Published on theMusic.com.au, Aug 2016
Pic by Hugh Buttsworth
It’s been 25 years since Aussie pub rock icon Jimmy Barnes released Soul Deep – the first record in an acclaimed four-part series paying homage to the genre’s best – and with his Soul Searchin‘ journey coming to an end with a glorious victory lap around the country, it’s no surprise he was grinning ear-to-ear as he joined a formidable band on stage for opener Hard Working Woman.
The audience had little time to recover from the piercing vocals of the opening line before a tight horns section and soul-influenced guitar and keys lead a blues onslaught with She’s Looking Good, another tune from his June release.
With four albums packed with tributes, there was a lot to get through and a lot that wasn’t going to make the cut (forget about the Chisel classics). “They’ll drag us out screaming later,” Barnsey said — and with his voice, it’s not too hard to imagine such a scene.
His journey through classic soul hits rendered an introspective experience that delivered interesting commentary on why he chose to cover certain songs over the past quarter century; one involving a blurry recollection of Melbourne’s Cherry Bar, where he fell in love with Lee Moses’ Bad Girl, another sneaking into the old Adelaide Apollo Theatre, where Ike & Tina Turner’s River Deep Mountain High changed his life forever.
Bad Girl showcased the strong dynamics of the ten-piece backing band during one of Barnes’ best vocal performances of the night, and although upbeat dance hits like Shake, Rattle & Roll got the crowd moving, and Bo Diddly’s You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover was an impressive freight train of rhythm, it was the stripped-back numbers like The Dark End Of The Street that had the most impact. Those raw moments showed that not only is Barnes a diverse singer, but can still hold a stunning note without his infamous gritty edge.
Though he didn’t pen the lyrics himself, Barnes was able to channel the songs’ emotions with faultless conviction and a charming originality. While his soul journey might be winding down, such a captivating setlist would have set others off on their own expedition. New takes on set closers Hold On I’m Coming, Chain Of Fools and All The Young Dudes left many wanting more.