“Last time I saw some of you, you were that big. Now you’re this big.” Peter Combe is a children’s entertainer but, for one Sunday night at the Newtown Social Club, he and his band were entertainers for a group of adults having the time of their lives. 20somethings that grew up with Peter’s music, adored him, and idolised him, had the opportunity to see their much loved childhood hero as adults and contributing members of society. So, what did we do? We donned our newspaper hats and sat on the ground with our legs crossed, of course!
I was curious as to how the adult show would differ from the family ones and it took the intro of the very first song, “Big Yellow Ball”, to highlight it. Before Peter could walk on stage to loud applause, his band played a big rock instrumental. This was going to be more than just a show! Of course, there was no ignoring that we were there for the sing alongs that filled our fondest memories and we got them aplenty with songs like “Saturday Night” and “Down In The Bathroom”, which is a sad song, of course. There were plenty of opportunities to clap along too, just like we used to, with “Jack & The Beanstalk” a particularly fun one. But with every classic song was a well-crafted use of his band to make it something more, adding energy and flavour to entertain us with a layer beyond our hunger for nostalgia.
Peter’s ability to cater to the unique crowd was fantastic as he mixed his nostalgic comments with interesting stories behind songs. After playing a cover of The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun”, which was simply beautiful, he joked that “that song should be the theme song for the renewable energy target” and when he added that he’s “not a huge fan of Tony Abbott”, the Newtown crowd gave him a massive applause. He told us how “Baghdad” was actually played on the radio in Iraq, according to a friend that lived there, and was inspired by his daughter simply asking him, “Where’s your bag, Dad?” And apparently, between the ages of 8 and 18, he ate peanut butter four times a day, more than anyone in the world. Every story was a queer mixture of fact, fiction, and humour that made for non-stop entertainment between every song.
There were more highlights than I could possibly mention here but there were some moments that stood out and that none of us in attendance will soon forget. “Rain” had us sing along as “The Newtown Social Club Senior Edition Club” and what was really surprising was that the crowd actually sounded good. It made for a great moment when we looped while Peter sung over the top. “Toffee Apple” came with an added surprise after the “Why Daddy, why?” line, where he gave a little more than usual, answering, “There is toffee apple all over your collective faces… Well there certainly was twenty years ago… I used to jump off the stage and lick it off your face which was probably very embarrassing for you and very dangerous for me. But I remember thinking to myself that it tasted… very nice!”
“Mr Clicketty Cane” stole the show, as expected, and “Belly flop in a pizza?! EW!” was exclaimed with significant gusto from all. “It’s funny,” Peter told us, “that’s what you said when you were this tall. You can’t grow up conservative. You have to try things.” He finished to one last sing along for “Newspaper Mama” before leaving the stage to cheers for an encore. I didn’t remember any children’s performers doing encores back in the day, so surely this wouldn’t be any different, right?
I was glad to be wrong! “Spaghetti Bolognese” brought huge energy to the now-standing crowd, who were dancing and singing along without a care in the world. Finally, he finished with “Juicy Juicy Green Grass” which he called the oer d’oeuvres after we’d just had the main course and had previously had the dessert. When he sang “I’ve never been so hungry beFOOOOOOOOORE” and held the note for what must have been an eternity, the roof lifted off the venue. Each band member showed off their skills in a big, long instrumental as Peter thanked us for the last time, reminded us that we’ve grown taller, and walked off the stage. The band kept going with long-time pianist and bandmate Phil Cunneen leading the way to the end.
The show was everything I could have wanted and more. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face all the way home and it was a night I’ll hold dear forever. Thank you, Peter Combe.
Hometown: Adelaide, South Australia
Latest Album: Live at Jive, released 14 November 2013
Sounds like: Your childhood
Big Yellow Ball
Rock Scissors Paper
Jack & The Beanstalk
Here Comes The Sun (The Beatles Cover)
I Just Love Peanut Butter
Down In The Bathroom
Mr Clicketty Cane (Wash Your Face With Orange Juice)
Juicy Juicy Green Grass