Barry Leef is one of those powerful voices from the 70s which falls into the 'whatever happened to?' category. What happened to Baz was he became, arguably, Australia's most successful session singer, so you probably know his voice from countless advertisements, without really knowing it (if you see what I mean).
What also happened, apparently, was he and a bunch of longstanding muso mates played, for donkey's years, in city fringe haunts, like the All Nations Club & Paradise Room, purveying the (circa) late 60s to late 70s West Coast rock to which they're still wedded. But Leef's behind-the-scenes legend doesn't end there: he was the leader of the muso's club band for many moons and, if you're as old as I am, you'll probably remember band names like Bakery & Supermarket (what was with the retail food obsession?), which he also fronted. Performing with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Tom Jones, Elvin Bishop, Zappa & Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter hasn't exactly diminished his cred, either.
The upshot is this band of singers' singers and musos' musos has become adepts of The Doobies, Santana, The Eagles, Creedence, CSNY & Boz Scaggs, et al. While sometimes lacking the light 'n' shade, dynamics and subtleties of the originals (Desperado didn't quite play the heartstrings as well as Henley & co's template), Leef's is a powerhouse 9-piece, which, at its best, is a tour de force; in fact, it could pretty well blow the roof off any stadium, let alone fill the comfortable confines of Kings Cross' swish Club Swans.
Leef, of course, isn't the only star: he generously shares the limelight with his cohorts, especially his latter-day fellow Kiwi recruit, Kimi Tupaea, whose reputation justly precedes him, inasmuch as his bearing uncanny vocal resemblance to Michael McDonald. I'd go so far as to say he might well be an even better singer!
Tupaea also plays drums, sharing the podium with Leef loyal, the tireless Richard Harvey. They form the backbone of the band, along with bassman and vocalist Victor Rounds, who's very impressive in both capacities; his solo really getting the juices flowing. Rex Goh's guitar knows no limits: he's a master of his domain. Giving no quarter to Goh is John Spence. Ara Nercessian is a more retiring, yet resplendent figure, on keyboards. (He was to share with Gary Steel, but the man of was nowhere to be seen.) Finally, Teri Lee cuts a charismatic swathe as the all-singing, all-dancing percussionist.
In short, this was a baby boomer's wet dream. Near perfect renditions of rock classics, like Listen To The Music, take the band from a mere covers outfit to a stratospheric homage status. What completes this is the injection of its own playful twists to the arrangements. At the same time, the clean, pure emulation you crave, from Goh's or Spence's guitars, as they glide through Black Magic Woman, are remarkably redolent.
It's no effort, either, for the harmonious chorus of Spence, Rounds, Leef, Tupaea and Lee, to rekindle the silky smooth, if goosebumpy vocal ride of early 70s Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Or really rock out, riffing China Grove.
After contending with the public transportation and other outputs of WYD, I'm not sure Jesus Is Just Alright, but they did that proud, too.
Even the challenging Hotel California was given it's full due.
And, again, it was presented in a very polished, sophisticated seamless way, at the still surprising Club Swans, a revelation to anyone who's ever moaned and groaned about clubland. The lighting leaves room for improvement, but the sound is about as good as the ear can hear. Thought I would bring those vocals forward in the mix.
The Barry Leef Band (if that's correct nomenclature) loves the 60s & 70s and has never left that gaudy, platformed period. When one is inveigled back to those times, so seductively, via the medium of music, whose memory can't be suppressed, or diminished (no matter how hard one might try), one is sorely tempted to recall, with rose-coloured fondness, the heady haze of dope, lingering over the SCG, where the real Doobies gave forth, somewhere in the 70s. Somewhere over the rock rainbow.
That's where these guys take you.
Barry Leef Rock Show
Venue: Club Swans | 28 Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross
Date/Time: 19 Jul 2008 @ 9.00pm
Tickets: Reserved Seating Only - $15.00
Bookings: 8061 2320 or Ticketek 132849