Ronnie James Dio dead, Jeff Martin live

So I’m just about to say how much I enjoyed Jeff Martin’s gig at Ruby’s last night, and I see that Ronnie James Dio has died from stomach cancer. The little guy had a massive voice — anyone who saw him tour with the Heaven and Hell Sabbath tour had nothing but praise for him (alas, I was elsewhere, and now the opportunity is forever lost).

Maybe it’s fitting, then, that Jeff Martin’s Requiem-Hurt combo was a highlight of last night’s two-hour acoustic set, accompanied by Armada bass player Jay Cortez. This was their third night in a row, and Martin’s voice had taken on a huskiness that added to the impact of the slower tunes, but he didn’t favour it, giving each song everything he had.

This was my first outing at Ruby’s, an easy 30-minute drive from home and plenty of off-street parking, at least at eight on a Sunday night. It’s an atmospheric and intimate club, lots of black and red, and a wicked timber staircase down to the basement loos. Naturally, as it is these days, it seems, the crowd had its share of tossers who got more vocal during the night: I’ve never seen bouncers come to the front of the stage at a Jeff Martin gig before, and it was a relief when the manic-depressive domestic in front of us finally decided to take it outside.

But they managed to contain themselves for the opening songs, Morocco and the aforementioned Requiem. The set canvassed Martin’s career, including Tea Party favourites The Bazaar and Sister Awake rubbing shoulders with solo songs The Kingdom and Stay Inside of Me (a duet with support act, Brisbane singer pear), and Armada tunes The Rosary (written for his dead grandmother) and Line in the Sand, and a stomping encore double of Going Down and Black Snake Blues. Add a second duet (regret I didn’t catch the singer’s name), on the Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush hit Don’t Give Up (a RockWiz hit with Tina Arena), and a cover of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable, emotionally charged concert. But then, his usually are, which is why, despite the aggravation of arseholes who chatter and elbow and take their flash photographs, I keep going back for more of the same (but never quite the same).

Martin is said to be withdrawing for a few months to work on a new album. Can’t wait for that!

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Life, love and Ed Kowalczyk (live)

I almost didn’t go to see Ed Kowalczyk tonight. I figured I’d be tired. Maybe a little love-lorn. Probably, you know, … old. Turned out I was right, but thanks to the generosity of a friend, I did stumble down through the Ekka detritus crowding the Bowen Hills streets to the grand old Tivoli, and was stunned to be sitting, sardine-like but not uncomfortably, a mere four rows from the stage. Close enough to see the sweat on Ed’s bald head, the smears of moisture on the guitar, and a very large smile on his dial as the sell-out crowd went ballistic after every tune.

It was just Ed and a guitar, a few apologies for not having the full band, sheer delight at being heard and appreciated. He played one new song (from a solo album due out next year) — it was pretty good, in a Live kind of way — and one cover, and the rest of the 1hr15 set was made up of Live tracks. I’d forgotten, kind of, just how good those guys were when they were peaking, with Throwing Copper and my favourite album of theirs, The Distance to Here. Tonight’s set roamed the Live catalague, rocking out with I Alone, offering a delicious rendering of the remarkably apt The Dolphin’s Cry, getting a singalong with closing song I Want To Dance With You. And raising a tear with Lightning Crashes, which always reminds me of someone dear who should be here, but isn’t.

As such, the gig turned out to be a fitting closing act for a poignant weekend.

It began on Friday night with a dear, old friend at a favourite restaurant. So pleasing to see her happy in love, and beloved. And then there was that aeroplane, delivering me my own slice of the happiness pie. Saturday and a parade of friends and family and that bittersweet emotion of being happy for a friend while feeling the cutting edge of looming absence, in geography at least. Time and lost opportunities and golden moments, all rolled into one, and never quite enough time and space to say the words to the right people before they’re gone, through the door if not from our lives. Amazing, isn’t it, how friendships endure across time and space? And how watersheds and turning points can remind us of just how strong those bonds can be. And then today, welcome and goodbye and a milestone marked, a new year and a new life, but no beginning without endings, too, the shedding of old skin making way for the new.

Vague enough for you?

Birthdays are like that. Past and future colliding, cushioned by the joy of good company, the love of family and that significant other.

So thanks, Ed, for the summary: the pains and pleasures of the past, the promise of the future, the simple joy of the here and now.

Oh now feel it comin’ back again

Like a rollin’ thunder chasing the wind

Forces pullin’ from the center of the earth again

I can feel it.