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Educated by Icehouse – Performing, Purpose and Stage Presence

It’s hard to know what to expect when going to see a band that has been around for decades. Unless they’re in the ACDC/U2 category, you may be going to watch pairs of leather pants trying to spit out the love handles of grandma and grandpa. The fame monster has many victims and every musician fears becoming that guy or gal with age!

So when my good mate Paul Gildea from Icehouse invited me to watch their show at The Enmore, I went not knowing what to expect. I knew the leather pants would stay at home, but the show as a whole was a mystery. Only because I shamefully knew very little about Icehouse. Not only was this gig a-maz-ing, but I received a serious education. It was perfect timing too.

Flying solo, my seat and beer made me as comfortable as I could be. At this stage, I was still trying to manage anxiety, particularly in music and public settings, so the emotions were a little wobbly – but nothing I couldn’t deal with. Funny thing though, I hear a voice directly behind me say, “Oi, the guy in front of us looks like Michael Hutchence!” Sweet! That’s good for my ego. The recipient replies, “Noooooo, Michael Hutchence is waaay hotter!” Thanks, numb nuts!

The first thing I notice is the atmosphere. Every single soul was open and ready for Icehouse. The air was buzzing with anticipation. That’s a big deal these days. There’s so many reasons to be somewhere else, but this multi-generational crowd was here not only physically, but inside.

A great live experience will make me forget that I’m a musician. From the first chord of their set, I was gone! The hairs on the back of my neck wanted in. The rise and falls of dynamics were supported by a light show clearly driven by someone with musical intuition. There was choreography that stayed transparent to the mind. Front-house speakers were pumping out a mix that was clearly as rehearsed as every member on stage. Icehouse have quite an array of sounds, from simple drums bass and guitars to synths and backing vocals. Hard to mix in a live venue. Especially while trying to preserve the essence of the song. Iva’s vocals and those around him made me melt. Seriously! So much depth and power. Not Jimmy Barnes or Steve Tyler type power – it’s different. I can’t describe it. It almost feels like the song sings through him rather than the other way around.

The songs. The songs!!! I grew up on blues roots, so unfortunately didn’t have any Icehouse in my collection. With regards to blues rooted music of all styles, if it doesn’t move me, I’m following it with my mind. Note for note. Only because I understand it. But these songs come from a place completely foreign to me. It’s another language that could only speak to me through emotion. If I want to analyse it a bit, the arrangements can be quite complex. Chord melody and structure choice are sometimes far from typical, as is the production. Yet it all feels completely natural. Everything flows and supports the purpose of the song. It’s a real talent to build a song from the depths of musical intelligence without it sounding self-indulgent. There wasn’t a song that didn’t translate to the untrained.

Iva and Paul broke up the set with a few little stories and some casual banter. The lack of egoic stage presence had every member feature and shine at different times throughout the night. There were moments where I caught myself in a trance, thinking that they were just playing to me. I know everyone around me had those moments as well. We were nowhere else because THEY were nowhere else. It honestly felt like the world around us had shut down.

The train ride could barely put me back on the planet. During a time of “soul-cleansing”, their performance helped to dust off another part of my own vision. I hit my pillow with the following reminders circling my slumber.

 

  • A great song transcends the listeners knowledge of music.
  • Stage power and presence is not exclusively proportional to physical movement and loudness.
  • Purposeful tours. Purposeful performance.
  • People can’t be, and don’t want to be anywhere else if you’ve shutdown the world outside of the room.

 

Icehouse


For those who are new to the site, hit up my introduction post and the about tab to understand what inspired this website as well as what’s to come. 

17 Comments

  1. Andrew Tierney13/03/2017

    I first heard of Icehouse back in 1987, that year when they released Man of Colours, Electronic Blue was first song I heard from that group, and I remember my Dad and I listening to those Records, artists such Icehouse, Australian Craw, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Status Quo, John Farnham, Fleetwood Mac, Dire Straits, The Beatles, The Moody Blues, etc.
    My Dad is a fan of Gary Moore, the late Blues Rocker from Northern Ireland.
    The only members of Icehouse I know (as in heard of, not personally), are Iva Davies and Andy Quinta, the co-writer of You’re the Voice.

    I have mentioned being a fan of KISS since 1996, what I didn’t mention was I used to impersonate Gene Simmons, by wriggling the Tongue, Gene is prone to homage The Beatles through his music since he is a fan of the Fab Four. In High School I had to put up with nasty comments about the hottest band in the world, they had no problem with other bands such as AC/DC, U2, Deep Purple, etc.

