Judge P.S. Colbert wants to see a football game that goes into under time.
"I want you, I don't want anybody else, and when I think about you, I touch myself."
Imagine you're the audience for this lurid, intimate confession, cooed by throaty sex-dripping singer Christina Amphlett, once reckoned to be "the most dynamic live female performer Australia has ever produced, let alone sent out into the world."
Now imagine you're one of a large, sweaty throng gathered on the grounds of Queensland's notorious Boggo Road prison, and Amphlett is delivering this seductive sermon with dead eyes and cool professional detachment; going through the motions, if you will.
That pretty much sums up Divinyls Live: Jailhouse Rock, which catches the group performing an open-air show in July 1993, as part of a triple bill with fellow Aussie legends Rose Tattoo and Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs. By this time, it had been two and a half years since the release of their eponymously titled fourth album. After traveling the world to capitalize on its international success, the group—meaning Amphlett and lead guitarist Mark McEntee—was clearly running on fumes. Not surprisingly, the duo wound up taking a long break from one another immediately after the tour, re-grouping for one more album (1996's Underworld) before officially calling it quits.
Here the tension between Amphlett and McEntee shows, not by how they deal with each other, but rather how they seem to disregard one another, filling the air with the same kind of ice that separates Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Coincidentally, McEntee cultivates a Stonesy sound, full of funk and shuffle, alongside auxiliary players Charley Owen (Rhythm Guitar), Jerome Smith (Bass), Lee Borkman (Keyboards), and Charley Drayton (Drums).
The set list for Divinyls Live: Jailhouse Rock includes…
Though the Divinyls qualify as a one-and-a-half-hit wonder in America ("Pleasure And Pain" peaked at #76, five years before "I Touch Myself" took them into the top five in early 1991), homegrown fans responded enthusiastically to what amounted to a troll through the group's greatest hits territory; well-played, if a bit rote. These are extremely skilled musicians, working very hard to provide a proper base for Amphlett to jump from, but the singer doesn't seem to be feeling it.
Even if a little hoarse (occasionally channeling late AC/DC singer Bon Scott), she brought that fabulous body of hers, but her gaze often drifts to the floor and her "moves" are little more than slinking back to the drum riser to watch Drayton, her husband. Technical skill aside, Amphlett's "rapport" is limited to cueing the band by mentioning the next song title and her attitude towards the audience seems one of mere tolerance. Surely she knew the show was being filmed (there are no less than eight camera men credited!), so why the complete lack of showbiz?
More disappointing is the let down of MVD Visual's full-frame DVD presentation, transferred from old video tape master with minimal effort. I can forgive the unintentional jump cuts, but is that snow falling on that crowd full of sweltering Aussies? The Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix is remarkably undynamic, particularly in the way it bleaches out both the drums and the keyboards. On the other hand, the guitar trio is on fire; gnashing, meshing; and spitting sparks that can't be ignored. It's a nice testament to McEntee, otherwise known to the world as that blonde guy standing behind the hot chick singer. So…there's that.
Sadly, this fan-centric release of Divinyls Live: Jailhouse Rock is the only visual documentation commercially available for a group that remains largely a hidden treasure. For those interested in finding out what all the fuss was about, I suggest checking out the group's collection of promotional videos.
Not Guilty, but only for completists.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MVD Visual
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