James McDonald sets sights on unique weekend treble

James McDonald is hoping to take good news to Hong Kong from Saturday’s Canterbury Stakes meeting when he goes to the racing Mecca’s Derby on Sunday.
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He has the rides on Savvy Nature in the Royal Randwick Guineas and Not Listenin’tome in the Canterbury Stakes to start a group1 book that includes Mr Gnocchi in Hong Kong’s biggest race.

“I think Savvy Nature is a bit underrated going into his race,” McDonald said.

“And Not Listenin’tome is just exciting and I have to be a chance in the Derby over there … Mr Gnocchi should run a good race.”

It is the life of a 21st-century jockey that McDonald rides at Randwick on Saturday and heads to Mascot after the races to be in Hong Kong for an engagement within 24 hours.

McDonald could be taking the Canterbury Stakes trophy with him to give to Not Listenin’tome’s owner, Hong Kong trainer John Moore.

“That would be awesome,” said McDonald. “To go over there for the Derby is exciting but to take a trophy with me would be even better.”

Not Listenin’tome has all the elements of a topliner, said McDonald, who was left stunned by his sprint when he won the Zeditave Stakes on February 22.

“It is probably one of the best turns of foot I have felt from a horse, it was amazing,” McDonald said. “He has such a high cruising speed and when you ask him to go it is there immediately.

“He is a group1 horse, it is only a matter of when.”

Not Listenin’tome has won three of his five starts and was runner-up on the other two occasions, including being the closest to Zoustar in the Coolmore Stud Stakes down the straight in the spring at the end of his first campaign.

“He is the sort of horse you just want to be on,” McDonald said after he had just one race ride.

McDonald has established himself in the top echelon of hoops and is quite at home travelling for rides around the world.

“To get asked to ride in any Derby is great but especially over in Hong Kong,” McDonald said.

“The call came a couple of weeks ago from over there and it is a great opportunity to ride for a very influential owner.

“I have a good relationship there and these opportunities give more chances to build more contacts.

“I have watched Tom Berry go over there and ride and it is something I think everyone wants to do.”

Berry is also making the trip for the Hong Kong Derby to link with one of the favourites for Moore in Designs On Rome.

McDonald has become Team Hawkes’ go-to jockey in the past couple of months, which led to the Not Listenin’tome ride but he also has a strong combination with Savvy Nature’s trainer John O’Shea.

“It is great to have James as part of the team and he knows Savvy [Nature] very well,” O’Shea said. “He is a very big part of his success.”

McDonald was on board for the wins in the Spring Stakes at Newcastle and Moonee Valley Vase during the spring. Add placings in the Gloaming Stakes and Spring Champion Stakes and it is clear Savvy Nature is up to group1 level.

The Vase was won under the cover of blinkers and the gear goes back on in the Guineas.

Savvy Nature hit the line hard when finishing third behind Dissident at his autumn return in the Hobartville Stakes.

“He was very good that day and he will be better back at Randwick,” McDonald said.

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REVIEW: Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, photos

REVIEW
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NINE INCH NAILS/

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE

Newcastle Entertainment Centre

March 8

THROWING out a challenge to festival promoters everywhere, Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age shunned the traditional summer circuit and instead co-headlined their own antipodean tour.

Newcastle was fortunate enough to have been included on the list – some might even go so far as to say ‘‘blessed’’.

Trent Reznor and Josh Homme in Newcastle. On the same night. It was enough to make the most seasoned of rockers revert to giggling adolescent fans as they greeted each other outside Newcastle Entertainment Centre. Backslapping, high-fiving, even hugs – it was a common sight, and a sign of the esteem with which both bands are held.

Homme’s Australian-born wife Brody Dalle opened, apologising to the crowd for a ‘‘shit voice’’ she blamed on illness. Her already gravelly voice was even rockier than usual but she didn’t let it slow down the fast and loud punk-rock riffs she honed with The Distillers and Spinnerette.

Then it was Trent Reznor’s turn. He is Nine Inch Nails. Magnetic rather than charismatic, the eye is drawn to him. The intensity of his songs was reflected in his face, his voice, the way he prowled the stage and lunged back and forth, mic stand in hand. The lighting, primarily dim with pulses of blood red and fluorescent white, added to the sense of dystopia created by his thought-provoking lyrics and musical compositions.

