Tony Hillier

Hillier's Hotline

Issue #21 February 2013: TANKS ON TOP OF THE WORLD AGAIN


According to the old adage, absence makes the heart grow fonder. That may well be so, but a three months’ self-imposed recess at the Tanks each year between the end of November and the beginning of March is hard to accept for serious music fans, who cannot live without a regular flow of top-notch concerts.

As soon as our (not exactly visionary) new council sees the light and releases funding for the desperately needed air-conditioning of Tank 5 that management has long been campaigning for, so that the facility can operate year-round instead of nine months out of 12, the better for all concerned. When that happens, the atmospheric Collins Avenue venue can truly be classified as a world-class arts centre.

Talking of world-class, it gives your roots music-loving columnist considerable pleasure to note that a third successive World Music Series opens the Tanks 2013 season on Friday March 1 with one of the American world music scene’s finest bands.

Indeed, in what is something of a local coup, the New York-based Antibalas will actually be kicking off its Australian tour right here in Cairns, en-route to a headline spot at the WOMADelaide festival a week later.


The 12-piece has long been regarded as America’s finest exponent of afrobeat, the hyper-funky amalgam of political commentary, jazz, soul and traditional rhythm pioneered by Fela Kuti back in the ‘60s. Players from Antibalas were in the house band for the hit show Fela! that ran on Broadway for many months.

As always, the World Music Series subscription, which offers four shows with quality support acts for $80, represents tremendous value for money. The subscription ensures a place at all the concerts and saves $55.

The 2013 series also includes Nicky Bomba’s latest blockbuster band Bustamento (May 24). All those who caught their fun-filled show of cool Caribbean ska, calypso and reggae at The Jack last year will relish a second bite of da cherry.

Rasa Duende (June 28) will lend a more laidback Indian and Spanish flavour to the series before Australia’s finest flamenco troupe Arte Kanela (October 18) fandangos back for an encore to their sensational sell-out 2011 show when they hit the Tanks like a hot Andalucian wind.

Rasa Duende at Woodford:

Arte Kanela performing with the Cat Empire:


Aside from the aforementioned World Series, the Tanks will be hosting sideshows by two legendary acts that are on the gargantuan bill for Easter’s Bluesfest at Byron Bay.

Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff’s first concert has already sold out, but tickets are still available for his second show, scheduled for March 20. They won’t last long in the wake of the veteran’s recent Grammy award. The mellifluous voice behind classics such as ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ and ‘The Harder They Come’ is one of only two reggae musicians to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The other is fellow Jamaican Bob Marley.

Here, Jimmy Cliff talks about his great new album Rebirth in this clip:

Another Grammy-award winning musician, Taj Mahal, will be performing a week later at the Tanks, on March 28. Blues, reggae, calypso and many other roots music styles come alike to this prolific artist and consummate live performer, who’s positively not to be missed.

Mention of Bluesfest, congrats to the McMenamins on scoring a spot over the Easter weekend (March 28-April 1), the second Cairns act to perform at Australia’s premier roots music festival in recent years following Kamerunga’s turn in 2010.

The hot news from this year’s Cairns Bluesfest, set down for Saturday May 11, is that the event will be staged in a glorious new setting on Fitzroy Island. Further down the track, the 2013 Cairns Ukulele Festival (July 4-7)
has already announced one of its headline acts, the return of Japan’s superb Sweet Hollywaiians, who were the star turn of Ukefest 2011.

• Tracks by all the acts mentioned and much more can be heard during Tony Hillier’s World of Music, a weekly segment on ABC Radio Far North (Friday 4:45-5pm; occasionally Thursday). The segment is also available as a podcast at:


Tony Hillier