Powderfinger

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For the Neil Young song, see Powderfinger (song).
Powderfinger
A stage shot of six men playing, at left is a man seated at keyboards with a microphone, next is the drummer behind his kit with a drumstick raised in his right hand, next is a guitarist singing into a microphone, then another singer-guitarist who is highlighted by overhead lighting, another man playing a bass guitar is mostly obscured behind the lead singer, the last man at right is also playing a guitar. In front of the stage are cameramen and audience members. Above is further stage lighting with, at left, a large projected image of the top part of the moon.
Powderfinger performing "These Days" on the Across the Great Divide Tour, September 2007, Sydney.
Left to right: Lachlan Doley (auxiliary musician), Jon Coghill, Darren Middleton, Bernard Fanning, John Collins (obscured), Ian Haug
Background information
Also known as Terry, Bruce, Econdogs
Origin Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Genres Rock, alternative rock, hard rock, post-grunge
Years active 1989 (1989)–2010 (2010)
Labels Finger, Polydor, Universal
Associated acts The Eternal, Drag, Far Out Corporation, The Predators, Silverchair
Website powderfinger.com
Past members Steven Bishop
John Collins
Ian Haug
Bernard Fanning
Jon Coghill
Darren Middleton

Powderfinger were an Australian rock band formed in Brisbane in 1989. From 1992 until their break-up in 2010 the line-up consisted of vocalist Bernard Fanning, guitarists Darren Middleton and Ian Haug, bass guitarist John Collins and drummer Jon Coghill. The group's third studio album Internationalist, peaked at No. 1 on the ARIA Albums Chart in September 1998. They followed with four more number-one studio albums in a row, Odyssey Number Five (September 2000), Vulture Street (July 2003), Dream Days at the Hotel Existence (June 2007) and Golden Rule (November 2009). Their Top Ten hit singles are "My Happiness" (2000), "(Baby I've Got You) On My Mind" (2003) and "Lost and Running" (2007). Powderfinger earned a total of eighteen ARIA Awards making them the second most awarded band behind Silverchair. Ten Powderfinger albums and DVDs were certified multiple-platinum status, with Odyssey Number Five – their most successful album – achieving eight times platinum certification for shipment of over 560,000 units.

After the release of their first DVD, These Days: Live in Concert (September 2004), and a compilation album, Fingerprints: The Best of Powderfinger, 1994–2000 (November 2004), the group announced a hiatus in 2005. The June 2007 announcement of a two-month-long nationwide tour with Silverchair, Across the Great Divide Tour, followed the release of Dream Days at the Hotel Existence. Powderfinger were involved in philanthropic causes. In 2005, they performed at a WaveAid concert in Sydney, to help raise funds for areas affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Another performance at the Sydney Opera House in October 2007 raised funds for breast cancer victims and their families. One aim of their Across the Great Divide Tour was to promote the efforts of Reconciliation Australia, and awareness of the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children. In April 2010 Powderfinger announced that they would be breaking up after their Sunsets Farewell Tour, declaring it would be their last ever as they had musically said everything they wanted to say. On 13 November 2010, they played their last concert, signifying their disbandment. In November the following year, Dino Scatena, a rock music journalist, and the band, published a biography, Footprints: the inside story of Australia's best loved band.

History[edit]

Formation and early releases (1989–1993)[edit]

Black and white photo showing two men. Man at left is leaning forward, biting the knuckle of his right fore-finger. He is partly obscured by the next man who is shown in left profile, he is holding a typed document and is looking down at it. He has a pen in his right hand, his left is out of shot.
Darren Middleton (left) and Jon Coghill prepare to sign a contract with Polydor, late 1993. Their second EP, Transfusion, had been issued in September that year, it was distributed by Polydor.[1][2] The five tracks include "Reap What You Sow", which peaked at No. 1 on the ARIA Alternative Singles Chart.[3] replacing Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box".[4] After the EP's success the group were signed by Polydor.[2]

Powderfinger were formed in 1989[5] by Steven Bishop (ex-The Eternal) on drums, John Collins (The Eternal) on bass guitar and Ian Haug (The Vibrants, The Fossils) on guitar and vocals.[1][6][7] The Eternal, The Vibrants and The Fossils were other Brisbane-based outfits.[8] All three members of Powderfinger were students at Brisbane Grammar School – a private school in Spring Hill – and they started as a cover band playing pub rock classics by The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Steppenwolf, Rodriguez and Neil Young.[1][2][7] The band's name is from Young's song of the same name.[1][9][10] Despite their popularity in Brisbane, when playing a heavy metal gig in Newcastle in 1990, Powderfinger were booed off stage.[11]

