Australia journal - June 1999

The farewell show

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Our last show together began with the first song we sang together: "Four Strong Winds."

The energy level kicked up pretty quickly and stayed there, of course.  We didn't make a list of the songs we wanted to do, so of course a few favorites (e.g. "Up on Cripple Creek") got lost in the shuffle.  But we covered a lot of ground.  Matt sprang a few new ones on me, like "Sandman" (the America song), "It Never Rains in Southern California" (who the hell was that one by?), "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" (at a breakneck pace).  I followed along gamely, and had a ball.

As the second set drew toward a close, we asked for requests.  The first words we heard were "Johnny B. Goode" - so off we went!  The couple from Wisconsin via Christchurch, New Zealand, jumped up and did that rug-cutting thing in a major way.  All eyes were on Ted and Lorna!

The Rev did another engaging turn on the didjeridoo, and then Matt asked if any kids int he audience wanted to give it a try.  No takers.  So he asked if anyone else wanted to try, and one of the dive shop guys came up.  He turned out to be a ringer: it was his didj.  And he made it sound pretty good, though not as good as Reverend Paul.  "Any crazy Americans want to take a stab at it?" asked Matt.  Nope.  Finally, another Heron Island employee I hadn't seen before took the stage and huffed and puffed into the tube (a real didjeridoo this time, not a scrap from a construction site) a few times to general laughter and approval.

After that it was time for the Bush Band to assemble.  Someone had made copies of the lyrics to "Stairway to Heaven," so with Matt leading the band on wobble board and Jon the bartender taking a very tentative lead on the vocals, the lagerphone and bush bass in relatively capable hands, they tumbled through it to great hilarity.

A few numbers into the third set, Matt anounced that I had a song of my own to sing. I had asked him for a spot to do one, assuring him that he'd like it.  As I started I said to Matt, "Stay here; this is easy to pick up," and I sang "Monica Lewinsky," which was very well received.  And then I left the stage.  Matt sang "Lady D'Arbanville," "California Dreaming," "Only Nineteen," and a few others, and then demanded my presence to help sing "American Pie" (a major request from the employee caucus, many of whom his the dance floor hard when he launched into it).  I volunteered a harmony vocal on "Down Under," the Men at Work song I like so much.

Before he brught the last set to a close, Matt called me back up on stage to reprise our first and best number.  "I don't know when I'm gonna get a chance to sing with this bloke again," he said, "so I want to do this one more time.  It's kind of sweet and quiet, but I think you'll enjoy it."  And the place went impressively silent and attentive as we sang "Four Strong Winds" one more time, giving it a smooth, sweet and inspired reading.  After all the overamped rowdiness of the middle part of the evening, I was glad to be going out on a more subtle, genuine note.

But there was more: for Owen, the marine department manager who is also a devoted acoustic guitarist - and who had missed most of this evening's performance - Matt wanted to play another of our signature collaborations.  So our final duet was "I've Got a Name" and "Norwegian Wood."  We did 'em proud; it was a nice way to end a very magical episode in my musical life.

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