug, and this seemed sophisticated. In 1986, it probably was.

*

Early one morning during our last year in Singapore my cousin Puggy- called a “smack head” by Puffa as often as anyone- sent me a message to say that the iconic publican had passed away.

Trev and I called in a while back when in Kapunda for Woodsy’s birthday. We invested a vigorous hour as the pale sunlight bent through the windows, and I expected Puffa to burst behind his bar and bark, “Hello smack head!”

When next in Kapunda I urge you to visit and enjoy a butcher of West End Draught! But not a game of spoofy.

Puffa

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Round 7- Adelaide v Carlton: Come, Come Mr Bond

radio.png

 

We have radio wars in our car when the boys, wife and I travel together, and I’m annihilated, acoustically.

Despite my best attempts to provide a robust musical education, as the Subaru backs out of the garage, voices from the back seat holler, “Mum, can you put it on NOVA?”

Or, “Change it over to MIX.”

To which I respond, “What do you say?”

From behind me a reluctant, “Please” then chirps across.

MIX self-describes as, “Adelaide’s widest variety of music” but if there’s any truth in radio station slogans it’d be, “Adelaide’s widest variety of Pink.”

Saturday night viewing is providing similar conflict, at least for me. The footy is winning the battle, but only just as 9 GEM is showing all the Bond films, having started a month ago with Dr No which, given our youngest’s current oppositional defiance, is a domestic theme.

However in a rare nocturnal excursion, for the first time this season, I found myself on the bottom deck of the Chappell Stand, taking in the Crows and Blues. To alleviate any clash concerns The Blues are wearing their John Howard-inspired gray guernseys. Really? You’d find greater similarity in the vocal stylings of Taylor Swift and Taylor Walker.

gray

It’s a glorious autumnal evening by the mighty River Torrens – warm, still and clear. Both sides are missing many of their big names and given how many have moved between these clubs, out on the turf it must be like the first hour of a school reunion, you know, before the Brandivino works its liquid magic.

Carlton find space early and vital big rooster Kreuzer snaps to give the Blues their first, and only lead for the encounter. Adelaide then settles and slots the subsequent six with alliterative forwards Josh Jenkins and Mitch McGovern each scoring an appropriate two goals.

On TVs across the ‘burbs Thunderball is also away and SPECTRE has stolen some NATO bombs, and is threatening to destroy a US or UK city, later revealed as Miami which seems a little unambitious, given they’re working in the Bahamas. Why not be lofty in your aims and lob one at Luton, although, to be fair, it’d be difficult to tell.

In his first match against his former mob B. Gibbs (Bryce, not Barry) has continued his silky form and is accumulating possessions across the ground like MI6’s finest collects casino chips. During the break I get out my Texas Instruments calculator and start punching in cricket scores to see how far up the table the Crows will be by midnight. This arrogance guarantees the Blues (Grays) fightback is on.

boat.jpg

Skill execution errors, even from diminutive half-back assassin Rory Laird means the visitors enjoy a dominant quarter with some clever work from Levi Casboult whose hulking presence could be handy in Thunderball as things get desperate in the Aston Martin. The game is poised at the half and I get approval from our bank to undertake some Goldfinger action of my own: I buy a beer and some hot chips.

Any lingering tension quickly evaporates into the May sky as Adelaide registers a pair of majors in the opening minutes. Eddie Betts is involved, but his form and his season are simmering, not Bond-movie-speedboat-explosions, just yet. Footy itself has been strangely subdued thus far in 2018.

spectre.png

Mitch McGovern doesn’t so much mark the Sherrin as pluck it from atop the pack in a way that startles everyone. He elevates himself onto Liam Jones’ shoulders and completes the catch as if Q had lent him the famous jetpack. It provides some frisson on a night when the narrative arc is as predictable as a commercial radio playlist (Up next we’ve got some Captain Beefheart).

Cam Ellis-Yolmen continues his steady progress and is stringing together games in his much-interrupted career which began way back in 2011, when you could sneak your track-suited self into a Blockbuster and borrow Kung Fu Panda 2 for a fiver.

I admit it’s been a minor treat to see Carlton’s Cripps and Curnow in action. They’ll drive the Blues bus for the next decade, or half a dozen coaches, whichever comes first. Their win/ draw/ loss tally now reads:

007.