After completing secondary education, Collins and Haug attended University of Queensland, where the latter met Bernard Fanning in an Economics class – and learned that Fanning had similar interests in music and he could sing.[12] Fanning took over the role of lead vocals from Haug and also provided guitar and harmonica.[1][2] Late in 1990, Jon Coghill – another university student with Fanning and Haug – replaced Bishop on drums, which was described as a "mutual leaving".[13][14] Bishop later worked in London-based bands before returning to Brisbane where he was a member of Moonjuice and then The Haymakers. Powderfinger's final line-up change was in 1992 with the addition of Darren Middleton (The Pirates) on guitar, keyboards and backing vocals.[9][15] Powderfinger initially performed cover versions of other artists' songs, but gradually developed by writing and performing their own material.[9]

In August 1992, the group self-funded a seven track self-titled extended play, also known as the Blue EP, on their own Finger label and distributed by MDS.[2][7][13] It was produced by Leroy Bath and Ian Taylor, recorded at Broken Toys Studios, Brisbane.[16] The EP has an early version of "Save Your Skin", co-written by Coghill, Collins, Haug, Middleton and Fanning;[17] it was later expanded and released in July 1994 as a single from their debut album, Parables for Wooden Ears.[16] Their second EP, Transfusion, was issued in September 1993, it was distributed by Polydor Records.[1][2] At that time, Simon McKenzie of Time Off noted they were "hoping the major label will put a bit of weight behind the disc, but it's not as though they've signed a record deal or anything".[18] McKenzie felt the EP showed they were "wanting to get heavier and louder for a long time, but is it also a reaction against the sixties tags they've been stuck with?".[18] The five tracks include "Reap What You Sow", which reached the No. 1 spot on the ARIA Alternative Singles Chart,[3] replacing Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box".[4] The group recorded their first music video, for "Reap What You Sow", which was directed by David Barker, who subsequently directed their next seven videos.[6][19][20] After the EP's success the group were signed by Polydor.[2]

Early albums (1994–98)[edit]

Collins is playing his bass guitar with his left hand on the fret board and right hand with fingers plucking at the strings. His head is bent to his left and down, his fair haired fringe hangs over his eyes. He wears a dark long shirt. A drum kit is beyond him, further to his left. Stage lights shine down from above.
John Collins is one of the founders of Powderfinger. The bass guitarist is shown at the Rock and Soul Revue, Brisbane in January 2005.

In January 1994 Powderfinger performed on the Big Day Out Tour (see 1994 line-up).[1][21] On 18 July that year they released their debut studio album, Parables for Wooden Ears under Polydor. According to Australian rock music historian, Ian McFarlane, it "featured complex, meticulously crafted rock but was somewhat ponderous and sombre, which did little to fulfil the promise displayed on Transfusion".[1] The album was produced by Tony Cohen (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Cruel Sea),[1][13] which Fanning later described as the band's "dark dark days", received limited radio coverage.[4][7] Supporting the album's release, the band toured heavily appearing at the Livid and Homebake music festivals.[22] Powderfinger supported United States visitors Pantera on that group's Driven Downunder Tour '94.[1] Another Australian support act on the tour was Newcastle-formed band, Silverchair.[23] Three singles were released from Powderfinger's debut album – "Tail", "Grave Concern" and "Save Your Skin" – but none appeared on the ARIA Singles Chart Top 50.[1][24] Following the album's release, and lukewarm reception, in April 1995 the band recorded at Melbourne's Metropolis Studio with Lachlan "Magoo" Goold (Regurgitator) and in July released a five-track EP, Mr Kneebone.[1][13][25]

