You Am I arrive on stage at The Annandale Hotel half an hour late. It’s fair though, they’re here after supporting Cold Chisel at Allphones Arena, a venue about 15 kilometres away. The Annandale weren’t promoting You Am I tonight, instead calling them “Thee Convicts”.
The band didn’t give any clues about this secret gig, there’s nothing on their Facebook page or website. Annandale owners, Matt and Dan Rule, emailed fans who had seen You Am I here before about the show. The people attending are all about the music, man, rather than being seen and it’s a refreshing feeling.
Frontman Tim Rogers appears as a white screen covering the stage is lifted. He’s sweating heavily, obviously supporting Movember and for some reason wearing a girl’s school uniform. They’re quick to start playing and a simple “Oh, hello!” between the first two songs is their only introduction.
Even though they released an album in October last year, You Am I get the best reception when they play hits off 1995’s Hi Fi Way. ‘She Digs Her’ has everyone bopping early on and hearing everyone sing along to chorus: “Do you need somebody, to feel somebody?” from ‘Purple Sneakers’ was a beautiful moment of unity.
Rogers is energetic, bantering with the crowd and his band mates. He’s a passionate front man and guitarist, evident from the sweat pouring off him, but I’ve seen them live enough times to know wine can sometimes get the better of his stage presence and professionalism. Not tonight though. The wine is there but Rogers is in control, laughing and playfully pushing guitarist Davey Lane around between songs and solos.
A cover of ‘Cinnamon Girl’ is a surprise and Rogers does Neil Young justice with his gravelly voice note-perfect singing: “You see your baby loves to dance…”
Ballad ‘Heavy Heart’ is another highlight. Rogers moves his microphone stand from the stage to the floor and leans over to serenade the first few rows of the crowd. All you can see during the chorus is a mess of people reaching to touch him and his face moving around between words.
It’s getting late but they show no signs of slowing down, playing hit after hit in a cracking encore. ‘Minor Byrd’ starts it off and before kicking into a furiously fast version of ‘Thank God I’ve Hit The Bottom’, Rogers demands us to keep supporting the Annandale. He says he loves the Rule brothers and “…they are like our fucking family.” Old favourite ‘Cathy’s Clown’ and poppy sing-along ‘Mr Milk’ finish things off. They bow together with their backs to the crowd and leave us sweaty punters to shuffle out onto busy Parramatta Road.
I haven’t seen You Am I play so well or engage an audience like that in years. It was such a shame they had to finish when they were really firing up and showing us why they’re still one of the best live bands in Australia.