Ocean Alley at Qudos Bank Arena was always inevitable, the six best mates from the beaches slowly but surely climbing up through countless Sydney venues since their formation all those years ago. It was always guaranteed, always promised that they’d eventually fill the hallowed arena with their signature fusion of rock and reggae the nation has fallen in love with. But with 2020 bringing its mammoth challenges for the music industry and the world as a whole, the whole future of live music has definitely been thrown into question at one point or another. But dispel any doubts and cleanse yourself of worry, as Ocean Alley straight up rocked the house at Qudos Bank Arena last night, standing strong against the tide to reaffirm that Aussie live music will never die, and that it’s coming back stronger than ever.
Bringing with them stellar supports in Jack Botts, Ruby Fields and Jack River, the crowd was properly revved and the stage was perfectly set, exploding like a furnace of excitement by the time the Hot 100 winners waltzed into town. From the second they launch into Lonely Diamond opener ‘Dahlia,’ all the insanity of the past year washes away, letting you know that you’re in for over an hour of pure bliss that we’ve been deprived of for far too long.
Although the experience is noticeably different with the absence of a mosh and the overflow of seats, it doesn’t do anything to dampen the immersion, only help you to appreciate the showmanship and live wizardry the boys have become renowned for. It’s clear that nearly a year away from the stage hasn’t at all affected the ease with which they perform, only enriched and enhanced it into sweet ecstasy. And the crowd is absolutely entranced, hooked on frontman Baden Donegal’s every word as he belts out classics old and new like ‘Confidence’, ‘Tombstone’, ‘Partner In Crime’ and so many more. It really makes you appreciate how many hits the boys have curated over the years, all drenched in that smoky-badassery that comes naturally to the long-haired rockers.
All of the euphoria, nostalgia, love and adoration however are all perfectly embodied in their rendition of 2013 hit ‘Yellow Mellow’, forcing punters to explode out of their chairs in pure excitement as they witness the psychedelic spell that electrified the band into the spotlight. You can tell the boys are properly reflecting on the journey while jamming out the tune, almost as if they’re being transported back to one of their early jam sessions that started it all. But seeing them at Qudos really reaffirms that no venue or stage can contain their art, every riff, snare, guitar solo and vocal exploding against the walls in what is almost a religious affair.
Before you know it the boys reach their final track, smiling their faces off as they launch into their universal crowd pleaser ‘Knees’. The punters are screaming along, making the most of the little time they have left as they join in the sweet union that is live music. You can hear the collective relief to finally be back at an Ocean Alley gig, to finally be back in the safe place that brings them comfort and belonging. But even as the song comes to a close and the boys make their way off the stage, everyone is fully aware that this isn’t the end, already hyped up for the next time they see the best mates from the beaches do what they do best live.