The band's second studio album, Double Allergic, was issued on 2 September 1996, which peaked at No. 4 on the ARIA Albums Chart and was certified triple platinum by ARIA for shipment of 210,000 units by 2007.[24][26][27] It was co-produced by Tim Whitten and the group.[1][13][28] McFarlane felt this album was "more self-assured and textured [it] consolidated the band's position at the forefront of the alternative rock scene, alongside the likes of You Am I, Spiderbait, silverchair, Regurgitator and Tumbleweed. [The album] was full of accessible, spirited rock".[1] Australian rock music journalist, Ed Nimmervoll, noted "[it] revealed a significant shift towards accessible rock songs rooted in melodic grooves. Powderfinger's reason to be is to create songs strong enough for the band and audience to play and hear months or years down the line".[2] Four singles were released from the album – "Pick You Up", "D.A.F.", "Living Type" and "Take Me In". "Take Me In" was released as a video single featuring several other music videos by the group. FasterLouder, a music review web site, recalled that "when Double Allergic was released in 1996, it showed the band were here for the long haul to become arguably one of the best of the decade".[29] In 1997 the album was issued in Canada and the group toured North America to promote it.[1]

Critical acclaim and chart success (1998–2003)[edit]

Haug is playing his guitar, while leaning forward and to his right. His hair is shoulder-length, he wears a dark shirt and dark pants. Some band and stage equipment is near his feet.
Ian Haug, another founding mainstay, is on lead guitar in Sydney in September 2007.

On 7 September 1998, Powderfinger released their third studio album, Internationalist, which peaked at No. 1 and spent 101 weeks in the Top 50 of the ARIA Albums Chart, it was produced by Nick DiDia (Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam).[13][24][30] Allmusic's Jonathan Lewis had mixed feelings about the album, he was enchanted by its lead single, "The Day You Come", however "the rest of the album didn't measure up" except for "some fine tracks" in "Don't Wanna Be Left Out" and "Already Gone".[31] Nevertheless by 2007 the album had shipped over 350,000 copies and was certified five times platinum domestically,[6][26] and had reached European audiences.[32] Internationalist was the first Powderfinger album to win any ARIA Music Awards.[33] At the 1999 ceremony it won "Album of the Year", "Best Rock Album" and "Best Cover Art" (by Kevin Wilkins); and "The Day You Come" won "Single of the Year".[33][34] "Passenger", another single from Internationalist, was nominated for three additional categories in the following year.[33] The band was both praised and criticised for their political views on Internationalist. In a November 1998 interview with Benedict Watts of Juice Magazine, Haug said that political messages in "The Day You Come" were not something they were just preaching about, but rather were something they saw as a responsibility.[35]

Powderfinger's fourth studio album, Odyssey Number Five, was released on 4 September 2000, which also peaked at No. 1.[24] Entertainment Weekly '​s Marc Weingarten provided a positive review and found the group "prove that there's still terrain left to be explored [in] guitar rock ... melancholy is the default mode ... [they] can be as prim as Travis or as mock-grandiose as Oasis".[36] However Allmusic's Dean Carlson was more negative seeing the album as "little more than a slightly off-base perspective into the world of mid-90s American grunge".[37] Odyssey Number Five is Powderfinger's most commercially successful album, shipping 560,000 copies and certified eight times platinum by 2004.[38] It also appeared on the New Zealand Albums Chart at No. 15.[39] At the ARIA Music Awards of 2001 the group won "Album of the Year", "Highest Selling Album", "Best Rock Album", "Best Cover Art" (by Wilkins) and "Best Group".[33][40]

Two of Odyssey Number Five '​s tracks featured on film soundtracks: "These Days" was written for Two Hands (1999)[41] and "My Kind of Scene" on Mission: Impossible II (2000).[42] Singles from the album are "My Kind of Scene", "My Happiness", "Like a Dog", and the double A-side, "The Metre" / "Waiting for the Sun". "My Happiness" which peaked at No. 4 in Australia and No. 7 in New Zealand is the group's highest charting single in both countries.[24][39] At the ARIA Awards ceremony "My Happiness" won "Single of the Year",[43] and other songs were nominated in various categories.[33] Their tracks were voted for, by national radio station Triple J's listeners, on annual Hottest 100 lists: "These Days", "Already Gone", "Good-Day Ray", and "Passenger" were ranked in 1999, and "My Happiness" and "My Kind of Scene" in 2000.[44] In 2009, "These Days" was voted at No. 21 and "My Happiness" at No. 27 in the Hottest 100 of all time, placing them as second and fourth highest Australian tracks after the Hilltop Hoods' "The Nosebleed Section" and Hunters & Collectors' "Throw Your Arms Around Me", respectively.[45]

Rock resurgence (2003–05)[edit]

