Every member of the band is important, but if there’s one thing every great rock band needs, it’s brilliant rock singers with their voices front and centre to send chills down your spine.
Australia has had plenty of incredible rock singers, both frontmen and frontwomen over the years, but we’ve tried to pick just a handful of our favourite singers – the singers whose unique voices grab you by the guts and don’t let go.
Nic Cester of Jet
Having spent years as the leader of one of the most successful Aussie rock bands of recent decades, there’s no denying that Nic Cester has one of the greatest voices that Australian rock has ever seen, and he and his band have been one of our most biggest rock exports ever.
With Jet playing shows together for the first time since their 2012 split, Cester then decided to go it alone and release his debut solo record. Recorded in Milan and London, and produced by Jim Abbiss (Adele, Arctic Monkeys, Queens Of The Stone Age), Sugar Rush showed a different side of Cester, while still bringing that incredible rasp we’ve come to expect from him over the years.
Nick Cester’s debut solo single hinted at his new psych-infused direction
Chrissy Amphlett of Divinyls
When it came to Aussie rock in the ’80s, there was hardly a better front woman than Chrissy Amphlett. Fronting the Divinyls throughout their entire existence, Amphlett rose to fame for her electric stage presence and occasionally controversial choice of wardrobe.
Helping to thrust Aussie rock onto the world stage once again thanks to her intoxicating voice and her beloved style of performing, Chrissy Amphlett is undoubtedly an Aussie legend. Following her untimely passing 2013, the city of Melbourne even decided to name a street after her – how many Aussie rock stars can boast that honour?
Bon Scott of AC/DC
Bon Scott might not have been AC/DC’s first frontman, but he was certainly the most memorable. Taking over from Dave Evans as AC/DC’s singer in 1974, Bon Scott’s primal vocal style and charismatic style made him a perfect frontman and sex symbol for Aussie music. His casual demeanour shone through his music, making it clear that Bon Scott was the very epitome of ‘what you see is what you get’.
After six albums with AC/DC, a night of heavy drinking resulted in Bon Scott passing away at the age of 33. The group managed to pull this period, recruiting their current frontman Brian Johnson for what would go on to become their biggest record, Back In Black. Like Chrissy Amphlett, Bon Scott was also honoured by the Melbourne government, with the city opening up ACDC Lane in 2004. Fittingly, ACDC Lane is also the home of Cherry Bar, one of the premier rock music venues in the country.
Sarah McLeod of The Superjesus
Arguably one of Australia’s most female rockers, The Superjesus’ Sarah McLeod was a welcome figure in the all-too masculine rock scene of Australia in the ‘90s. With a powerful voice, some serious guitar skills, and an ability to deliver some of the finest choruses ever to come out of Adelaide, Sarah McLeod’s status as one of Aussie rock’s best and brightest is well-deserved.
Tex Perkins of Beasts Of Bourbon and The Cruel Sea
Tex Perkins is undoubtedly one of the most charismatic frontmen that Australia has ever produced Having first made a name for himself as the leader of ‘80s blues rock legends the Beasts Of Bourbon, Tex Perkins’ swagger and powerful voice were perfectly suited for the Aussie rock scene. While he may have softened his musical approach when he became the singer for The Cruel Sea, his reputation as one of the greatest bandleaders in Australia has never waned, and has only continued to grow as the years have gone by.
Isabella Manfredi of The Preatures
It speaks volumes about her position as one of rock’s greatest current front women that The Preatures’ Isabella Manfredi was chosen as a suitable candidate for a recent tribute show to the Divinyls’ Chrissy Amphlett. With a stage presence influenced by some of the greats, and yielding an unmatchable ability to hold the audience within the palm of her hand, Isabella Manfredi is undoubtedly set to be considered one of the all-time greats in years to come.
Tim Rogers of You Am I
For anyone who has ever seen You Am I perform live, you can almost immediately understand why not including Tim Rogers on a list like this would be inexcusable. With an approach to music that seems like it was taken directly from the playbook of ‘70s rock star, Tim Rogers embodies the Australian spirit with his casual, fun-loving approach to music.