Despite another obligatory hamstring injury Adelaide moves confidently to the next instalment of the Showdown franchise next Saturday in the twilight.

There should be no televisual conflict with Casino Royale beginning just on the final siren. I best iron my new tracky-daks.

jetpack

 

 

 

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Round 3 – Adelaide v St Kilda: The Noel’s Caravans/ Jock Cheese Cup

BREAKING-

Malcolm Blight to replace Neil Kerley as face of Noel’s Caravans

Green Fields, Adelaide, April 2018

In a jolt to the chummy SANFL-football-icons-turned-caravan-promoters-community Neil Kerley has quit his post as a spokesperson for the quality but affordable leisure vehicles that are available at Noel’s.

With the reggae-kitsch and ear-wormish jingle playing over the lot’s PA system Kerls barked “I’m cooked,” to the mob gathered among the Millards. The gnarled legend then elaborated, “From now on you’ll only catch me by the yabby-rich yet cotton-theft-ravaged waters of Walker Flat. Flogging caravans is a young man’s game.”

noels

Heir presumptive Malcolm Blight then took an Island Star twenty-one-footer for a spin about Noel’s substantial block, and upon returning frowned at the narrow corridor into which he had to back the van. He was heard to mutter, “I can’t get this in here,” and despite The Messiah and his towed entourage being eighty metres away, another, likely interior voice breathed, “Yes, I can. I’m Malcolm Blight!”

Onlookers attest that the ex-Woodville Woodpeckers star then neatly reversed the caravan to a parking space by the front office, just like a wizened Jim’s Mowing franchisee.

After decades away from Adelaide, we welcome him home and await his work with Noel’s. And Malcolm, watch those bunkers on the 18th at Glenelg, an emu couldn’t escape them.

*

Like the charismatic connection between Adelaide oval’s hot chips and the ever-newsworthy chicken salt, or early period Miles Davis and the popularisation of modal jazz’s harmonic rhythms, I can’t think of St Kilda without seeing Melbourne band TISM and their music video, “Greg! The Stop Sign!!”

Who can forget the footage of Saints (and Kimba) chap Shane Wakelin, alongside Justin Peckett and those anonymous others, pedaling their gym bikes? That this is accompanied by Beach Boys-styled vocals augments the sumptuousness, and as modern TAC satire’s most illustrious shot the camera then pans past various motivational signages festooned on the walls, including my eternal favourite: “Your (sic) a professional. Keep it simple.”

Screenshot (1)

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Saturday night and with Blight, Kerley and TISM alumni, Humphrey B. Flaubert, Jock Cheese, Eugene de la Hot Croix Bun, and Ron Hitler-Barassi doubtlessly peering at the box (although probably not together) this fixture is underway.

Crow-for-life Mitch McGovern grabs and goals to get us underway but such is my remove from yoof that I can’t read his Anchorman moustache. Is it authentic, ironic or post-ironic? PM me if you can help.

For the Saints the aspirational housing developer’s dream Blake Acres (You’ll love coming home to Blake Acres) bends it too far at the other end. He’s lively early. While the Crows finished fluently last week they’re stuttering tonihgt.

Meanwhile the wife is watching The Bridges of Madison County. I trust Clint’s getting a few touches. Young Saint Jimmy Webster (was he in Goodfellas?) is also strong in attack, but the home side isn’t capitalising on their possession. Cam Ellis-Yolmen looks impressive around the ball, and his big body adds some grunt in this Crouchless knickers onball division. Meanwhile, Acres continues to be given too much space.

TISM

With daylight savings ended it’s dark at six, but still appealingly warm. I’m watching the game on a device on our patio, but somehow there’s more flies now than there were in January. I should light a mossie candle. I’d also have thought the Docklands seagull curfew to have passed but apparently not.

885 saints have been canonized by Pope Francis (2013–) during his pontificate and most of them (ignoring the five years after their death detail) have turned up to watch their eponymous side. There’s plenty of empty seats across the Docklands stadium so the miracle verification can continue apace.

Tom Lynch again shows his crystal vision and quick kicking which results in a major. He must be in the first six picked, every week. What if next year there’s two Tom Lynches in one side? Speaking of such, how lucky are we to have had so many Nathan Browns play AFL in the last decade?