Coghill is playing his drum kit, his right arm is crooked, holding a drumstick and hitting the drum rim situated slightly to his left. His left arm and most of his lower body is obscured by the rest of the kit. He stares off to his right with his lightly bearded chin slightly raised. He is dressed in a pale blue sleeveless shirt and similar coloured pants. In front and above his kit are microphones and band equipment. Behind him is a large graphic design, consisting of red-orange lights and black dots.
Coghill on drums, in Melbourne, January 2010, he joined in 1990.[1]

Powderfinger's Vulture Street was released on 4 July 2003, and became their third album to peak at No. 1 in Australia,[24] while in New Zealand it reached No. 17.[39] Recorded in January and February 2003, it was named for the location of the band's first recording room in West End, Brisbane. The Sydney Morning Herald '​s music critic, Bernard Zuel approved of "a rawer, louder, but by no means unrefined, album" with "a real energy here that has some connections to early Powderfinger, but bears the mark of a superior intellect", he felt it had Haug and Middleton "dominating in a way they had not since their 1994 debut" album.[46] Simon Evans of musicOMH described the group as having "opted for a visceral live feel, adding a real punch to songs".[47] Middleton described the band's aim was to "get a sound in the songs that was reminiscent of things we grew up loving, which was Bowie, Zeppelin, Kiss ... that sort of thing; all based in the 70s. We wanted to sonically have that as well, so it's a very old-school-sounding record. It's all the old amps, we used old guitars and recorded to tape, of course. It's fairly organic in that sense".[30] Vulture Street won four ARIA Awards in 2003: "Album of the Year", "Best Group", "Best Rock Album" and "Best Cover Art" (by Steven Gorrow, Revolution Design).[33] Singles issued from the album are: "(Baby I've Got You) On My Mind", "Since You've Been Gone", "Love Your Way", and "Sunsets". Tracks were also nominated for awards in 2003 and 2004.[33]

In September 2004 the group issued their first live album, These Days: Live in Concert, initially as a CD and followed in October with a two-disc DVD. One single, "Stumblin'", which had appeared on Vulture Street, was issued as a live version. In late October they released a compilation album, Fingerprints: The Best of Powderfinger, 1994–2000, which included many of their singles from the first four albums as well as non-singles: "Thrilloilogy" and "Belter", and a re-release of "These Days". "These Days", although never officially released as a single, was ranked at No. 1 on the Triple J Hottest 100 poll of 1999.[44] The album also included two new songs: "Bless My Soul" and "Process This", although only "Bless My Soul" was released as a single. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, Powderfinger appeared at the WaveAid fund raising concert in January 2005 in Sydney, to raise funds for aid organisations working in the disaster affected areas.[48] Fanning, as a member of The Wrights, sang lead vocals on "Evie, part 2" at the concert.[49] The Wrights released a studio version in March as a single with some of the proceeds going to tsunami relief efforts.[49]

Era of side projects (2005–07)[edit]

Middleton is playing his guitar with his left hand on the fret board and right hand on the strings. His knees are flexed, he wears dark glasses, dark pants and a dark shirt. His stage pass dangles from the end of the guitar. His hair is brown and hangs partly into his eyes. He wears a wide ring on his right hand's fourth finger. There is band equipment nearby.
Darren Middleton on guitar in January 2010 at Big Day Out, Melbourne. He joined in 1992 and formed a side-project, Drag, in 2001. During Powderfinger's 2005-07 hiatus, Drag regrouped.

After the WaveAid concert, from early 2005, Powderfinger had a period of hiatus. During the separation, most band members pursued other musical projects; on the personal front: Haug and Middleton each had children, and Fanning met his future wife.[50][51] Middleton's side project, Drag, had issued an EP, Gas Food Lodging, in 2002.[52] Zombos Reviews found the EP was "full of well-written jangly pop, and has some rather nice ballads".[53] Their debut album, The Way Out, was recorded in March 2005 and released on 10 July,[54][55] which was "a tad disappointing [compared with the EP] ... mostly mid-tempo pop-rock songs, mixed with some slower, pretty ballads. Everything's tastefully arranged, and there's always nice melodies and harmonies".[53] Collins and Haug formed The Predators with Powderfinger's former drummer, Steven Bishop, now on drums and lead vocals. The group released a six-track EP, Pick Up the Pace, in July 2006 and undertook a short tour around Australia.[56]