In an ideal world Reznor would have played a set list weighted heavily in favour of industrial songs from The Downward Spiral, Pretty Hate Machine, The Fragile, With Teeth and Year Zero – however played live, the electronica-slanted songs from 2013’s Hesitation Marks are as hard-hitting as anything in Reznor’s back catalogue. It was a pleasant surprise.

The intricacy of the compositions, the layers of sound and the poignancy of the lyrics are amplified on stage. It was a spellbinding performance, and Reznor appears more comfortable with his craft than he did on the band’s 2009 tour. All Time Low, Copy of A, Find My Way, March of the Pigs, The Hand That Feeds, Head Like a Hole and Hurt were highlights.

Queens of the Stone Age share a left-of-centre approach to songwriting with Nine Inch Nails. There is nothing predictable about their music and it doesn’t follow a set rock formula.

Homme, like his wife, was ill, and said he had been advised by his doctor to cancel the show.

In words that can’t be repeated here, he said he told his doctor he didn’t agree.

Unlike Reznor, he engaged with the audience verbally. His self-deprecating humour and down-to-earth manner was endearing, as was his sensible long-sleeved shirt and hair-do, and amusing hip-swinging dance moves, while playing the guitar (in true Ginger Elvis style).

Homme has textbook rockstar charisma and the talent to back it up. His voice is like honey (even with the flu), he’s spellbinding on the strings and a tighter, more professional band you’d be hard pressed to find.

And the background cartoons were mesmerising.

Highlights were My God Is the Sun, Monsters in the Parasol, In the Fade, The Vampyre of Time and Memory, Little Sister, Make It Wit Chu (crowd singalong included), Sick, Sick, Sick, Better Living Through Chemistry, Go With the Flow and, for the encore, No One Knows and A Song for the Dead.

Is that the entire set-list? Almost.

A rare and memorable night in Newcastle for rock fans of all ages.

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, left, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

The crowd cheering for Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

The crowd cheering for Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

The crowd cheering for Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, on stage at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. NIN played with Queens of the Stone Age. Picture Max Mason-Hubers

BLESSED: Queens of the Stone Age. Pictures: Max Mason-Hubers

BLESSED: Queens of the Stone Age. Pictures: Max Mason-Hubers

BLESSED: Queens of the Stone Age. Pictures: Max Mason-Hubers

BLESSED: Queens of the Stone Age. Pictures: Max Mason-Hubers

BLESSED: Queens of the Stone Age. Pictures: Max Mason-Hubers

BLESSED: Queens of the Stone Age. Pictures: Max Mason-Hubers

BLESSED: Queens of the Stone Age. Pictures: Max Mason-Hubers

BLESSED: Queens of the Stone Age. Pictures: Max Mason-Hubers

BLESSED: Queens of the Stone Age. Pictures: Max Mason-Hubers

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Knights rookie Matt Minto in line for fullback role

ROCKHAMPTON rookie Matt Minto is poised to make his NRL debut for the Knights against Canberra at Hunter Stadium on Sunday night.
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SAFE HANDS: Matt Minto at training on Thursday. Picture: Getty Images

The 23-year-old utility back is in the mix to start at fullback, which would allow captain Kurt Gidley to return to the dummy-half role he has spent the pre-season preparing to play and would push former Raiders rake Travis Waddell back to the bench.

Minto spent time at fullback during the Knights’ ball-work session at Mayfield yesterday, but coach Wayne Bennett, who included Minto on a six-man bench when he named a 19-man squad on Tuesday, is not expected to settle on his 17 until the final training run tomorrow.

Bennett is also awaiting medical clearances for Gidley and halfback Tyrone Roberts, though both are likely to play after passing CogSport brain-function tests on Tuesday.

Gidley suffered concussion and was replaced in the 36th minute of Newcastle’s 30-8 loss to Penrith at Sportingbet Stadium on Saturday.

Roberts followed Gidley to the sideline in the 63rd minute after colliding with Panthers lock Adam Docker in the lead-up to Docker’s try. Though Roberts needed stitches for a cut ear, it is understood he was dazed but not knocked out and has shown no symptoms of concussion.