Eddie finally opens his season’s account with a signature sequence of side-stepping and Sherrin-curling. With the earlier birth today of twin girls he’s had a surreal day in which life and footy have intersected in beautiful and complex ways.

Then, a Richard Douglas goal is reviewed to a behind because, allegedly, a subatomic fingernail particle made contact with the ball for a zeptosecond. Clearly, the physics is beyond me, but I’m sure these decisions are made using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

The second half starts and I wonder how Ron, Humphrey, Jock and co are. I wonder if Kerls is cooking some yabbies and how Blighty hit them today. Sweetly, I’m guessing.

Don’t let me down, Bruce, gets one for the locals and they seem primed. But then the game again descends to the mundane, despite the clear nihgt. Like the final hour of a bikie wedding reception this is untidy stuff, until Betts gets it out the back to break the tedium. JB is settling into his new commentating role. I’d argue he’s better than BT or KB or DK or SK or BJ or VB.

The Crows register three rapidly, and the complexion changes. Then, former Pie Seedsman applies an exquisite tackle and we’re five goals to the good. Tex, off a step…

I duck into the boys’ room and coax the youngest to put down his latest Captain Underpants book (No, it wasn’t based upon a Saints’ end of season trip). He’s had a big day.

During the denouement Eddie takes a hanger. The siren sounds. The kick’s skinny, and irrelevant.

MB

 

 

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The Killers in The Taminga

party pies

AFL Grand Final morning is fantastic. Buzzing expectations, glancing yet again at your watch, and finding stuff to distract the racing mind. At this point my cousin would apply Sparkling Ale, but today we choose modest exercise.

It’s cool in the Clare Valley, and the sun’s out, and the trees and the fairways of the golf course burst with warm promise and stratospheric, if fragile, hope. We only play nine holes, so we don’t need a lunchtime Zimmer or gopher. I take it as a minor omen that I don’t lose my ball.

The town has three pubs and these are, of course, the Top, the Middle and the Bottom pubs. Australians really do enjoy a rare and efficient grasp of geography. With an alluring alliterative splash, the Bottom is also the Bentley’s, and the Top is, yes, you guessed it, the Taminga.

Our tables were by the open windows overlooking the street, and as the breeze dashed in and out, we could see trucks and utes, lazily circling the roundabout. Opposite was Pink’s Mitre 10 Hardware, and I was fearful that this sleepy winery village had been invaded by that dreadful wailing popster. Imagine my relief upon learning that the Pink family has run their store for six generations, and never released a hideously overwrought album of faux-feminist tosh.

pinks

In order to set the afternoon’s rules of play I said, “What do you reckon? Every time Bruce (the match commentator) says, ‘clever’ Mozz has to woof down his beer.”

All agreed, except for Mozz.

In truth, drinking games are best left in our juvenile past, and we quickly recognised that no earthly good could come of my idea. Plus, there was the after-dark, safely back in our room, Karaoke to follow, and we had Ol ’55, Glen Campbell and the enormously patient Neil Diamond to cheerfully demolish.

Is there anything that generates such excessive expectation as complimentary party pies? No, of course not. And there were also wedges put out by the bar staff, but these conglomerates of oil and mistreated potato put me in mind of a semi-mythical fat-berg, easing along a London sewer in a decidedly sinister fashion.

Don’t you love suddenly remembering a great song? One you’ve not heard in a while? The pre-match entertainment was American band The Killers who I’ve always admired. Their fifteen-minute set was a treat, in contrast to Meatloaf, universally known as the evil mastermind responsible for the “Massacre at the MCG.”

But it’s only at the post-game concert that they played their finest song, “All These Things That I’ve Done.” Included on their 2004 debut Hot Fuss, it’s a classic of heartland rock. For days now, I’ve had it on repeat at home, in the car, and for personal health reasons, at work.

It reminds me of U2 from their Joshua Tree era, when they were the mightiest band on the planet. There’s a rousing intro which is reminiscent of “Where The Streets Have No Name,” as the pounding drums and catchy guitar conjure an anthemic boldness, and a soaring gospel quality.

Like so much of Bono and band’s output, it’s about the seeking of redemption.

I want to stand up, I want to let go

You know, you know; no, you don’t, you don’t

I wanna shine on in the hearts of man

I want a meaning from the back of my broken hand

Now, Bono is largely a git wearing glasses around the clock, but for two decades the Dubliners were remarkable. They combined words and music with singular mastery.

