Casino Canberra is taking a punt on live music with a series of singer-songwriter shows. FREYLA FERGUSON reports…
AFTER all these years, Goanna’s Shane Howard still loves singing the band’s biggest rock anthem “Solid Rock”.
“It’s a song you can’t half sing,” he says. “When you sing it, you have to belt it out.”
Howard will visit Canberra as part of a new series of music gigs put together by Casino Canberra and Songland Records’ owner “Frog” Harris.
Together the Casino and Frog, whose music industry experience spans 30 years, have created a music program which includes Aussie songwriting legends Steve Kilbey, from The Church; Ricky Maymi, from Brian Jonestown Massacre; Redgum’s John Schumann and, of course, Howard.
There will also be a “pub-style” gig performed by rock group Dragon.
Howard spoke to “CityNews” the day after the memorial service for former Hawke Minister Clyde Holding, where he performed his song “Solid Rock” on invitation from the Holding family.
“It’s a beautiful and powerful memory,” he said.
“Mainly because of what Clyde Holding had done, particularly in 1985 when the ownership of Uluru was returned back to the Aboriginal people. I was there for that hand back.”
Howard, a passionate advocate for environmental and Aboriginal issues, burst on to the Australian music scene in the ‘80s with his rock group Goanna.
He has subsequently performed on stage alongside James Taylor, Van Morrison, Carol King, Jackson Brown, Archie Roach and childhood idol Bob Dylan.
He says that, at first, girls “inspired the poet in me”, but it was the songwriting influences of Dylan that inspired him to write about Australian experiences.
“I guess I learnt from my home life, from my mum and dad, a keen sense of justice and respect,” he says.
“As I got older I became more aware of our traditional owners and of disposition and colonisation.
“I became more and more ashamed and never felt that we honorably dealt with those issues as a nation.”
Howard continues to be a strong advocate for environmental and Aboriginal issues. Last week he was in the Kimberley of WA protesting against the proposed LNG process plant.
He says his Canberra gig will be a “random” mix of his music.
“Sometimes people will call out from the audience, and depending on whether the band knows the song, we’ll play it,” he says.
“I still like to pay homage to old Goanna songs. And if I don’t sing them who will?”
Howard was last in Canberra, working on a project at Manning Clarke House.
“Goanna has really strong support in working-class centres,” he said.
“And then there’s Canberra – it’s funny, you wouldn’t think we’d have an intellectual following.
“I love Canberra, since the days I used to tour back in the ‘80s, it’s really grown and changed into a nice little cosmopolitan community.
“It’s full of memories for me.”
Frog Harris says it’s the music of Australian songwriters including Howard, that fits the brief for live music at Casino Canberra.
“The brief was: quality music, quality acts and a quality venue,” he said.
“In this venue, you can sit down and appreciate the work of singer-songwriters or stand-up and enjoy a rock ‘n’ roll performance.”
He said one of the biggest-selling records at his independent music store Songland Records was John Schumann’s album “Behind the Lines”.
“These are all specifically hand-picked acts,” he said.
“Nothing beats live performance and this is a venue that can deliver that.”
Dragon, featuring vocalist Mark William, October 21
John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew, Friday, November 18
All at Casino Canberra and all tickets through ticketek.com.au