    If I had been as successful and popular as you are, I would ask myself “How can I cope with all of this?”, if you have seen That thing you do!, starring Tom Hanks, Bill Cobb’s character Del Paxton “Soon something will make you go crazy”, and mentions a few examples of what might happen. If you have seen The Blues Brothers, the band tried to get $5,000 fast, did you ever perform for the money or for the love of music?

    I recently learned that John Wetton, formerly of King Crimson and Uriah Heep had died of Cancer in January, he was a member of Asia up until his death and that ended all chances of a reunion of the original lineup of Asia.

    When a popular band breaks up, it feels like everything will come crashing down on you, and all you can think of is the great moment they shared with their fans, and that includes the music.

    And for a few years now I have had this dream of jamming out with you, all I have to do practice every day and night and get really good, and that’s a dream I want to forfill.

    Reply
  2. Glenn13/03/2017

    Great tribute to Iva, who is definitely one of the greats of Aussie music. 80’s Australian rock was an absolute talent fest. So many talented bands and “musicians”, who knew the true meaning of the word. I feel so lucky to have grown up in Sydney during that era which was the absolute golden age of live music…. Rock on Icehouse and 80’s Aussie pub rock!

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri14/03/2017

      Thank you. I was a little worried as to how my article would translate given the little knowledge I have on Icehouse…. And you are right re 80’s. Lots of great bands, lots of great venues to play…. I was a little too young to understand it at the time, but I get it now!

      Reply
  3. biscuit77714/03/2017

    This was an excellent read. Iva Davies is a unique performer. Completely without ego and vanity. Pure talent from every single member of that band. The integrity following all the way up to the management. I rediscovered Icehouse myself 4 years ago when I stumbled on a tune of theirs listening to Pandora. 2 years later I was on a flight from New England, USA to Sydney, Australia to be a guest at 3 of their shows—two at the Enmore. I was able to meet with Iva after one of the shows. A terrific, humble guy. Discovering gorgeous Australia and making new friends was just the cherry on top. Glad you loved the show! Good stuff Nathan.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri20/03/2017

      I’m noticing that. People rediscovering artists that have been around for years! One of the many powers of music! Happy you enjoyed the read but more importantly the music.

      Reply
  4. Malcolm Gully14/03/2017

    What a wonderful post ,brought back a memory icehouse were “flowers” I think, in support of Roxy music on a tour in 1980 at the horden I’m sure they were just on the verge of the name change. So I was 20 and knew everything like you do. I got my Roxy music first album when “for your pleasure” came out so about 13 or so swapped it literally for the coat I was wearing. So then when flowers were the support first bat before a very crafted Bryan ferry they didn’t dissapoint they were good and then grew on. Your four dot points in summary are perfect advice for performances and I will keep them in mind as I learn too and move towards a performance myself. I’m getting closer insight into all the stagecraft equipment and logistics involved. Nerves about performance and lessons! Even a dud Mike or leadcould bring you down every one of these weekly posts brings new refreshing inspiration, lessons and insight and motivates. Thankyou Nathan

    Reply
  5. Devan14/03/2017

    Coolness. Icehouse was one of my favourite band growing up in 80’s. I was a 12 yo kid who migrated to Australia in ’78 from a very closed, conservative Asian country, and I had never really heard pop music until coming here. Icehouse’s self titled albums was one of the first albums I ever bought, and I used to love putting on “Can’t help myself” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7_BtSCNig4 ) on my dad’s stereo and watch the woofers visibly pulsate with the thumping bass in that song. The guitar solo from the same song was what also introduced me to what guitar effects pedals could do, and inspired me on my own guitar journey.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri20/03/2017

      Ah! Another reason for me to hook in. Great track! Thanks for the share….

      Reply
  6. Andrew Tierney14/03/2017

    Just like in the ’70’s, the ’80’s was a golden age for Australia music, especially Rock music. Icehouse, originally called Flowers, will always be one of Australia’s favourite bands

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri20/03/2017

      Hell yeah!

      Reply
  7. Roddy16/03/2017

    Hi Nathan, if you read the book Songwriters Speak by Debbie Kruger, you will find a little story about how Iva wrote the Electric Blue with John Oates.
    I was hooked to the late sixties and seventies so all those bands that were formed during the 80’s and 90’s I only heard their music on the radio.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri20/03/2017

      Sounds like an interesting read. I’ll check it out! Thanks Roddy!

      Reply
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