In October 2005 Fanning issued his debut solo album, Tea & Sympathy,[57][58] which reached No. 1 in Australia and No. 11 in New Zealand.[59] At the ARIA Music Awards of 2006, Fanning won in four categories including "Album of the Year" for Tea & Sympathy and "Best Video" for its lead single, "Wish You Well".[60] "Wish You Well" was ranked at No. 1 on the Triple J Hottest 100 poll in 2005.[61] At the end of 2006, Fanning toured in support of the album's release in the United Kingdom and North America; at its conclusion Powderfinger resumed from their hiatus.[62][63] Fanning compared his solo work to Powderfinger recordings "when a problem came up in the studio, especially guitar-wise, I've always had Darren and Ian to call on. They could usually come up with something good. But I played all the guitar on it, and my abilities are fairly limited" and that "Powderfinger is my real job and I'm looking forward to doing it again".[63]

Return from hiatus (2007–09)[edit]

A wide shot of a stage with only four musicians visible: each is playing a type of guitar. A drum kit is mid-stage but the Coghill is obscured by lighting and equipment. The audience are across the front, below stage, some have one fist raised. A photographer is centred, front of stage, another is further to the right with a camera pointing at the band, a third cameraman is at left pointing into the crowd. Behind the group on the left is a large screen which depicts various words including "Fight clouds baby blue despair skin red lies lost stars ith empty rocket paint love g". Overhead lights shine down on the performers. To the right is a large sign with white writing "bring your living room to life" on red-orange background.
A performance of "I Don't Remember" on the Across the Great Divide tour. Middleton, Fanning, Collins and Haug are visible, Coghill is obscured.

Powderfinger started recording their sixth studio album, Dream Days at the Hotel Existence, in January 2007, which was released on 2 June. Debuting at No. 1 on the ARIA Albums Chart – their fourth to do so consecutively[24] – it broke the Australian digital sales record with over 3000 copies sold online.[64] Generally reviewers did not rate it as highly as its predecessor, Vulture Street, with Cameron Adams of the Herald Sun HiT describing it as "No radical reinvention, no huge change in direction ... In a word: consistent".[65] Zuel described it as "Powderfinger's first dull album" but the band as "the biggest rock band in the country."[66] "Lost and Running", their first single for three years, had been issued in May, and reached No. 5.[24] A second single, "I Don't Remember", appeared in August. A song from the album, "Black Tears", was amended following concerns that it could prejudice a trial over the 2004 Palm Island death in custody case. Fanning stated that an alternative version would be on the album as a result of the concerns.[67] On 18 August that year, Powderfinger performed a concert in Karratha, as part of Triple J's AWOL Series.[68] The band was supported by The Grates and Muph N Plutonic, and various local acts.[69] While in Karratha, Fanning and Coghill visited Gumala Mirnuwarni, a local school in Roebourne that encourages children to stay in school.[70]

In June 2007 Powderfinger and Silverchair announced the nine-week Across the Great Divide Tour to promote reconciliation with Indigenous Australians.[71] From August to October that year the two groups toured all state capital cities, fourteen Australian regional centres, and included four performances in New Zealand.[72] They performed 34 concerts in 26 towns across Australia, with an estimated total of 220,000 people in attendance.[72][73] On 1 December a triple-DVD set was released with the same title as the tour with the Melbourne performances for both bands and backstage footage from the tour.[72][73][74] The schedule consisted of three main parts, beginning with a supporting artist performing one set, followed by Silverchair and then Powderfinger playing the final set. The two bands united on-stage during only three performances throughout the tour, including Daniel Johns (Silverchair) and Fanning sharing lead vocals on a cover version of The Who's "Substitute" at a Sydney and two Melbourne shows.[72][75]

Dream Days at the Hotel Existence was the recipient of the ARIA Award for "Best Cover Art" in 2007.[33][76] It was also nominated for "Album of the Year", "Best Rock Album" and "Best Group", while "Lost and Running" received nominations for "Single of the Year" and "Best Video".[33][77] Powderfinger failed to win any of these awards with tour mates Silverchair's Young Modern and "Straight Lines obtaining all five.[33][78][79] On 28 October at the ceremony, Powderfinger performed "Lost and Running".[80] The third single from Dream Days at the Hotel Existence, "Nobody Sees" was released in December 2007.[81] On 27 September 2008, Powderfinger performed "(Baby I've Got You) On My Mind" and AC/DC's "Long Way to the Top" at the AFL Grand Final.[82] Their song "Drifting Further Away" featured on Grey's Anatomy '​s fifth season in episode 13, "Stairway to Heaven", which aired on 21 January 2009.[83][84]

