Best Gigs The Rockbrat’s Seen ? Rose Tattoo (1998)

Who: Rose Tattoo
When: Labor Club, Canberra – August 11, 1998

It had been some years since Rose Tattoo last graced a Canberra stage, so their return to the national capital was indeed an event to cherish. Witnessing the musical muscle that is Rose Tattoo is pretty much like watching a retired heavyweight champ climb back into the ring. The glint is in the eye, the mind is focused, and boy, do they pack a punch ! A lot of challengers and inferior imitators have had a shot at their title, but only failed miserably. No one, but no one, can touch the original bad boys of rock n roll when it comes to blooze based bad-ass raunch, and tonight, they fired with all the precision of a finely tuned muscle car. My eye cast a glance upon the assembled masses of flannel shirts and mullet cuts, who all clung tenaciously to the walls of the venue as if some one had thrown a dozen death adders in front of the stage – such was the sparseness of the crowd at the front. So much so that Angry Anderson commented with “This’ll be interesting,” to an obviously Tatts ignorant crowd, who had seemingly only come to contribute to the Angels’ superannuation fund. With that trepidation, the band launched into a street fightin’ version of ‘Out Of This Place.’ The unenlightened Angels army may not have been familiar with this classic, but as the first riff of ‘Bad Boy For Love’ came wrenching out, more of the throng made their way to the front. A scorching version of ‘Assault & Battery’ soon gets the crowd warmed up with Pete Wells’ bluesy slide appealingly prominent. ‘Tramp’ was one of the highlights for mine, with the rhythm section pumping hard, Ian Rilen in particular laying down the groove like a man possessed. An unnecessary ‘Rock n Roll Is King’ ensues before Angry inevitably hopped on his soap box and preached about religion and politics (how could he resist having found himself in Canberra ?) The sermon over with, Mick Cocks’ deadly stutter-gun guitar roared into action, introducing the ferocious ‘Remedy’ and my second high point for the evening. To see Cocks, Wells and a sneering Rilen front n centre mouthing the chorus sums up what rock n roll is all about to me. Rilen definitely gave the band added spark on this tour. Angry continues his ravings about the meaning of life like a deranged TV evangelist to a largely ignorant mass, preluding the blues epic ‘The Butcher and Fast Eddie’. The timeless signature tune ‘Rock n Roll Outlaw’ follows, before another treat, the rambling ‘One Of The Boys’ gets the place rockin’. The third ace was an explosive ‘Astra Wally’, Mick Cocks again firing with razor sharp precision. A true as steel run through ‘Nice Boys’ signals the end of proceedings and I make my way out to the street, again choosing to forgo the Angels experience, savouring the memory, and wondering if this will be the last time I see the mighty Rose Tattoo live. I would have liked to have heard ‘Suicide City’ (it was written about Canberra after all) or ‘Manzil Madness’, but when Rose Tattoo play 8 of the 10 numbers off their classic debut album live, in 1998, I don’t have much reason to complain.