The Animals at Friends Restaurant

There isn’t a Baby Boomer alive who doesn’t stop for a moment whenever the guitar intro to the Animals ‘House of the Rising Sun’ blasts out, come to think of it, there aren’t too many of us who haven’t tried to play the chord sequence on guitar, like Chopsticks on piano, everybody has a go.

Last night, (Wednesday 3rd September), we were very fortunate to catch The Animals & Friends at Friends Restaurant. What a great show and what a fabulous restaurant.

Clyde and Leslie Bevan’s Friends Restaurant has well-deserved legend status in Perth, superb cuisine, an equally superb wine list and perfect staff. These days, their Dinner and Show evenings book out almost as soon as the event is published, take my advice and put yourself on their mailing list, or Like them on Facebook.

The deal has to be the best in town – $135.00 per person gets you a stunning three course meal and the show. The very full drinks are extra, however you can buy excellent quality wine and Champagne by the glass at an average price of $12.00, perfect if she drinks Champers and he drinks Shiraz. Our meal, under the direction of Chef Frederic Verschoore, included an entrée of Prosciutto and spinach chicken roulade, capsicum coulis roasted corn and chorizo relish, a main of slow roast 120 day grain fed beef sirloin red wine reduction pearl barley risotto, stewed red cabbage and sweet and sour cauliflower, followed by Chocolate lava cake, espresso ice cream, white chocolate and praline ganache, with maple candied hazelnuts and vanilla biscotti and of course tea or coffee accompanied by sweets.

The standard of service warrants special mention – there are no obsequious waiters kneeling at your feet asking what Sir would like tonight, just quiet efficiency. Staff materialise just when you think you’d like another drink and there is an elegant time period before plates are removed. Yes, elegant, that’s the word for Friends Restaurant, but not in any overpowering sense, it’s a class act. Then there’s the show.

The Animals & Friends

First, the Elephant in the Room, or rather, the Elephant not in the Room – Eric Burdon is no longer with the group. As with a number of super groups, there have been acrimonious court battles about name ownership, with this group granted permission to play as The Animals & Friends. Burton’s vocal shoes are filled by bass guitarist Pete Barton, who’s played and sung with the band more or less constantly since 2003, although his association with the reincarnation of the band goes back to the early 1990s. His is the most difficult job. A big bloke, (and personality) with a great blues and rock voice and superb bass skills, he thankfully makes no ‘tribute’ attempt to imitate Eric Burdon.  But a couple of songs in, as he pleads with the audience, “Baby, you gotta understand me now,” we do, ain’t no misunderstanding, this mother is the goods. Blues guitarist Dan Handley previously played with the Animals, finally taking over lead guitar and some vocals a couple of years back, when John Williamson decided to retire from life on the road. Keyboard player Mick Gallagher, took over very briefly, when Allan Price left the band just before their first tour, then Dave Rowberry took over. When Rowberry passed away in 2003, Gallagher took over keyboard duties once again. Then there’s the original band member, drummer John Steel, he’s been an Animal since day one, way back in the fifties.

John tells a fascinating story about Allan Price suddenly leaving, as the band was about to do a show in Stockholm – amongst other things, Price had a fear of flying. He left the night before they were due to fly to Sweden for the next day’s show. Their manager knew of a young keyboard player, rushed around to see him and asked if he thought he could do the gig. Mick Gallagher said yes, but he’d never been out of Newcastle and didn’t have a passport! Somehow they got papers for him and the next night he found himself on stage in Stockholm desperately hoping he’d get the dots right! My finance Ann, actually has an association with the story – her father was at the Stockholm concert and loves the Animals to this day.

So how good were they? Bloody fantastic! I have to admit I teared up on a couple of songs, they haven’t forgotten their roots – blues and real rock and roll. The guitar riffs and keyboard choruses are note perfect. You sit there , feet tapping, playing air keyboard, or air guitar to everything … “If you ever, change your mind, about leaving, leaving me behind, oh, bring it to me …” and yep, you’re screaming out the lyrics.”Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, bright lights, big city” … you get the picture. Another Animals anthem, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” was dedicated to Vietnam vets all over the word.

Encores? Oh yeah, with John Steel again coming out from behind the kit to talk with the audience. Kit?  ha, I remember the back-of-album notes description of him playing drums on “I Put A Spell On You” – Burdon, I think, said he didn’t know what John did, but he moved all round the kit. Bloody oath he did. John told us another wonderful, wild bit of rock history.

They’d been trying out a new song, they liked it and audiences seemed to like it, so their manager booked them into a one-track studio and in about half an hour, they did one take of the song, for a studio cost of about ten shillings. It was released a couple of days later. You know it of course.

As long as rock music lives, the Sun will never go down on the house. It’s an anthem, it’s magnificent and for Baby Boomers like me, it’s our life and we’ll do what we want – singing, laughing and crying, as we shout out ’bout the brothel in New Orleans. Hell of a finale!

The Animals & Friends are on for one more night at Friends Restaurant and then heading east to tour the other side of Australia. Don’t miss these guys, they’re the real thing, they’ve got a great live CD on sale.

As for Clyde and Leslie’s Friends Restaurant, they’ve got some wonderful shows lined up from now till New Year, you won’t get better food, service or intimate shows anywhere.

(c) Greg Ross

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