Arts Review

Rolling Thunder Vietnam

Rolling Thunder Vietnam presented by Blake Entertainment

QPAC Concert Hall

21st and 22nd April 2023


A nostalgic musical adventure loosely tied up with the horrors of the Vietnam War.


By Dr Gemma Regan


Rolling Thunder is a banging nostalgic 60s and 70s rock concert featuring the best music of the time inspired by the Vietnam War, interspersed with a series of short narratives. The name Rolling Thunder was the bombing campaign against North Vietnam during the Vietnam War, but it was alluded to as the sound of the many thunderstorms overhead.


A cast of six performers and a band of five musicians take to the stage to accompany the narratives of three young soldiers fighting for a lost cause during the Vietnam War. The two Australians are Andy (Christian Charisiou) from Sydney, known as Randy to his digger mates and Johnny (Tom Oliver) a Queensland country boy. Andy is unwillingly conscripted to fight, whilst Johnny is keen to sign up, filled with naive patriotism to do his duty! Thomas (Jerrod Smith) is Johnny’s American friend who was an exchange student in Australia before becoming a US Marine. 


All three leave loved ones behind and it is through their letters home that tell a loose story of their terrifying experiences of war. Sarah (Brittanie Shipway), is Johnny’s faithful girlfriend who dreams of marriage on his return home. She delivers Killing Me Softly emotively and with a powerful tone. Her letters to Johnny voice her poignant and complex emotions of love and fear when she relates tales of the world-wide anti-war protests .


The Band of three guitars, keyboard and drums rocked throughout the show. It seemed a pity to break the flow with the contrived non-musical interludes, filled with poignant memories of a war that should never have happened! Four large screens behind the stage showed a series of photographs and scenes further illustrating the horrors of the Vietnam War.


Chong Lim’s musical direction ensures the party goes on, despite the horrors the soldiers are relating with favourites including Magic Carpet Ride, Fortunate Son, All Along the Watchtower, Paint It Black, People Get Ready, Run Through the Jungle and the obvious inclusion, War.


The performance of Bridge Over Troubled Water although good, was particularly uncomfortable. Causing awkward but understandable tears from many in the audience, some of whom were Vietnam war VETS. The emotional manipulation had some agreeing with The Animals that We’ve Gotta Get Outa This Place! 


Fortunately, the concert ended on a jubilant note with the performers urging the audience to get up and bop to Born to be Wild, resulting in a well-orchestrated standing ovation.

Until then, many of the grey-haired baby boomers had seemed frustrated at not being able to get up and dance, so everyone left with a smile, unlike the forsaken soldiers.


It was a fantastic stand-alone retrospective rock concert with good musicians and performers telling a poignant tale of the futility of War.


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