Minto is the nephew of Scott Minto, who played under Bennett at the Broncos. Comfortable at fullback or halfback, Minto spent time in the lower grades at Canterbury and North Queensland as a teenager.

He kicked a decisive field goal in the dying stages of the Queensland Cup grand final last year, helping Mackay secure a 27-20 victory over Easts, and signed a one-year deal with the Knights after impressing during pre-season training and trials.

Minto came off the bench in Newcastle’s 52-12 victory over the First Nation Goannas, scoring a try and setting up several others, and was in line to play in the Knights’ Auckland Nines squad but was ruled out due to a hamstring strain.

Teenage fullback or winger Jake Mamo scored three tries but suffered a knee injury in Newcastle’s 34-22 National Youth Cup victory over Penrith on Saturday.

The 19-year-old took another knock to the knee at training yesterday, ruling him out of contention for the game against the Raiders.

If Waddell drops back to the bench, Bennett would have to decide between props Adam Cuthbertson and David Fa’alogo to fill the final interchange position alongside utility forwards Alex McKinnon and Chris Houston.

Prop Kade Snowden said the Knights had to deal with the loss of playmakers Jarrod Mullen and Darius Boyd, who have both been sidelined with hamstring injuries, and had faith in Roberts, five-eighth Michael Dobson and whoever plays fullback and hooker.

‘‘We’re still really confident with the boys that are there now,’’ Snowden said. ‘‘They are big losses for any side, but we’re ready to go and the young fellas that fill in, they’re pumped.’’

Having sat out Newcastle’s last five games of last season serving a suspension, Snowden missed much of the team’s pre-season training after suffering a knee playing for Italy in the World Cup. He made 39 tackles and ran nine times for 85 metres in 48 minutes against Penrith, according to NRL Stats, and hopes to increase his time and contribution on Sunday.

‘‘I’m getting there. I just need a bit more fitness,’’ he said.

‘‘I did my knee at the World Cup, so it’s hard missing a whole pre-season and coming back straight into it, but I got some good minutes last week so I just need to keep building on it.’’

McKinnon, who spent time in the forwards, centre and five-eighth on Saturday to help cover the loss of Boyd, Gidley and Roberts, said the Knights had put their disjointed, mistake-riddled performance against the Panthers behind them.

‘‘We’ve got a lot of confidence in our team, and I suppose that was just a little hiccup in our start to the season, but we’re really looking forward to this weekend,’’ McKinnon said.

‘‘We always get a great crowd and we’ve got great supporters at the Knights. It’s round two and we need to start putting a few points on the board.’’

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Knights approach Bulldogs enforcer Sam Kasiano

NEWCASTLE are among a posse of clubs chasing Canterbury’s Sam Kasiano amid speculation the Bulldogs will release him to accommodate Andrew Fifita.
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Sam Kasiano of the Bulldogs makes a line break during the round 22 NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Gold Coast Titans at ANZ Stadium on August 12, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Canterbury announced this week that they had signed Fifita to a four-year deal reported to be worth a staggering $850,000 per season, fuelling the theory that at least one of their heavyweight forwards will be asked to move on.

Kasiano is under contract until the end of next season, but his manager, Mario Tartak, told AAP yesterday that he had been inundated with inquiries from rival clubs.

At least six clubs are understood to have contacted Tartak already to express interest, and the Newcastle Herald has been told the Knights are one of them.

“Sam is now the biggest prop off contract,” Tartak told AAP.

“He’s an X-factor. Put it this way, my phone has been ringing off the hook.

“I’ve had a lot of clubs calling me. There’s no shortage of interest.”

The Knights are desperate to reinforce their engine-room rotation with a quality signing and were linked recently to Canberra’s David Shillington and Fifita.

Newcastle were left with a vacancy up front when their star off-season signing, Russell Packer, was jailed in January for two years after being found guilty of assault.

They have two 33-year-old veterans, Willie Mason and David Fa’alogo, who are off contract at the end of this season, along with impact forward Adam Cuthbertson.

Knights coach Wayne Bennett said in a recent interview that he was not interested in signing a “journeyman” front-rower.

“We want a quality player,” Bennett said at the time.

