Words by Natalie Blacklock
Australian Rock legend Jimmy Barnes has taken his Shutting Down Our Town Tour on the road for a run of dates across Australian and New Zealand on the back of the release of his 17th studio album, ‘My Criminal Record’ earlier this year. Barnesy is undisputedly the heart and soul of Australian Rock and Roll and has been an icon to many generations of fans and fellow Rock musicians. In recent years, his bestselling memoirs ‘Working Class Boy’ and ‘Working Class Man’, his solo work as well as that of his band Cold Chisel has struck a chord with fans both old and new. Now out on the road again with a catalogue of Aussie Rock hits under his belt, Jimmy Barnes has made his way to Queensland for a run of dates spanning the depth and breadth of the state as presented by Frontier Touring and Triple M.
Hosting the Brisbane leg of the tour is the arguably one of the city’s best venues for live music, Riverstage. Located along the Brisbane River, nestled amongst Queensland Parliament, the City Botanic Gardens and the Queensland University of Technology, Riverstage is an icon along the Brisbane River. The 9,500 capacity outdoor entertainment venue has hosted acclaimed local, national and international acts including Ed Sheeran, Arctic Monkeys, Lorde and hometown heroes Powderfinger and Violent Soho as well as community events, including the annual Lord Mayor’s Christmas Carols. With rolling hills for a more relaxed view and plenty of room to mosh down the front, Riverstage offers the best of both worlds for punters of all ages.
The opening act for the evening is far from the typical ‘opener’. Perth’s Eskimo Joe have been in the game since their formation in 1997. With Kav Temperley on Vocals and Bass Guitar, Stu MacLeod on Guitar and Joel Quartermain, on Guitar and Drums, the 3-piece are no strangers to stages like this. Having played the likes of Big Day Out, Homebake, Falls Festival, Southbound and Splendour In The Grass as well as the odd Breakfast Television appearance just across the other side of the river (coincidentally, the first time I saw Eskimo Joe), they have successfully straddled the line between commercial success and authentic Rock and Roll. Over the years, Eskimo Joe have racked up a long list of impressive accomplishments including ARIA, APRA and WAMi Award wins plus 11 entries into Triple J’s Hottest 100 and have continued to deliver diverse and engaging live shows throughout. This set is a journey through the band’s extensive back catalogue, which includes 6 studio albums and a handful of EPs. Kicking off with Foreign Land, Frontman Kav Temperley exclaims that “it’s dangerous playing a song like this first because you just wanna rock out” and rock out they did. As the sun set across the city skyline, Eskimo Joe blasted through New York, Older Than You and Breaking Up (complete with New York outro), which delivered perfection-level 3-part harmonies from Temperley, MacLeod and Quartermain.
As the sky darkened to nightfall, the rock guitars and stage lighting came to life with Sarah from their 2006 record ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’. Traversing through time and space, the crowd were treated to an ‘OG’ cut from their first record ‘Girl’; the catchy and angsty Wake Up that saw a few fans down the front losing their minds. Bringing it down a notch, Temperley recalls the 2004-2005 tour cycle for ‘A Song Is A City’, which coincided with the atrocities of the London Terrorist Attacks. He spoke of trying to call family and friends to make sure they were safe and the feelings associated with the uncertainty, which poured out onto a piano in Airlie Beach in the form of London Bombs. This definitely stood as one of the more emotional moments of the set, as Quartermain’s searing guitar penetrated the sentiment of this track perfectly. Bringing back the singalong vibe, was clear crowd favourite Black Fingernails, Red Wine, followed up by Guitarist Stu MacLeod asking for the crowd’s help to record a Happy Birthday message for his Gran, who turns 100 next week.
Rounding out the set with Love Is A Drug from 2011 record ‘Ghosts of The Past’ and undoubtedly the song that put Eskimo Joe on the map, the first single from 2004’s ‘A Song Is A City’; From The Sea – the crowd were absolutely there for it and soared through to an extended outro led by session drummer Fraser Cringle. Eskimo Joe have certainly come a long way from their humble beginnings as much-loved rockers from Fremantle, doing quite the job at evoking the emotional nostalgia that only live music can offer – proving that it’s never really too late to dust off the bangers of days gone by.
