Kicking off the night with victories for the Theatre Royal Castlemaine and the Corner Hotel in the Best Regional Venue and Best Venue categories, it’s hard to recall a better host for anything ever than footy-loving soul man Chris Gill.
Local combo Big Scary regale us with textured cuts from their Best Album nominee Not Art. Those not caught up in chat and schmoozing are seduced by their intriguing, layered take on trip-hop flavoured psych rock.
Back to the awards and Music Victoria’s ever-dapper Bek Duke reads a telegram from Aunty Meredith, accepting the Best Festival award. Best Regional Band goes to Stonefield and the Drones take Best Live Band, both wresting the award from stiff competition. While Vince Peach spins American soul cuts, the night begins to build toward the induction of Renee Geyer into the Hall of Fame. Fellow inductee Michael Gudinski is celebrated in a video outlining the long success of Mushroom Records, and similarly accepts via video.
The EG All Stars and Saskwatch Horns back stabs at soul songs from some of the city’s most noted singers. Kylie Audlist and Lance Ferguson open with Renee Geyer’s Stares and Whispers, Ella Thompson owns Geyer’s Be There in the Morning before Linda Bull and Daniel Merriweather stun with their takes on Paul Kelly’s Sure Got Me (Where You Want Me) and Cold Chisel’s Four Walls respectively. 60s pop hit Simon Says will never be the same now Dan Sultan has had his way with it, and Remi, representing the hip-hop soul connection, reminds us where much of Melbourne’s creativity now lies.
The final awards given see Best Male and Best Album go to Paul Kelly, the Drones collect a second for Best Band, Adalita take Best Female and Vance Joy’s Riptide a surprise but deserving Best Song.
From hear on out, the night is about one woman. A tribute video featuring Bonnie Raitt, one time Beach Boy Ricky Fataar, Ella Thompson and Gudinski highlights Geyer’s easy move between styles and wide influence. Inducting her into the Hall of Fame, Minister for the Arts Heidi Victoria calls for a ‘bit of shush’ to read a quote from Geyer’s father: ‘All modern music is shit. But my daughter’s shit is the best’.
Geyer and her 9-piece backing band are on stunning form. Combining her pop hits with soul classics (and Paul Kelly’s phenomenal Difficult Woman) we are left in no doubt as to what she was born to do, and how lucky we are to see her do it. Her voice, as Gill pointed out earlier, is only getting better. Closing with her 80s hit Say I Love You and the ever-stunning It’s a Man’s World, Geyer brings out Dan Sultan to duet on A Change is Gonna Come. Introducing him as ‘our Elvis Presley’ it’s hard not to see the torch of soul-powered rock legend not be passed from one to another, but shared and redoubled, ending a killer night.