As the Sweet Inspirations choir bursts to joyous life on the refrain- “I’m got soul, but I’m not a soldier,” I’d love to be at a huge, summery football stadium when the crowd sings along, with front man Brandon Flowers waving his microphone at the bouncing masses. A sign of modern esteem is parody, and the British comic Bill Bailey once pronounced in response to The Killers, “I’ve got ham, but I’m not a hamster.”

“Mr Brightside” may be more popular, and a track on which Richmond Tigers star Jack Riewoldt guests, but “All These Things That I’ve Done” is a stirring song that takes me to splendid places.

Places offering party pies, for free!

Taminga

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Meatloaf: Horrific Fun at the 2011 Grand Final

meat

I dare you to watch it.

Appropriately, the execution opened with “Hot Patootie” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, a title more representative than commonly possible, as the following quarter hour is hide behind the couch, can I come out now Mum dreadfulness.

Meatloaf presented early, and sitting in front of the mercifully miniscule 42-inch screen, I wondered if John Farnham might’ve been lured from his retirement tent for the aural health of our nation.

“You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” was next, with a terrifyingly extended outchorus during which Meat alternately surged ahead as if gasping for the Kool-ade, and then inexplicably dropped back a length behind his band. By its conclusion all in earshot wished they could, somehow, insert those mangled words right back into the rotund Texan’s mouth.

Tellingly, the band all had their sunglasses on, as if wishing for anonymity, and to escape this netherworld, courtesy of a Star Trek teleporter.

I must point out that I reckon Bat Out of Hell is a remarkable rock album. For many it’s the music by which they first stole a kiss, or turned the key in their own set of Holden wheels. That something like one in every dozen Australian homes owed a copy isn’t a surprise.

But, to suggest that a gap exists between that exhilarating vinyl and this afternoon at the MCG is like noting how John Howard’s bowling action doesn’t quite offer the elegance of Glen McGrath’s.

Flanking the stage were two giant Carlton Draught inflatables. How must those CUB executives have felt watching that? The music was more Death Valley-aged Budweiser than passable domestic brew.

meat 2

I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) then polluted that grim, little stage. What do we make of its central theme which speculates on the very limits of human endurance? Happily, there was no Kiss-Cam that day. Scream at an Elderly Relative-Cam might’ve had the broadcast director paralysed for choice.

Our vocalist seemed to be playing a perverse game of anti-bingo in which he was determined to not sing in the correct musical key. Mr Loaf clutched a Magpie scarf as if this would help, and from this moment, a Cats’ victory was certain.

In the corner of the screen the Channel 10 logo featured proudly throughout, and anthropologists and financial analysts have since traced the network’s woes back to this thirteen-minute microcosm of existential pain.

On the Classic Albums documentary series, the composer Jim Steinman explained how, “Bat Out of Hell” was conceived as the ultimate car crash song, following in the tradition of “Leader of the Pack” and “Dead Man’s Curve.” Watching that afternoon, I wondered about life imitating art, or was it life imitating life, or art imitating an open sewer?

By the stage you could see a throng of spectators all wearing orange caps. In Buddhism, orange is connected to vitality and illumination, but I suspect if actual monks had been at the G, even they may have erupted into sudden and colossal violence.

How jealous must the crowd have been when the Harley motorcyclists, musically and thematically, so central to this song, rumbled off down the players’ race? They were paid to speed from the arena, and the sonic strife warbling about its unhappy bowl!

Towards the end Meatloaf received an oversized prop, and squinting at the screen, it appeared to be an enthusiastically circumcised penis. On it is a trigger of sorts. He handled this briefly, as it were, but then abandoned it, perhaps realising, along with the rest of the audience, both immediate and televisual, that today, there’d be no climactic finish. Indeed, if you listen carefully to veteran AFL announcer, Craig Willis, you can detect the tiniest irony, in his stentorian thanking of the Wagnerian rocker.

As Channel 10’s Stephen Quartermain then cuts to a universally welcome block of vacuous advertising, he comments that Meatloaf was, “Extraordinary.”

Aside from “Leo Barry. You star!” this is his finest moment.

Go on, I dare you to watch it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZdiaFXW2U8