As the first intermission rolled around, the bars were kept busy as the fans streamed back down the hill, loaded up with an amber liquid or three – anything to keep their singing voices lubricated and their bodies warm on this unpredictable Brisbane night. Next up on the bill were Jet. Formed in 2001, the Melbourne Garage Rockers led by Nic Cester on Vocals / Guitar Cameron Muncey on Guitar, Mark Wilson on Bass and Chris Cester on Drums plus touring Keyboardist Louis Macklin (of ’67 Special) are back in the fold again. With Chris absent due to a serious injury, Shannon Vanerwert is currently filling in on drums for the rest of the tour. Since ending their 5 year hiatus in 2017, Jet have re-emerged supporting Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band as well as embarking on the 15-year anniversary celebration of their breakthrough debut record ‘Get Born’. With a set moving through a smorgasbord of songs from their three albums ‘Get Born’, ‘Shine On’ and ‘Shaka Rock’, all released between 2003 and 2009, the band sprang into action. With the 1-2 punch of Rollover DJand She’s A Genius, the raw swagger of Frontman Nic Cester was on show, front and centre. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is showcased Cester’s pitch-perfect guttural screams and It’s Been So Long allowed Guitarist Cameron Muncey to let loose on the shreds.
The hits kept coming with Seventeen (I can definitely see where bands like Kingswood picked up inspiration!) and Bring It On Back before Nic Cester’s heartfelt dedication of Look What You’ve Done to his brother and Jet Drummer Chris Cester, who is in hospital nursing what is believed to be a shoulder injury. Get What You Need offered a groovy reprieve before the band really turned the heat up with clear crowd favourite and winner of 2003’s Triple J Hottest 100 Are You Gonna Be My Girl? Rounding out their set was a heavy-hitting trilogy of Get Me Outta Here, Cold Hard Bitch and Rip It Up went a hell of a long way to waking up the entire amphitheatre. It goes without saying, even with a regular man down, Jet are still rocking as hard as they were 15 years ago, and are still such a treat to see live.
As the stage was busily kitted out with risers, leads and stands, the anticipation was building and the chatter grew louder as show time quickly approached. The 1970s and 1980s bangers were coming thick and fast through the speakers. Scottish-Australian singer-songwriter Jimmy Barnes has a standout career both as a solo performer and as the lead vocalist of seminal Australian Pub Rock act, Cold Chisel that has made him one of the most popular and best-selling Australian music artists of all time.Over the years, Barnes has released a combination of 14 Australian Top 40 albums for Cold Chisel and 13 charting solo albums, gives him the highest number of hit albums of any Australian artist in history. As the lights went down, deafening cheers rang out across the open-air amphitheatre that is Brisbane’s Riverstage. The smoky haze covering the stage is reminiscent of something from days gone by when smoking in live music venues was the ‘done thing’. However, as Barnes and his 10-piece band emerged from the clouds, it was clear it was just about the theatrics of it all.
Barnes launched straight into Driving Wheels and I’m In A Bad Mood creating a juxtaposition of old and new material straight off the bat. For the tour, he brought along a large entourage with him including an organ and piano player, a bagpiper and of course, the Barnes family, including his wife Jane and three daughters, Mahalia, Eliza and Elly-May on Backing Vocals, his son Jackie on Drums and his son-in-law Benjamin Rodgers on Guitar – this definitely was a family affair. Stolen Car (The Road’s On Fire) and Ride The Night Away saw the crowd go a little crazy early on but Jimmy and the band took it in their stride, playing up to the energy. Barnesy took a moment to greet the crowd, in a raspy voice asking, “How the fuck are ya? Y’all alright?” to which the crowd responded in loud booming cheers. As the first of the Cold Chisel hits emerged from the woodwork in the form of seminal classic Khe Sanh; the crowd were bopping along from the second the piano introduction hit or in my case playing ‘air piano’ on the barrier remembering my High School Music class’s performance at our local shopping centre where we played this very song. Not wanting to peak too early, Jimmy worked the stage like a true professional – even stopping to indulge in a hot beverage from a travel mug every so often (presumably a remedy for the illness, which led to the slated Toowoomba show earlier this week being rescheduled for later in the tour). The title track from his new album, ‘My Criminal Record’ struck a chord with the crowd, as it spoke honestly and frankly of Jimmy’s colourful past.