Golden Rule and disbandment (2009–10)[edit]

Powderfinger are on stage, with Coghill at left on drums, then Middleton on guitar, Fanning is mid-stage, singing into a microphone, Collins on his bass guitar is next and Haug at extreme right.
Powderfinger performing on their Sunsets Farewell Tour, 6 November 2010, Sydney. They played their final show at the River Stage in Brisbane one week later in front of 10,000 fans. The last song was "These Days"; the group disbanded after the tour.[85]

From mid-June 2009 Powderfinger worked with DiDia producing their seventh studio album, Golden Rule, which was issued on 13 November. The album peaked at No. 1 on the ARIA albums chart – becoming their fifth studio album in a row to do so.[24] The album's lead single, "All of the Dreamers", was released in September.[86][87] "Burn Your Name", the second single followed in December. That same month the band performed at the 2009 Homebake festival – after a 10 year absence.[88] In late January they toured on the 2010 Big Day Out. The third single from the album, "Sail the Widest Stretch", appeared in April.[89]

Also in April 2010, Powderfinger announced that after 21 years, the group would disband following their Sunsets Farewell Tour in September and October that year:[90][91][92]

With the completion of our last album, Golden Rule, we feel that we have said all that we want to say as a musical group. We firmly believe that it is our most complete and satisfying album and can't think of a better way to farewell our fans than with music that we all believe in and also with, hopefully, our best tour to date.

—Bernard Fanning on behalf of Powderfinger, Powderfinger Official Website, April 2010[92]
Left side on view of an aeroplane. It is basically silver in colour with standard logo of the airline. Added to the side of the plane is a large print of 'Powderfinger' in black-bordered yellow to orange-brown colouring. It spans the distance from where the wings join to just before the rear doorway. To the right and just below the band's name, in smaller lettering is the word 'Sunsets', coloured mostly in brown. Either side of the runway are grassed areas, beyond the jet are buildings – mostly obscured.
A Jetstar Airbus A320-200 with Powderfinger logo at Newcastle Williamtown Airport, September 2010. The jet was used on the Sunsets Farewell Tour.

Coghill told Australian Times that the final tour is "going to be great fun, but it's also going to be sad".[93] He confirmed that he had no plans to start a new band or for a solo project. Instead he intended to finish his degree, "[o]nce I'm done with that, I might put the feelers out and see what's happening. I don't think I'd be doing anything solo, but I might look to join other bands, just to have a chance to keep playing. I'm just not keen to be off touring the world anymore".[93] Powderfinger played their final show at the River Stage in Brisbane on 13 November 2010 in front of 10,000 fans; the last song they performed was "These Days".[85] On 25 January 2011 the band issued a previously unreleased track, "I'm on Your Side", as a fund raiser for the Premier's Flood Appeal as a result of major flooding in Queensland from December the previous year into January. The song was available via the band's website with all proceeds going towards the cause. On 8 November 2011, the group released a second compilation album, Footprints: The Best of Powderfinger, 2001-2011, containing two new tracks. There was also a 2-disc release, Fingerprints & Footprints – The Ultimate Collection, combining both Fingerprints and Footprints in one set.[94] Also in November, Dino Scatena and the band, published a biography, Footprints: the inside story of Australia's best loved band.[95] Scatena, a rock music journalist, had started writing the book in the previous October during the Sunsets Farewell Tour.[95]

Afterwards[edit]

Former Powderfinger member, Fanning worked on his second solo album Departures during late 2012 in Los Angeles with Joe Chiccarelli producing.[96] It was released in June the following year and peaked at No. 1 on the ARIA Albums Chart.[97] Middleton had relocated to Melbourne and worked with Red Door Sounds' Paul Annison – producer of Children Collide's album, Monument (April 2012). In December that year Middleton revealed that "I’m halfway through a new record".[98] Middleton's album, Translations, was released independently in November 2013.[99] In January 2013 Haug produced the second album, Sins of a Li'l Later Kiss, by Brisbane-based folk duo Cole and Van Dijk.[100] By November that year Coghill was working as a journalist on the Gold Coast while Collins was "developing business projects in Queensland".[101]

Musical style[edit]

