My first listen through the first Paul Laine record Stick It In Your Ear was in mid-1990 soon after release and signalled a significant discovery in what was becoming a somewhat bland and humdrum time for melodic hard rock. The huge production from Bruce Fairbairn, the ripping guitars of Kenny Kaos, fantastic vocals, and a series of monstrous hooks in all the chorus lines, delivered a debut album to remember.
I was also lucky enough to see him play live in 1993 when he made it over to the UK for the opening Gods of AOR festival in Milton Keynes, with the likes of Jeff Paris, Gary Hughes, Mark Free and Shotgun Symphony – and he did not disappoint live either. After that Paul sang on four of the heavier Danger Danger records, released the second solo album, Can’t Get Enuff, and fronted his own band, Shugaazer, before drifting into the background for a few years.
Then in 2014, he headed to Nashville to record an album called Let It Ride with a few of Keith Urban’s band, under the Darkhorse name, before a reunion with Bruno Ravel from the DD days, and guitarist Rob Marcello resulted in a cracking release in 2016 of The Defiants album.
Roll on more than 20 years, and a continent away, and the relationship between Paul and Melbourne band The Radio Sun, who asked him to help produce their album, has seen Paul head over to Australia three times now in the past 5 years, to perform a set of his favourites from his extensive back-catalogue, using the talented guys from The Radio Sun as his backing band.
There is a sense of great excitement when a date is announced, and while just the one show in Melbourne was possible, people turned up from Europe, Japan and all over Australia, most of whom had been at the Melodic Rock Fest in Melbourne in May 2016 – and most of whom Paul knows by name.
The Radio Sun opened the show with a 40-minute set taken from their 5 album repertoire and featured some great vocals from Jason Old, and the always impressive guitars of Steve Janevski, introducing the new rhythm section of Gilbert Annese on drums, and Anthony Wong on the bass.
We got Tonight’s The Night, Heaven on Earth and World’s Crazy Now in a blast of melodic rock which they manage to deliver live without keyboards. Switch Off The World Tonight and One In A Million carried on the theme, with some on-point backing vocals.
One of my all-time favourite riffs cranks out with Andy Taylor’s I Might Lie which is a cover the boys did on Heaven Or Heartbreak before Hold On Tight from the new Beautiful Strange record and then Tell Me What You Want to wind up a short but impressive set.
A quick change and the band is back in full, fronted by the ever-smiling and effervescent Paul Laine, who delivered more than 90 minutes of some of the best melodic hard rock imaginable, singing and playing the guitar throughout. We got Grind, Goin’ All The Way and Beat The Bullet up first in a Danger Danger trio, before We Are The Young which still sends goosebumps through me, and delivered live and in full this is just a jaw-dropping track which the band excelled on.
More DD with Under the Gun, before Take Me Back from the Defiants record, then I Still Think About You (DD), before an exhilarating rendition of Love & Bullets (Defiants), before a country-rock tinged Heaven Tonight from the Dark Horse album. Steve’s daughter Cassidy Paris has released a single that Paul wrote and produced, so she hopped up to deliver Talk About It in a live performance that would have been impressive from someone much more experienced – she has the voice and talent to do really well.
Back to DD for frenetic versions of Going Going Gone and the grungy Sick Little Twisted Mind before the Defiants’ ballad Underneath The Stars. All three times I have seen Paul Laine in the past 5 years, he has apologised for his voice being ‘a little rough’ – hard to see how it could have been better tonight.
Dorianna was the perfect way to close the set, with Jason, Steve and Anthony contributing some soaring harmony vocals that really did the song full justice.
The encore was the odd-one-out really – Bang Bang from the first DD album so not recorded by Paul, but written by Bruno Ravel, and obviously a live favourite throughout Paul’s many years in the band.
10 minutes after the set, Paul was down in the crowd, signing albums, photos and posters, re-connecting with many old friends, and taking as much time as anyone needed to say Hi. This was a quality rock show, with a sense of family about it – a special night indeed, and a big pat on the back for Steve Janevski for putting in much of the effort to make it all possible.
Event Date: 17-Jan-2019