“I’m happy to bide my time if I have to and wait until we get that quality player.”

Kasiano fits that description.

The 130-kilogram Kiwi international was the 2012 Dally M prop of the year and, at 23, would appear to have his best years ahead of him.

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Veteran Brad Hodge seals T20 international victory

MATCHWINNER: Brad Hodge hits out against South Africa in Durban. Picture: Getty Images MATCHWINNER: Brad Hodge hits out against South Africa in Durban. Picture: Getty Images
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DURBAN: Brad Hodge joked after his recall to the national Twenty20 side that it had taken Jesus three days to rise from the dead, but it had taken the 39-year-old six years.

In his third T20 international since, Hodge crashed two sixes in the final over to lift Australia to a miraculous five-wicket win over South Africa in Durban.

Play was due to start at 3am AEDT on Thursday, only for rain to delay the action for 2½ hours and reduce the game to seven overs a side.

Hodge showed exactly why he was recalled for the T20 World Cup, belting consecutive sixes as Australia chased down their target of 81 runs with two balls remaining.

The tourists brought up the winning runs when Wayne Parnell sent down a wide after Hodge’s lusty hits, finishing 5-82 after they scampered through for a run.

“I had to get the ball over the fence a couple of times to win the game,” Hodge said of his thoughts as he started the final over with Australia 15 runs short of victory. “Any time when you get to put yourself under pressure, it’s good.”

Hodge, batting at No.6, was the ice-cool finisher after David Warner put his side on track for victory with a dashing knock of 40 from 16 balls.

“That’s my role. I’m just here to complement those guys up the top, use my experience, and it all worked out in my favour today,” man-of-the-match Hodge said. “Hopefully I can keep doing it.”

The fact Hodge (21 not out) and Brad Haddin (four not out), both quite capable of clearing the rope, were the men in the middle at the death gives a fair indication of how strong Australia’s batting order is.

“The hits just keep on coming,” Hodge said, less than two weeks before the start of the T20 World Cup. “There’s a lot of power hitters . . . it looks a pretty decent side.”

The Proteas finished 1-80 from their seven overs after Faf du Plessis (27) and Quinton de Kock (41) shared an unbeaten 74-run stand.

George Bailey opted to field first in a match which featured one-over spells from the visitors’ bowlers with the exception of Nathan Coulter-Nile (1-17 from two overs) and Mitchell Starc (0-24 from two overs).

Proteas coach Russell Domingo paid tribute to Hodge, saying he was worried the veteran would produce such a clinical, clean-hitting display.

“We know he’s an outstanding finisher and very calm under pressure. That’s why he’s back in the Australian side.

“We knew he was the guy that we probably needed to stop in the last few overs.”

● Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson could be ruled out of the World T20 tournament in Bangladesh with a toe infection.

Cricket Australia says a final decision is yet to be made on Johnson’s availability but his departure to Bangladesh may be delayed.

Johnson is receiving treatment in Perth on an infection which has developed in his right big toe following the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town, which finished last week.

CA’s chief medical officer, Justin Paoloni, said the 32-year-old would continue to be monitored.

“He is receiving treatment but his departure to Bangladesh for the World T20 may be delayed until we are happy that the infection has resolved and his toe fully recovered,” Paoloni said.

Johnson is due to fly out of Perth on Sunday and rejoin his teammates in Bangladesh.

The infection has reportedly come from blisters. AAP

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Boom Crash encore

REVITALISED: Boom Crash Opera are playing by their own rules, touring only part-time.BOOM Crash Opera have reserved a place in their hearts for their devoted Hunter fans.
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Guitarist and keyboardist in the Australian pop-rock band, Peter Farnan, fondly remembers regular trips to the Hunter during the late 1980s, including one unforgettable show at the Workers Club, now known as Newcastle Panthers.

‘‘We played the gig, did the encore, went backstage, had a shower and it was completely over, we were just chatting,’’ he says.

‘‘Then someone went ‘shush’ and we realised the punters were still out there and cheering and we realised ‘Oh God, we’ve got to go back on – what are we going to play, we haven’t got anything left’.

‘‘Someone suggested our single City Flat. We’d stopped playing it, but we went out and played that and ever since then we associate that song with Newcastle and the Hunter Region.