Powderfinger's musical style includes hard rock and alternative music and, according to McFarlane, "the band made its mark with an earthy, blues-based sound that combined soaring, 1970s-influenced riff-rock with 1990s studio technology. With the added textures of folk, country and a soulful groove, the band was able to head in any direction".[1] Nimmervoll acclaimed them as "one of Australia's most popular radio-friendly rock bands" which "produced music the rest of Australia embraced".[2] McFarlane was partially disappointed with their debut 1994 album Parables for Wooden Ears compared to their earlier EP Transfusion.[1] Their 1996 album, Double Allergic, was "more self-assured and textured" and "consolidated the band's position at the forefront of the alternative rock scene".[1] It "revealed a significant shift towards accessible rock songs rooted in melodic grooves" according to Nimmervoll.[2]

In a November 2007 interview with Paul Cashmere of Undercover website, Middleton stated that a couple of songs they had initially written for Vulture Street "were just too Odyssey Number Five based", and that the first track, "Rockin' Rocks", was "probably the start of where we were heading" with the album".[102] Cashmere stated that the album was "the toughest [he has] heard Powderfinger sound".[102] Zuel reviewed two of Powderfinger's more recent albums, he described Vulture Street as "a rawer, louder" album in comparison to Odyssey Number Five; it highlighted Fanning's "talent as a lyricist" and stated that it featured guitarists Haug and Middleton "dominating in a way they haven't since their 1994 debut".[46] Zuel stated that there is a "real energy here that has some connections to early Powderfinger," and described "On My Mind" as having "AC/DC meatiness", and "Love Your Way" as "acoustic tumbling into weaving Zeppelin lines."[46] In his review of Dream Days at the Hotel Existence, Zuel described it as "[having] high-gloss and muscular framework," and stated that that was what "American radio considers serious rock."[66]

Compared with the relatively lean, agile sound they've perfected up to now, this is Powderfinger as the footballer who in the off-season spends his time in the gym and emerges buff and beefy. The problem is he has bulk but has traded in his nimbleness.

—Bernard Zuel, The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 June 2007.[66]

Clayton Bolger of Allmusic stated in his review of Dream Days at the Hotel Existence that Powderfinger "largely revisit the sound of their Internationalist album, leaving behind much of the glam and swagger of 2003's Vulture Street".[103] He commented on Fanning's "commanding and distinctive vocals", the "twin-guitar attack" of Middleton and Haug, Collins' "innovative basslines", and the "powerhouse drum work" of Coghill.[103] Nimmervoll described Golden Rule as "Powderfinger back to its essence. They’d experimented with the sound, tried different things with the songwriting process and recorded in America with different producers. [It] was recorded at home, the band reunited with American Nick DiDia, who had has previously worked with the band during the “classic” era, producing Internationalist, Odyssey Number 5 and Vulture Street. They also wrote the songs as a team, with Bernard responsible for the bulk of the lyrics. The album was recorded in the same spirit, as close to the live sound as a studio album could be".[2]

Philanthropy[edit]

Frontline of Powderfinger are shown in side profile across a stage, with Fanning closest to viewer. He is pointing into the audience with his right fore-finger, while singing into the microphone held in his left hand. Just beyond him, Collins is stooped low over his bass guitar with his long hair fallen forward. Haug is further along and plays his guitar while standing more upright, his shoulder length hair partly obscures his face. Stage equipment is in front of the three men.
The Across the Great Divide Tour by Powderfinger and Silverchair promoted Reconciliation Australia's efforts in the Indigenous community. Bernard Fanning, Powderfinger's lead singer, is at front left, pointing into the audience. Collins and Haug are beyond him.

Powderfinger were active in supporting causes or opposing actions taken in charitable, philanthropic, disaster, and political circumstances. In 1996, when Crowded House decided to break up, they organised a farewell concert as a charity event for the Sydney Children's Hospital, on 24 November.[104] They approached Powderfinger and fellow Australian acts Custard and You Am I to also appear on the steps of the Sydney Opera House.[105] The charity event, which was recorded and later released as a live album titled Farewell to the World, was claimed to have the largest Australian live concert audience, with estimates of between 100,000 and 250,000 people.[106][107] In the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, Powderfinger performed at the WaveAid fund-raising concert in Sydney in January 2005.[48] The disaster killed more than 225,000 people from 11 countries in the area.[108] The total profit from the funds raised from ticket sales and donations was A$2,300,000.[109]

