I always vowed I’d never be like the baby-boomers: going to Rolling Stones and Beach Boys concerts, looking beyond the thinning hair and artificial hips and dementia. The lyrics written on cue cards for those fading memories.
And then I find myself at the Violent Femmes at Revesby RSL where bald men line the walls and I sit elegantly on garish carpet waiting for the band to start at 7.30. Or dancing to Stone Roses where the line-up well and truly looks resurrected. Twenty years on, the band desperately clings to the same look, the same haircut, as if fearful that their fans will just walk down the street and pass on by. And then there was Dexy’s Midnight Runners at Harvest Festival. OK, I can only remember one song, and so could they, really, the rhythm and brass section propping them up so they didn’t fall off the stage. I catch myself thinking, ‘Belinda Carlisle, that would be a great gig’, or ‘Duran Duran, that Girls on Film clip was really groundbreaking’.
Which brings me to Doug Anthony Allstars. I saw them on Friday night in Yarraville. I’d envisaged the comedy club as a run down terrace, intimate, with a red-curtained stage, dark, smoke-ringed. So 20 years ago. Instead I walk into a brightly-lit gambling den, pass the sign-in forms, to a huge room with plastic chairs and ugly carpet. I’ve blogged about how besotted I was with DAAS when I was a teen, and have had the luck to meet Paul and Tim in recent times — surreal moments where my old and new selves had to meet each other and clash, like worlds colliding.
So I’m in the audience, and I have my hair dyed blonde and cut short in a Jean-Seberg-Breathless style, just like I did when I was 18, and Paul wheels Tim out in a wheelchair, and they are both wearing suits, and an empty mic stands in for Richard for a bit, and the comedy via necessity comes cerebrally rather than physically except for small moments: Tim trying to play the triangle with a straw; Flacco (shorthand for Paul Livingston as there are two Pauls) trying to play the newspaper and shredding it (probably the highlight of the night – look you had to be there) and imagining his head as a balustrade; and Paul playing the wobble board and pissing into his own mouth.
I met Rolf Harris when I was 8 (true story – I approached him on an aeroplane after being encouraged by the air hostess where I got an autograph and a bitter old man who was nasty and no touchy feelies). The final reference I didn’t get as I’m allergic to Rugby so I looked up this and found a new meaning for bubbler. Those footballers, they’re such a catch.
I’m guessing that this is no DAAS reunion. It feels like a gig for limited time only. Much of the energy of the previous incarnation came from the audience feeling terrified that they would be assaulted at any moment. The dynamic has segued into a commentary on the marking of time, highlighted by Paul’s intense and rapid-fire approach (which hasn’t really changed that much) versus Tim’s new persona, a man with MS who can ejaculate random and surreal lines (that’s what medication does to you) and accentuate the spasticity to get through airports quicker (he leans, paws and tries to bite his own shoulder). Tim’s Feminist Poems are a real highlight: on sideboobs, the importance of keeping your pubic hair (Sisters!) and ‘the sound of one clitoris clapping’. Every time he talks you think ‘WTF?’ which is probably a good thing for comedy in short doses.
A highlight of the show is the Meet and Greet afterwards. Now I don’t remember there ever being a Meet and Greet in my day. It would have turned into a fangirl riot. Seeing the queue snake around the room as women with DAAS tattoos on their shoulders and fishnet stockings and boots and the same haircuts they had when they were 18 gives the performance space over to the fans. As they adjust their dresses and rehearse what they’re going to say when they reach the desk, their faces are transformed as they leave, clutching their phones with selfies, their signed posters from the night.
Can middle-aged people still be punks? On stage, Paul says, ‘When we were young we used to pretend we didn’t care. Now we REALLY don’t care’; and in the most nostalgic moment of the night, when a screen image of the three beautiful young men singing, turns into Tim standing up out of his wheelchair, and my eyes well up, any emotion I feel is abruptly cut off as Paul runs off stage: it’s the closest they come to a Fuck You moment, really. Except for the Meet and Greet. As Paul rails against the clock striking midnight to security – ‘Where are our people? I’m tired! Get these people away from me!’, Tim draws a detailed anatomically correct diagram onto the inside pages of his book for sale — a woman’s legs spread wide apart, her vagina resplendent with pubic hair — for a group of middle-aged women standing around who’ve seen it all before (all they have to do is look down).
If you missed them in Sydney and Melbourne, DAAS’ next stop is Perth.