Ella Hooper of Killing Heidi
If you ever turned on the radio in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, it would have been pretty hard to escape the reach of Killing Heidi. Discovered in 1996 when front woman Ella Hooper was only 13, the band’s youthful nature gave them an energy and determination that most bands could only dream of. Ella Hooper’s energetic performance style, mixed with her perfectly-suited voice, made Killing Heidi into the legends of the Aussie alternative scene that they remain as today.
Adalita Srsen of Magic Dirt
Magic Dirt were arguably one of the biggest alternative rock bands in Australia in the ‘90s, to the point where it was almost impossible to find an Aussie festival lineup or gig that didn’t feature Magic Dirt on the bill. Fronted by the incomparable Adalita Srsen, Magic Dirt became a huge success in their home country, and being one of the flagship acts for Melbourne indie record label Au Go Go.
Following the death of bass player Dean Turner in 2009, the group parted ways, but Adalita is still as active as ever, currently undertaking a solo career that has seen Aussie fans fall in lover with her style of music all over again.
Michael Hutchence of INXS
If a new documentary about the late singer is to be believed, Michael Hutchence was the last rockstar, a choice of phrase which has drawn criticism from many. However, the level of magnetism that Michael Hutchence embodied is unmistakable, leading to the Sydney muso to be considered one of the greatest singers in Australian music, as well as one of the sexiest by a number of publications.
Despite his untimely passing in 1997, Michael Hutchence’s legacy has lived on, with his body of work continuing to be praised by music fans the world over.
Suze DeMarchi of Baby Animals
Back in the early ‘90s, was there anyone who embodied the spirit of rock and roll more than Baby Animals frontwoman Suze DeMarchi? With a penchant for crafting some absolutely phenomenal rock and roll tunes, Baby Animals’ self-titled debut was so successful that it became the highest-selling Aussie debut album at the time (before being dethroned by Nic Cester and Jet twelve years later).
But a fair majority of the success that Baby Animals saw undoubtedly came from the electric presence of Suze DeMarchi, whose rock swagger was of the major drawcords for the band. Thankfully, Baby Animals are still active today, so that a new generation of fans can head along to get an education rock from Suze DeMarchi.
Chris Cheney of The Living End
As any guitarist will tell you, it can be hard to focus on playing guitar correctly sometimes, let alone handling double duties and performing as the band’s frontman as well as being one of the country’s most revered guitarists. However, that’s exactly what The Living End’s Chris Cheney does, sometimes without even breaking a sweat.
A world-renowned punk and rockabilly guitarist, Chris Cheney manages to add on to his already impressive repertoire of talents by also managing to serve as the group’s public face, and charming leader. If you’ve ever seen The Living End play live, it’s hard not to fall in love with Chris Cheney while he’s up on stage, belting out tunes, and tearing through all the riffs that put the group on the map.
Karina Utomo of High Tension
High Tension are easily one of the most unrelenting and brutal bands that Australia has to offer. Fronted by Karina Utomo, High Tension are one of the most brilliant hardcore punk bands that Australia has to offer. With a level of charisma that has to be seen to be believed, and with a voice that would impress absolutely anyone who is able to bear witness, Karina Utomo manages to to blow all other vocalists out of the water, delivering an absolutely astonishing live show.
Fiona Horne of Def FX
Def FX were at the forefront of the Aussie industrial rock scene in the ’90s. Performing an intriguing mix of techno and hard rock, with an intriguingly catchy pop twist, Def FX soon became firm favourites of the live scene. Fronted by Fiona Horne, one of Australia’s most versatile frontwomen, Def FX were hugely succesful in alternative circles until their dissolution in the late ’90s.
The band did get back together a few years back, and their sporadic tours still manage to prove that even close to 30 years since they formed, Fiona Horne and Def FX can still put on one hell of a show.
Ross Knight of Cosmic Psychos
Ross Knight is the quintessential Aussie rock bloke. Irreverent, funny, and with a love for beer that is as legendary as some of his fans, there’s a reason why musicians such as L7, Pearl Jam, and even Nirvana loved the Cosmic Psychos. While Ross Knight at times seems as though he was accidentally made the frontman of the band, it’s his approachable and natural approach to music that makes him so beloved.
His lack of pretence and ability to be one of the most down-to-earth performers make a Cosmic Psychos gig seem less like you’ve paid to see an Aussie rock band, but rather like you’ve gathered to see a bunch of your mates play a rock show. That’s a rare talent, and Ross Knight utilises it effortlessly.