‘‘There’s always fights in bands about what songs to play and that one had got kicked out but whenever the discussion comes up it’s like ‘Well hang on a tick, they love that song in Newcastle’.’’

The band will return to the region next Saturday for the sold-out A Day On The Green at Bimbadgen Estate.

It will be the latest in a string of performances for the revitalised band, who have been performing with increasing regularity over the past three years, despite more than a decade passing since their last studio album in 1997 and their last compilation album of acoustic reworkings in 2009.

BCO is now back on shelves as well as stages after deciding last year when their recorded catalogue passed back into their ownership to sign a new deal with Liberation and release a four-album box set, Rattle It Out, which contains digitally remastered versions of the band’s first three albums and a bonus 14-track rarities disc of previously unreleased material.

They also recently unleashed a greatest hits album, The Best Things, featuring two new tracks they recorded last year after being contacted by breast cancer patient Connie Johnson, sister of former Secret Life Of Us actor Samuel Johnson, who travelled 15,955kilometres by unicycle to raise money for a cure.

‘‘Dale Ryder, our singer, did a lot of work with Kids With Cancer 25 years ago and Connie was one of those kids,’’ Farnan says.

‘‘She was asking for one of our old songs to use for an album she was putting together and we thought ‘why give you an old song, we’ll write you a new one’.

‘‘It all just happened very quickly after that – the collaboration is still alive and we feel like we have a new album out.

‘‘I suppose you could call it a rebirth or a reboot and it is partially about unfinished business.’’

Now with their own careers in the arts running parallel to the band, members Farnan, Ryder, Peter Maslen, Greg O’Connor and Ian Tilley are playing by their own rules, touring and recording only part-time and when it fits into their schedules.

‘‘If we can get it together we’ll do it because we love doing it, we’re not intending to completely go away and we’re not going to stop, but our appearances will be relatively sporadic,’’ Farnan says.

BCO formed in 1985 in Melbourne from the remnants of three-piece Serious Young Instincts, which had formed in 1980 featuring Farnan as guitarist and singer and briefly including classically trained guitarist Richard Pleasance, before breaking up in 1983.

Farnan and Pleasance would team up with Ryder, Maslen and O’Connor to establish BCO, which was listed among 12 groups in September 1986 as The Next Big Thing, despite not having a record deal.

‘‘That’s what we set out to do, but it was a pressure and in a way it was a huge mistake,’’ Farnan says.

The band signed to WEA and in April 1986 released their debut single Great Wall, followed by Hands up in the Air and their self-titled debut album in September 1987.

The band would release a total of five studio albums, including the 1993 release Fabulous Beast, which was recorded over a tumultuous period in Los Angeles.

Pleasance had been diagnosed with tinnitus in 1990 and was unable to perform with the group. During early writing sessions in LA he left the band to return to Australia, to be permanently replaced by Ian Tilley. Pleasance is still considered a member of the band, but is not touring with them.

After going their separate ways the band pursued their own interests but stayed in touch, watching as their classics were covered and used in advertising.

‘‘Dancing In The Storm has got that feeling of you can overcome something and that was one of the challenges. One of the things stopping us from doing anything new was we’re a lot older. How do you write that sort of song again,’’ Farnan says.

‘‘There is a legacy and you can’t just cut across it, it’s actually got to continue on without sounding like you’ve just gone backwards and that was the difficult thing – but I reckon we’ve got there now.’’

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KT Tunstall: Healing with music

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ENIGMATIC: KT Tunstall says her latest album is not about losing a loved one or breaking up, despite its melancholy feel.

KT Tunstall wouldn’t have been able to prepare during her Tucson recording session for the emotional upheaval that lay ahead, even if she had known it was coming.

Just six months after the Scotswoman returned to her London home, her father died. The month after that, she separated from her musician husband, who was also the drummer in her band.

Others would have abandoned the recording project.

‘‘Music for me has always been medicine and its always been something that I turn to when I need a change of state of mind. Certainly, as someone who creates music, it’s a huge compliment when I do find out that my music has been used in that way,’’ she says.

‘‘So I delayed a little bit going back out but by the time I did go I was really happy about being back in the desert with these great musicians.

