The Seekers performing their Golden Jubilee 50th Anniversary Farewell Tour at The Royal Concert Hall Nottingham on Thursday 1st May 2014.
Making their appearance on the stage, Australia’s first international supergroup were welcomed to Nottingham by a capacity crowd with a five minute standing ovation; such was the adoration of this mature audience for a group who is a long way from home.
It is well documented that Judith was involved in an horrific car crash in 1990, and suffered from a brain aneurysm some twelve months ago, which resulted in the original date in September having to be cancelled. In all honesty there was no knowing as to whether she would be well enough to finish the tour, so for some, to see them up there on the stage, it was understandable that the emotion was phenomenal; these four amazing musicians were so pleased to be up there, that I doubt there was a dry eye in the Concert Hall.
Almost five decades ago The Seekers made a film which portrayed what they might be like when they were old, and Judith wondered whether they would be touring in 50 years time. It has turned out to be a prophetic clip as they took this audience on a Baby Boomer’s journey of memories.
There was a film collage of highlights from their career before they appeared in front of the curtain, with Judith reflecting the stage lights in her dazzling silver gown. She looked diminutive in stature against the other members; Athol Guy on double bass and Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley on guitars, who clearly absolutely adore her.
Judith’s voice is still pretty awesome, strong and uplifting. It’s crisp, bell like quality has always been a feature of The Seekers music, and it has lost little over time, ringing out as they opened with Come The Day. Striking by itself, it combines with the harmonies of the other three members to create this special Seekers sound. Theirs is such a rare harmonic blend, both vocally and instrumentally, that lifts them up above the pack.
Whilst it is true that some of their hits were written by others, The Seekers have the magic formula to embed those and self-penned songs in the hearts of their fans. So when the first bars of I’ll Never Find Another You rang around the Concert Hall, this crowd were enraptured, delighted and enthralled.
This show made extensive use of archival footage throughout. As they sang, projected behind them was footage of them performing the same song in the 60’s. Yet 50 years later the sound, the voices, the harmonies and the musicianship was just the same, perhaps even better, with the pathos of life experiences adding shade to the lyrics. This included their hit, A World Of Our Own, which was warmly received.
Regaling us with stories from their past, they were both entertaining and amusing. Vocal duties were shared around with Bruce taking the lead for The Water Is Wide. Judith had a solo spot, winning the crowd with The Olive Tree, a song which was written by her. Keith had his time alone too, singing Guardian Angel, Guiding Light. Judith had a well-earned break whilst the men sang the lively song of the bayou, Louisiana Man. But it came to me as I was trying to sing along to Morningtown Ride, that not only do The Seekers write and sing some beautifully crafted melodies and sensitive lyrics, they somehow embody a sense of decency, and although they can rightly claim superstar status, there is none of the diva arrogance; they are just good talented mates who grew up together.
Other highlights of the evening included the infamous Georgy Girl, Red Rubber Ball (co-written by Paul Simon and Bruce Woodley) and the first song that The Seekers ever rehearsed together, When The Stars Begin To Fall.
Judith again captured the audience with the superb Colours Of My Life and demonstrated the glorious resonance in her tone in When Will The Good Apples Fall. She really does have a voice which would charm the birds of the trees.
They also performed The Beatles emotional In My Life and the country folk classic Silver Threads and Golden Needles, but it was I Am Australian, a song co-written by Bruce Woodley and which has become a kind of unofficial Aussie national anthem, which got the loudest applause.
I have to admit that I was very, very young when The Seekers attained legendary status, being the first Australian pop group to make it big in the UK and the USA. But I grew up with these songs, as they became a part of my and my family’s life. Listening to them perform tonight was an honour and was one of the most memorable, lovely nights ever spent at a concert. Now and then, rehashed groups from the 60’s go on tour with one or two original members and whilst it is always fun, sometimes the magic has inevitably gone, along with their voices. Not so with The Seekers. These guys have still got it and I was privileged to have witnessed it. The world would simply be a far darker place without Judith Durham and The Seekers.
Completely enthralled by the show, the audience gave them a standing ovation to match the earlier one as they closed with The Carnival Is Over; and what a magical moment it was. It was without doubt a memory stored in the memory box to keep forever.
Will we be fortunate enough to see them here in Blighty again, I think not. These shores are a long way from home for this group and so it may well be true, for us the Carnival may well and truly be over, but at least we will have our memories.