VIVID Live Review: The Sunnyboys - Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House (02.06.13)

In 2012, The Sunnyboys had performed as Kids In Dust and made a jubilant return to the live scene at the Hoodoo Gurus’ Dig It Up! Festival. In a little over a year they’d make a come back once again and do a concert proper. It could’ve been the “gig that never was” or “may have been” but instead it lived up to and exceeded expectations.

You know you’re onto a winning formula when the band receives a standing ovation from select audience members before they’ve even started. But that’s precisely what happened. After The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun” a short film played and needless to say, there was a lot of love in the room. And these boys were back. In a big way.

The group once chose their name because it represented the bright, happy, fast and youthful music they produced. Some three decades on and they’re a little older and greyer but the post-punk sounds they produced sound as fresh as ever. The original members: bassist, Peter Oxley; guitarist, Richard Burgman; drummer, Bil Bilson and the inimitable guitarist and frontman, Jeremy Oxley were joined by Tim Oxley and Alister Spence. The show proved the band is a well-oiled machine and it was obvious from the start that they all love the music, performing and above all, each other.

“As I Walk” kicked things off with Jeremy Oxley’s silken croon driving the proceedings. The harmonies were positively magnificent and this song made it easy to see why ex-Radio Birdman vocalist, Rob Younger, had left the band after a handful of meetings in the eighties. He said that Oxley’s tuneful vocals and unaffected delivery had rendered him obsolete and it’s nice to see some things never change. The fact is Oxley sounds like a man half his age and both he and his bandmates have the playing chops of their ages combined.

There was the catchy, almost garage rock of “Love To Rule”. It had a defiant energy underpinning it and this matched at least part of the sentiment felt this evening. But “Tunnel Of Love” had the guitars to match as these were some of the grittiest and buzz saw-like, that you would be forgiven for thinking they’d come straight out of a garage in Grunge-era Seattle.

There were lots of fantastic stops and starts in their big hit, “Happy Man”. It showed excellent restraint and grace and Peter Oxley would thank the audience for singing along to this one. It had been well-received and was one of the first in the show to get the majority of people up and out of their seats, a feeling only made even stronger during the solid pub rock of “My Only Friend”.

You could imagine Neil Young performing “Let You Go”. Such was the distortion, pacing and the high vocals prevalent in the song. It was a true joy while “What You Need” showcased the group’s love for the sixties. This could’ve been taken straight from a songbook by The Kinks because the guitar work certainly sounded inspired by Dave Davies.

Peter Oxley led the group through the softer, sweeter ballad, “The Stooge” before it was straight back to the alt rock for which they’re known and loved. “I’m Shakin’” had some thunderous riffs but the real lightning struck during their phenomenal, “Alone With You Tonight”. It was truly magnetic and a great choice of closer to tide the audience over before the band returned for not one but two encores that included “Trouble In My Brain” and “Tell Me What You Say”.

The Sunnyboys are a band that have been to hell and back but have also lived to tell the tale. Their Opera House debut gave no hint of the personal demons they’ve each fought and Jeremy Oxley was actually quite restrained. Tonight he was a man of few words, letting his lyrics, guitar licks and beaming smile do all the talk he needed. The guys were consummate professionals playing a tight hour and 45 minute set that featured a fine collection of old numbers and some newer material.

It seems so fitting that the final song of the night was actually the set music and specifically, The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love”. If ever there was a story that proved it, then this was it. And the Fab Four scored a special mention in the thank you section of the programme, because it’s obvious the affection and influence felt for them by this particular band. The Sunnyboys had been melodic and found an excellent balance between upbeat tunes and dark lyrics. Their Opera House show had been a welcome return and hopefully only part one of the story’s next chapter.

The Sunnyboys’ Sydney set list:

1. As I Walk
2. Love to Rule
3. Tunnel Of My Love
4. Happy Man
5. My Only Friend
6. Let You Go
7. No Love Around
8. You Need a Friend
9. What You Need
10. Liar
11. Tomorrow Will Be Fine
12. The Stooge
13. Show Me Some Discipline
14. I'm Shakin’
15. Alone With You Tonight


16. Trouble in My Brain
17. It’s Not Me
18. To the Bone


19. Tell Me What You Say