The extensive setlist again took a step back in time for 1990’s Lay Down Your Guns and 1984’s Boys Cry Out For War, taken from ‘Bodyswerve’ -both of which channelled raw emotion in a big way. Commenting on our collective ability to “Scare away the rain”, Jimmy and the band slowed it down for Too Much Ain’t Enough Love from 1987 record, ‘Freight Train Heart’, with Danny Spencer (formerly of Rogue Traders) taking the opportunity to absolutely own the ‘blues’ on Guitar as Jimmy and his daughter Mahalia executed harmonic co-vocals. In one of the more joyous moments of the set, Jimmy told the story behind Lover Lover, a song about him penned by his wife Jane – which has gone on to be his only solo Number 1 hit. Money and Class was a highlight of the set and a smack in the face all-in-one. The song dropped some heavy truths about Jimmy’s upbringing in Glasgow, his youth in Australia and his family’s struggles with poverty. He spoke of the shame that 60 years on, in suburbs across Brisbane and Sydney that very little has changed and there are still children and young people living in poverty like he did. A cover of John Lennon’s Working Class Hero proved to be magical with Jimmy’s vocal range captivating the audience – young and old alike.
New single, the catchy I Won’t Let You Down that “You might hear on the radio, if they play it”, written by none other than Chris Cheney, Frontman for The Living End but was passed on as it reminded Cheney of the relationship between Jimmy and wife Jane. In one of those magic live moments where artist and audience become one, the stage lighting really turned it on for 1984 Cold Chisel hit Flame Trees – a clear crowd favourite and maybe the biggest singalong of the set. The open-air setting of Riverstage was a stunning and goosebump-inducing accompaniment for a song I only really discovered when it was beautifully covered by Sarah Blasko for Triple J’s Like A Version in 2005. Newer cut Shutting Down Our Town unexpectedly hit hard in the feels. Detailing the story of Elizabeth, South Australia – the home of Australia’s now-defunct Holden Manufacturing Plant was a terrific with Douglas McFarland lending his Scottish charm on the Bagpipes. Mahalia Barnes again shone on backing vocals on I’d Die To Be With You Tonight and No Second Prize heard soaring Guitars from Danny Spencer and Benjamin Rodgers.
The iconic ‘unofficial’ anthem of everyday Australians, 1985’s Working Class Man rounded out set in style as Jimmy delivered an electric performance – lunging forward to deliver the chorus with flamboyant gusto, bouncing on the spot after almost a solid 2-hour performance. Jane Barnes even took the opportunity to take a few sneaky photos of her husband in his element. As Jimmy Barnes and his band left the stage to cheers and applause – the crowd still wanted and it did not take much encouragement for them to scream for it at the top of their lungs anyway! Soon enough, their calls were answered as Jimmy and the band reappear for a cover of Bob Dylan’s Seven Days(who first played it in 1976) followed by the super catchy 1999 track Love and Hate. With just one song to go, there could be no more perfect closer than the mighty Cold Chisel’s Goodbye (Astrid Goodbye), with Jimmy screaming it out as only he can, the crowd losing their minds; hands in the air, clapping and singing along to the song’s crescendo – not wanting what has been a stellar night of Australian music to end.
In typical Riverstage fashion, as the lights come up and the construction staff move in to dismantle the stage and barrier before the crowd even exits the venue, it is clear that this Brisbane crowd had been well and truly ‘Barnesy-stormed’. From start to finish, Barnes and his band delivered a slick and polished performance – a clear marker of seasoned musicians. The ‘Shutting Down Your Town’ set is made of powerful stuff; spanning from Chisel’s first single released in 1978, right through to a brand new album full of tracks that are more than comfortable standing right alongside tried and tested material. In fact, the evening’s entire bill went a long way to prove that Australia has such a vibrant music industry for which time knows no bounds. This kind of scene is a treasure and an asset and we are so lucky that this is the kind of environment that we work, play and party in every single day.
Be sure to catch the iconic Jimmy Barnes on the remaining dates of his Shutting Down Your Town Tour. For dates, locations, and ticket information click HERE.
Sunday 20 October – Home of the Arts | Gold Coast (Lic/AA)
Friday 25 October – Newcastle Entertainment Centre | Newcastle (Lic/AA)
Saturday 26 October – Park Beach Reserve | Coffs Harbour (Lic/AA)
Thursday 31 October – Theatre Royal | Canberra (Lic/AA)
Saturday 2 November – Pola Park | Tullamore (Lic/AA)
Thursday 7 November – Empire Theatre | Toowoomba* (Lic/AA)
Sunday 10 November – Ascot Racecourse | Ascot (Lic/AA)*rescheduled date due to illness