Published on theMusic.com.au, Nov 2017
Pic by Linda Dunjey
It may have been a sell out crowd, but Aussie icon Paul Kelly‘s presence (five minutes early and by himself) was accompanied by a sense of intimacy; a feeling amplified by the revealing lyrics of opener Life Is Fine. The title track off his latest LP made it quite clear his creative well is nowhere near dry.
By contrast, its follower, Rising Moon, ushered in an upbeat, full-band affair that cast a wave of energy over the audience, driven by big harmonies from Vika and Linda Bull.
Finally Something Good rounded out an opening trio of new songs, but fans were quickly rewarded by “late 20th century” hit Before Too Long.
His trademark Australian folk essence came in thick and fast with Ned Kelly ballad Our Sunshine; a humorous way to introduce his nephew Dan on guitar, who drove the tune with a catchy and theatrical twang to a steady kick from Peter Luscombe and rolling bass from Bill McDonald.
Having provided vocals for the studio recording earlier in the year, Vika took lead for My Man’s Got A Cold, which saw another drastic change of pace into heavy blues territory. Comparing the setlist so far with one of Kelly’s last stints in WA – performing funeral songs in a cathedral – it’s not a stretch to call him the country’s most prolific and eclectic songwriter.
2017’s Letter In The Rain proved that while a lot of acts from a similar vintage might be going through the motions when it comes to new material, Kelly’s still producing fresh and original content that stands strong on its own; the aforementioned single still giving the occasional nod to his roots.
Residents nearby would have heard the powerful, collective chant of From Little Things Big Things Grow, To Her Doorand Deeper Water and while a wealth of talented musicians amplified the iconic songs to a new level, it was during the stripped back Sonnet 18, when Kelly’s voice was hanging on nothing more than a few quiet guitar notes, that the evening was truly taken to a magical place, only anchored in reality by the faint crushing of VB cans on the grassy hills and drunk conversations scattered around the venue – would you expect any less at a such an Aussie affair?
Before we knew it, like a whirlwind reunion with an old friend, the evening was over; the Australia legend leaving his fans satisfied but also wanting more as the verses and choruses of How To Make Gravy, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ Handle Me With Care (feat supports Middle Kids and Steve Earle), Look So Fine Feel So Low, Bradman and Leaps And Bound faded into the night.