‘‘I felt very free, very liberated and I was in a really good place by that point and so the second half feels much more hopeful, when I kind of expected it would be the other way around.’’

The result of Giant Sand frontman and producer Howe Gelb’s encouragement to Tunstall is her fifth album, Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon.

Singer-songwriter Tunstall, 38, insists it’s not a grief, or break-up, album. Despite its melancholy feel, none of the songs directly reference her divorce.

While critics embraced fourth album Tiger Suit, they hailed her most recent collection of alternative country style songs, recorded on a reel to reel tape machine, as her best yet. She said it was the easiest and fastest album she’s ever made.

‘‘It took a little bit of self-confidence to go ‘It’s cool, rely on the beauty of the song and the strength of your voice and think about Bob Dylan at Newport Folk Festival and just go for it’,’’ she said.

Australian audiences will be the next to hear her live when Tunstall arrives in April for her first shows down under since a stint at Byron Bay about six years ago.

She’s delighted to hear about her preceeding reputation as an enigmatic entertainer.

‘‘You can go somewhere as a group of people and I love the idea that you’re this one-off community for an hour-and-a-half that will never ever be the same again.

‘‘It’s just these people in this room this once, this time, this date and in a world where you can download anything for free, you can’t buy being there, you’ve got to be there.’’

Tunstall spent her 20s in indie bands Elia Drew, Tomoko, Red Light Stylus and the Fence Collective before Relentless Records heard about her through their talent scouts and made her an offer.

The label’s assessment that Tunstall wasn’t ready yet saw her develop her songs and improve her live performance before the 2004 release of her pop folk debut Eye to the Telescope featuring single Black Horse and The Cherry Tree, which she performed with a loop pedal in what she now realises was a watershed moment on British television show Later … With Jools Holland. ‘‘I was on with The Cure, The Futureheads, Jackson Brown [and] Anita Baker. I felt like such a small fry on the show that I didn’t worry about it. Then [when I] won the popularity poll for the whole thing afterwards, I was like ‘what?’’’

The album also included arguably her most recognised song, Suddenly I See.

Tunstall remains proud of her pop country tune with uplifting lyrics but has no qualms about her increasing divergence from its sound and the darker, cathartic nature of her most recent release.

‘‘I’ve always had this thing that no matter how personal a song is, there’s a process that happens once I share it where the whole thing loosens up a lot,’’ she says.

‘‘I was excited to share these songs because it’s really about saying everybody goes through shit. It’s probably one of the biggest failings of us as humans is not being able to realise that we’re all going through the same thing at the same time.’’

KT Tunstall will perform at Lizottes

on Wednesday, April 23.

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Hunter winemakers gush over corker vintage

THE Hunter Valley has the wine industry abuzz with calls that this year’s crop is producing the “best vintage of the century”.
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Heavy rains in November followed by lots of sunshine over January and February allowed farmers to harvest the fruits at optimum ripeness.

And it’s paying off, according to Tyrrell’s winemaker Chris Tyrrell.

He said there was an “incredible concentration of flavour”, particularly in the semillons and shiraz.

“It’s certainly been one of the best vintages I’ve seen,” he said.

“It’s a combination of the great weather and the picking season being early, because we had a dry winter.

“I’ve never seen the fruit look so good. Everything has been perfect, from the chemistry of the fruit to the sugar levels.”

Tyrrell’s managing director Bruce Tyrrell said it was the best vintage of the century.

As a result, there was a lot of interest from serious wine-buying investors.

“My father Murray was famous for regularly declaring a ‘vintage of the century’,’’ he said.

‘‘Well, this [vintage] is possibly the best of both this and last century.’’

De Iuliis Wines winemaker Mike De Iuliis said it was nice not to have had to go through the usual fear of rain setting in and affecting the quality of the fruit.

“I can’t remember a vintage which has been so relaxing, nor which has provided the most amazing grape quality for us to work with,’’ he said.

‘‘As a winemaker, I will be lucky to see another vintage like 2014,” he said.

Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association general manager Gus Maher said all the varieties had been praised as some of the region’s best.

He said the feedback from those who had tried samples was that it was “a vintage for the ages”.

Hunter Valley 2014 semillons will be bottled and available for sale in the coming weeks.

