Credit: @SunnyboysFanClub

Sunnyboys Review – Power Pop Veterans Provide Bittersweet Farewell

Sunnyboys performed at Enmore Theatre, Sydney, on Saturday, 18th February. David James Young reviews.

A series of black-and-white photographs are displayed on a big screen. Four young friends grin madly at the camera. Slow-motion footage shows the same foursome helming their respective instruments, in full flight, playing for a captive audience. Above a soundtrack of sparse piano, a man explains his writing process, noting that he is compelled – nay, “forced” – to write songs to express his innermost feelings through dark days.

As the opening strains of The Beatles’ ‘Here Comes The Sun’ ring out across a completely sold-out Enmore Theatre, those same four friends – Jeremy and Peter Oxley, Richard Burgman and Bil Bilson – emerge from stage right. They’ve got deeper lines in their faces and greyer, scruffier hair than in the photos, but the mad grins are still plastered across their faces. These are the Sunnyboys, and this is their final show – more than 40 years after their first and 11 years after their secret reunion set at this very venue. It’s the perfect setting to farewell the Sydney band, with an adoring, multi-generational crowd flocking from all over the country to be here.

Sunnyboys – ‘Alone With You’

After guitarist Burgman thanks the audience for coming, the band kicks into ‘Love To Rule’, which opened the band’s self-titled debut EP in 1980. It’s followed by the emotive ‘My Only Friend’ and rousing ‘Trouble In My Brain’, which are the first of many songs to be lifted from Sunnyboys’ eponymous, ARIA-platinum debut album. Knowing glances are exchanged, harmonies are nailed and both Burgman and singer Jeremy Oxley perform ripping solos to a boisterous reception.

The band’s ‘Last Dance’ tour has stretched out over a four-week period, and they’ve become a well-oiled machine as a result. There is, however, a proverbial squeaky wheel that occasionally threatens to derail the show.

Oxley’s voice, while still bold and assertive, is not immune to wear-and-tear. As the set progresses, his voice weakens and occasionally descends into a dry croak, prompting Burgman and bass player Peter Oxley to step up their backing vocals. But one of the most touching features of the night is the sight of Jeremy’s wife, Mary Oxley Griffiths – first introduced to fans in the emotional 2013 documentary The Sunnyboy – sitting front-and-centre and handing her husband bottles of water between songs in order to get his vocal cords flowing again.

It’s been said that Oxley Griffiths’ support was what allowed Jeremy to return to the stage after battles with alcoholism, mental illness and schizophrenia, and seeing this tangible token of their love is nothing short of heart-warming.

Peter Oxley in 1991 | Credit: Philip Wayne Lock/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).

‘Happy Man’ gets the dancefloor moving; ‘You Need A Friend’ encourages a full-throated sing-along; and a stadium-rock atmosphere accompanies ‘Show Me Some Discipline’ as the 2500-strong crowd claps along.

Sunnyboys see out the main set with perennial closer ‘I’m Shakin”, but it can’t end there – not when, in Burgman’s words, “the moment [we’ve] all been waiting for” is yet to come. What follows is a heartfelt rendition of their signature song, ‘Alone With You’, which has rightfully entered the canon of the great Australian rock songs.

The song’s striking power pop chords, lustful lyrics and youthful exuberance are still transcendent, and the chorus remains utterly satisfying to belt at the top of your lungs. At its conclusion, the band’s children and grandchildren take the stage, throwing sunflowers into the crowd. It’s perfect symbolism, and yet, it can’t end there either.

The crowd is desperate for one last moment with the band, and as they return for a second encore, Jeremy Oxley offers a brief bit of banter. “Seek and you shall find,” he says – that same grin wide across his face. ‘The Seeker’ is the last song of the last ever Sunnyboys show. The jolting, stop-start rhythm, stabbing guitars and intense dynamics showcase everything that was great about this band. ‘Alone With You’ is a classic, but it doesn’t get more quintessentially Sunnyboys than ‘The Seeker’.

Further Reading

Sunnyboys On Their Final Tour: “We Have To Draw A Line”

Watch Clowns’ Ripping Cover Of Sunnyboys’ ‘Alone With You’ For ‘Like A Version’

Midnight Oil Perform For Over Three Hours at Final Ever Show

Must Read