Rock of ages

Af­ter four decades and the loss of their front­man, rock vet­er­ans The An­gels head back to where it all be­gan

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - MUSIC -

IT’S been an in­cred­i­ble ride,” be­gins An­gels gui­tarist and found­ing mem­ber John Brew­ster. “There have been some un­be­liev­ably good times and some not-so-good times.” That’s to be ex­pected when you are cel­e­brat­ing your 40th year in a rock’n’ roll band.

It’s a mile­stone few bands could hope to reach in their ca­reer and one that the af­fa­ble gui­tarist strug­gles to be­lieve.

In a year of what should be cel­e­bra­tions for the iconic Aussie rock band, the death of for­mer front­man and long­time friend Doc Nee­son took not only the band, but the na­tion, by sur­prise.

But the mu­sic will live on as it has for many years un­der sim­i­lar names. The An­gels, the Orig­i­nal An­gels Band, Doc Nee­son’s An­gels, Rick Brew­ster’s An­gels, the An­gels with Dave Glee­son...

At one point or an­other, for more than a decade, some form of The An­gels has toured Aus­tralia.

Now it is sim­ply The An­gels. And the band, like it has time and time again, are push­ing for­ward.

“This is the year we turn 40 but ob­vi­ously it’s a sad time too as we lost Doc re­cently,” Brew­ster says.

“De­spite what people say and all the press that has been re­ported over the years, we love Doc and we go way back to 1971 when Doc toured with the Moon­shine String Band. Rick (Brew­ster) and I went to his fu­neral re­cently and saw some of the guys we used to play with and it was very sad. We lost Chris Bai­ley as well last year which was re­ally sad... but like the mu­sic has al­ways done, we’re push­ing on.

“We’ve had line-up changes but we’re still hav­ing the time of our life play­ing mu­sic to­gether.”

The hunger and pas­sion for play­ing live for Brew­ster and Dave Glee­son is clear when speak­ing to the pair.

This isn’t a cash-grab “one last time” deal to take fans on a nos­tal­gic jour­ney, they say.

They have un­fin­ished busi­ness, re­leas­ing two al­bums since Glee­son took the helm in 2011 in­clud­ing this year’s

“To be around for 40 years there has to be changes,” Brew­ster says. “The An­gels as a band is about the reper­toire and about stay­ing true as a live band. We’re proud of the band and what we do to au­di­ences and what they do to us.”

Glee­son says: “We’ve played to over 100,000 people since I joined the band and it’s just un­real. It was easy for me to join a band with this many songs but we love writ­ing songs and com­ing up with ideas – and this is with a band I ad­mired for so many years. Ev­ery­one in­clud­ing me is get­ting a kick out of what we’re do­ing.”

But it wasn’t al­ways play­ing to thou­sands of people each night with the crowd scream­ing pro­fan­i­ties back at them.

Brew­ster can re­call the band’s very first shows at The Mod­bury Ho­tel as the The Moon­shine Jug and String Band.

Banjo, wash­tub bass, har­mon­ica and fid­dle were the in­stru­ments of choice back then – but it wasn’t long be­fore the band would evolve into what the na­tion fell in love with.

“Our first gig was at The Mod­bury Ho­tel. We used to do ev­ery Tues­day night as The Moon­shine Jug and String Band,” Brew­ster ex­plains.

“But we launched The Key­stone An­gels by play­ing the first half as Moon­shine with ban­jos and stuff – then we’d put a cur­tain across the stage and set up all the elec­tric in­stru­ments and drums and would go ‘tu-dah’ here we are. The thing was – we were f.....g ter­ri­ble!

“We had a re­ally loyal fol­low­ing called the Tran­scen­den­tal Jug Band. They were there ev­ery week and they were com­pletely taken aback by that early ver­sion of The An­gels, but they stayed with us.”

It comes as no sur­prise that this loyal fol­low­ing has con­tin­ued for 40 years with the band en­joy­ing suc­cess in all parts of the coun­try – par­tic­u­larly Ade­laide where they are home­town he­roes.

Now, the An­gels will re­turn to where it all be­gan when they per­form at The Gov over two nights next weekend, promis­ing fans a ca­reer-span­ning set with more than 25 songs.

“Ade­laide’s very spe­cial to us – this is where it all be­gan,” Brew­ster says.

“When we play live now we feel like things are right. We’ve recorded songs with Dave that are his own and be­long to this evolv­ing band.

“Dave’s a huge part of the spark that keeps us go­ing. We liken our band to a sports team – if there’s some­one in that team who doesn’t want to be there it drags them down.

“For us, ev­ery­one is fired up for this band and I can’t see this fire go­ing out any time soon,” Glee­son adds.

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