The 2014 reds will serve their time maturing in their oak barrels until release later in 2015.

RELAXING: Mike De Iuliis of De Iuliis Wines in Pokolbin.

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$4.7m Birubi Point Surf Club opens

WORTH THE WAIT: Birubi Point Surf Club president Rob Duff and the newly built clubrooms at Birubi beach. Picture: Jonathan CarrollIT MAY be a view worth waiting for, but after more than a decade of planning and hoping, members of the Birubi Point Surf Club have finally got their wish.
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Yesterday was the official opening of the $4.7million surf club on the shores of Birubi beach.

Redesigns, funding shortfalls and budget blowouts all contributed to what has been a rocky ride for the club since the federal government said it would give $2.2million to the project in 2010.

But funding from the state government, Port Stephens Council and NSW Surf Life Saving all helped get the project across the line.

Club president Rob Duff was at the helm throughout that period, and has helped the plan clear its many hurdles.

Now the club is here, he’s certain it was worth the wait.

‘‘People come up here and just say ‘Wow, it’s unbelievable’,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s everything we could have desired, if someone walked up to me with a magic wand and said you can change anything you like, there’s nothing at all that I would.

‘‘It has taken a long time, the committee has been telling members we would have a club for so long that they used to just respond, ‘Yeah sure, I’ll believe it when I see it’.’’

The $2.2million in federal funding was first promised by the former Labor government before the 2010 election as part of an unsuccessful bid to unseat Liberal MP Bob Baldwin.

At the opening yesterday Mr Baldwin called the new club ‘‘a real benefit to the hundreds of beachgoers who visit Birubi Point every day’’.

WORTH THE WAIT: Birubi Point Surf Club president Rob Duff and the newly built clubrooms at Birubi beach. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

WORTH THE WAIT: Birubi Point Surf Club president Rob Duff and the newly built clubrooms at Birubi beach. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

WORTH THE WAIT: Birubi Point Surf Club president Rob Duff and the newly built clubrooms at Birubi beach. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

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Priest freed of vow of secrecy

A SENIOR Catholic official had to be released from a vow of secrecy before he could freely give evidence to the royal commission into child sexual abuse.
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Monsignor Brian Rayner was chancellor and vicar-general in the Archdiocese of Sydney when John Ellis sought redress for abuse he suffered when he was an altar boy at Bass Hill, in Sydney, between 1974 and 1979.

Monsignor Rayner told counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness SC, that he had gone to the papal nuncio to be released from a vow of secrecy he took when he held the chancellor’s position in Sydney.

The nuncio, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Pope’s diplomat in Australia, is based in Canberra.

Monsignor Rayner said the nuncio advised him to give “whatever evidence was required by the royal commission”. Had he not spoken to the nuncio, he would have been in a dilemma as to what would be appropriate to reveal and “perhaps what should be kept private”.

Monsignor Rayner, who is now parish priest at Gymea, said for two years he was Archbishop Pell’s second-in-command in administrative matters.

Earlier yesterday, the commission heard that Monsignor Rayner played a central role in the internal church process for abuse victims in the case of Mr Ellis.

He was central to negotiating a financial offer to Mr Ellis, who rejected $30,000 because it came with the requirement that he sign a deed of release.

Mr Ellis lost his litigation when the court ruled the church was not a legal entity that could be sued and Archbishop Pell could not be sued because he was not in charge at the time of the abuse.

The commission has heard that when the case came to court, the Sydney Archdiocese disputed whether sexual abuse had occurred.

Yesterday, Raymond Brazil, who facilitated the church mediation attended by Monsignor Rayner and Mr Ellis and his wife, Nicola, in 2003 said he understood the church authority had accepted Mr Ellis’s claim abuse had occurred.

The commission heard Mrs Ellis had taken notes of that meeting and recorded that the Monsignor said “he never had any reason to doubt what JAE [John Andrew Ellis] has said”.

Mr Brazil said his “own notes from the time recorded a similar comment”.

Mr Ellis has said when the Towards Healing process failed, the Melbourne law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth disputed the fact sexual abuse had ever happened.

One of the issues the commission is investigating is why the church denied the abuse after initially accepting it occurred.

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