The song "Black Tears" from the album Dream Days at the Hotel Existence originally had the lyric "An island watchhouse bed, a black man's lying dead",[110] which sparked fears that it might prejudice the trial of the former Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley over the 2004 Palm Island death in custody case.[111] The band claimed that the song's lyrics primarily dealt with the climbing of Uluru by tourists despite requests from the Indigenous people of the area to respect their sacred sites and not climb.[112] The original version of the song was retracted from the album, and replaced with an alternate version with the criticised material removed.[113] The legal team for Hurley, who was charged with manslaughter over the death of Mulrunji in 2004, had referred the song to the Attorney-General of Queensland, Kerry Shine, in their attempt at altering the track.[114] One of Hurley's lawyers, Glen Cranny, stated that "the content and proposed timing of the song's release raises some serious concerns regarding Mr Hurley's trial".[111] Powderfinger's band manager, Paul Piticco, stated that Fanning had confirmed that a line in the song was related to the case. However, he added that the lyric in question could refer to "a watchhouse in The Bahamas or something".[114]

In June 2007, Powderfinger and Silverchair announced their combined Across the Great Divide Tour,[71] which promoted Reconciliation Australia, a foundation helping to improve the welfare of the Indigenous people of Australia, and to "show [that] both bands are behind the idea of reconciliation".[71] Reconciliation Australia increased the awareness of the 17-year difference in life expectancy between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous children of Australia.[115] In October that year, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Powderfinger performed another concert on the steps of the Sydney Opera House.[116] This concert was for invitees only – breast cancer patients, survivors and their families were eligible to attend.[117] Powderfinger performed alongside Silverchair, Missy Higgins, and other artists to an audience of 700.[118] The concert was filmed and later broadcast as a MAX Session on Foxtel channel MAX on 3 November.[119]

For the Sunsets Farewell Tour in September 2010, the band promoted another indigenous cause, the Yalari organisation.[120] The organisation provides indigenous children with opportunities to get a proper education. In January 2011, following the Queensland flood disaster, [undercover.fm] reported that Powderfinger would not reform for a benefit concert but instead donated a never before released track, "I'm on Your Side", to help raise money for the victims.[121]

Personnel[edit]

Middleton is singing and playing guitar, Fanning has his right knee bent and lifted, Collins is bent low over his bass guitar and Haug is at right on guitar. Coghill is not visible
Powderfinger performing on the Across the Great Divide Tour in September 2007. Left to right: Middleton, Fanning, Collins, Haug.

Throughout their recording career Powderfinger consisted of five members: Bernard Fanning was their vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist and harmonicist and contributed most of the lyrics; John Collins was their bass guitarist; Ian Haug was their first lead vocalist but mostly provided backing vocals and guitar; Darren Middleton was their co-lead guitarist, keyboardist, backing vocalist and sometime lead vocalist; Jon Coghill was their drummer and percussionist.[1][2][13] The lineup remained stable from 1992 to their disbandment in November 2010. Steven Bishop had been the group's original drummer, but had left to focus on his studies.[6] The band refers to one another by nicknames, including Collins as JC and Coghill as Cogsy.[102]

Powderfinger have collaborated with some artists, they had pianist Benmont Tench play on Dream Days at the Hotel Existence.[122] For touring or session work auxiliary musicians used include Alex Pertout on percussion, Duane Billings on percussion, and Lachlan Doley on keyboards. For their second album, Double Allergic, the group enlisted Tim Whitten as producer. The group approached American expatriate Nick DiDia as their producer for Internationalist, and recorded with him at Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne.[123] DiDia also produced the following two albums. In 2007 Rob Schnapf, producer for Beck, was asked to produce Dream Days at the Hotel Existence in Los Angeles.[124] DiDia returned for Golden Rule. Powderfinger's first music video, for the song "Reap What You Sow" in 1993, was directed by David Barker, an award-winning director.[20] Film companies who directed other videos of the group include Fifty Fifty Films,[125] and Head Pictures.[126]

Discography[edit]

Awards and accolades[edit]

Powderfinger was highly successful in the Australian recording industry, being a recipient of the industry's flagship awards, the ARIA Music Awards, 18 times from 47 nominations – second highest band behind Silverchair's 21 wins from 49 nominations.[33][78] Powderfinger's most successful year was 2001 they won six awards from eight nominations for Odyssey Number Five and its related singles.[33][40][43] "These Days" and "My Happiness" were ranked at No. 1 on the Triple J Hottest 100 lists in 1999 and 2000 respectively, and 21 other Powderfinger tracks have ranked on lists in other years.[44]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

General
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External links[edit]