We all know Jimmy Barnes is the quintessential working class man and he will also be known as the “Working Class Boy” when his autobiography is realised. But after his recent Soul Searchin’ tour culminated in a stellar, sold-out show at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney he should also add “Soul Man” to his list of achievements.

This tour was to promote his latest record, Soul Searchin.’ Some 25 years after the release of his most successful solo record, Soul Deep, Barnes continues to entertain people by thumbing through and selecting choice cuts from an old soul song-book. The 60-year-old former front man of Cold Chisel played an energetic two-part set that saw this soul train rock in at well over the two hour mark.

Barnes was backed by a tight, 10-piece band and this showman made things look so effortless. “Hard Working Woman” had a real funk and groove as Barnes delivered his rough and raw vocals. In “Cry To Me” Barnes had the opportunity to tone down his trademark hollering and instead adopt more of a croon. It was a stunning rendition while a cover of David Bowie’s “All The Young Dudes” proved to be a nice ballad and a respectful doff of the cap to the Thin White Duke.

“Mustang Sally” was the first song to really get the punters up and dancing. This also boasted some perfect backing vocals by Jade McRae, Gary Pinto (CDB) and Mahalia Barnes (the latter had recently given birth and was subbed in to replace Juanita Tippins who had injured herself the previous night.) “Bad Girl” had all of the raw angst of Lee Moses’s original song before Messer Barnes declared that Wilson Pickett was his favourite singer of all time and played a searing “In The Midnight Hour.” This one really saw the horn section come into their element.

The group also worked their way through a series of duets. McRae offered “Reflections” while Pinto had some big shoes to fill when he took John Farnham’s place for “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby.” This was lovely and as soft and sweet as a lullaby, but unfortunately Pinto was often drowned out by Barnsey. This was not the case for Mahalia who seemed to capture the soaring spirit of Tina Turner in “River Deep, Mountain High.” This was heavenly and it was interesting that Messer Barnes said he learnt to sing from Tina Turner after he snuck into her Adelaide show in the seventies and watched her from the front row.

The second set included some more powerful funk and opportunities to get up and dance. Steve Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” was wonderful and bombastic. The main set also came to a rousing end with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” the crazy ‘na na’s of Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances” and the Chess Records classic, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher.” The encore also included some more swaggering soul, especially in “Hold On, I’m Coming.” But it was The Beatles’s “Hey Jude” that closed the night with a gorgeous sing-along and some enthusiastic lighters being waved in the air.

Jimmy Barnes’s Sydney show still managed to pack a punch even though he was playing us some soul songs and some of these could still be considered forgotten gems. Barnes delivered the tracks with a real heartfelt feeling and conviction and he proved himself to be an amazing showman who also shows no signs to slowing down. This Soul-Searchin’ tour saw Barnsey in his element, playing his favourite soul, R & B and blues standards in the company of family, friends and fans. It was a show that reached out and captured your heart, mind and soul and rocked it to its core.

Jimmy Barnes live at the Enmore Theatre Sydney set list:
1. Hard Working Woman
2. She’s Lookin’ Good
3. Cry To Me
4. All The Young Dudes
5. Mustang Sally
6. Bad Girl
7. The Dark End Of The Street
8. The Stealer
9. In The Midnight Hour
10. When Something Is Wrong With My Baby
11. You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover
12. Mercy
13. Lonely For You Baby
14. Shake, Rattle & Roll
15. Keep A-Knockin’ (But You Can’t Come In)
16. My Baby Just Cares For Me
17. That’s Right
18. Hound Dog
19. I Gotcha
20. Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours
21. Reflections
22. Stagger Lee
23. Show Me
24. Rip It Up
25. Money (That’s What I Want)
26. What Becomes Of The Broken-hearted
27. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
28. River Deep, Mountain High
29. (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher
30. Many Rivers To Cross
31. Chain Of Fools
32. Hold On, I’m Comin’
33. Hey Jude

Originally published on 29 August 2016 at the following website:

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Eric Burdon always had a voice that made him sound like a weathered old bluesman, and now his body has finally caught up. The lead singer of The Animals recently celebrated his 75th birthday, and this Enmore show proved that although older and wiser, he can still effect pure nonchalance.

The Kevin Borich Express opened with ‘21st Century’, a rocking piece of raw power that had something in common with Jimi Hendrix’s work. Kevin Borich demonstrated some amazing guitar skills as he teased and conjured up great blues licks for songs like ‘Snowball King’. ‘Fight On’ was a thoughtful look at cancer, while ‘Gonna See My Baby Tonight’ served as a sweet lullaby to end a sharp and entertaining set.

When Eric Burdon performs he is basically saying, “For better or worse, you take me as I am.” He wore sunglasses for the whole concert as well as a crazy, psychedelic shirt that was so loud it made crowd members blush. He would often resort to reading his lyrics off a screen, and when he wasn’t doing that, he pottered around the stage and offered quips about fantastic Aussie seafood, or at other points ignored the audience completely in order to chat with an offsider. The guy is the epitome of devil-may-care cool.

‘Spill The Wine’ had a real, funky groove as Burdon’s young six-piece band (another incarnation of The Animals) played a tight track that was true to the original. Burdon still has a great, gravelly voice and scratchy vocals that show only limited signs of aging.

‘When I Was Young’ was reinvented as a mid-paced ballad that bled straight into ‘Inside Looking Out’. Burdon and band also performed a number of cover songs; some of these hauntingly good, like Lead Belly’s ‘In The Pines’ (made famous by Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged In New York), while others did not work at all (see David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, on which the lyrics were still fluffed and Burdon couldn’t hold a candle to Ziggy).

The Animals’ biggest hits were the real highlights of the night. ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ and ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’ sent shivers down the spine of everyone in attendance. The evening concluded with ‘It’s My Life’, and never before had the lyrics seemed so apt – for better or worse, Eric Burdon is Eric Burdon, and he ain’t changing.


Originally published on 19 May 2016 at the following website:

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mick fleetwood fleetwood mac


Mick Fleetwood is practically an honorary Aussie, having toured here last October with the Mac and now back to boogie-woogie with his blues band. The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band’s Sydney show enabled an older crowd (some seated on pinched stools from the bar) to don its best glad rags and listen to songs typically found on old dusty 45s.

The support act was guitar virtuoso, Victor Martinez. He enthralled the crowd with a short, sharp set that mixed together finger-plucking, strumming and beat-boxing techniques on his acoustic guitar. Martinez managed to coax more varied sounds out of one instrument than an entire band. His visceral version of ‘El Cóndor Pasa’ paid tribute to his South American heritage while other moments saw his fingers dancing along in a blur. It was mesmerising.

Fleetwood is a true English gentleman who just wants everyone to have a good time. ‘My Baby’s Hot’ set the tone for an evening of blues tunes about babes and Cadillacs, while the ‘Fleetwood Boogie’ was the first of many songs to pay tribute to the Peter Green era of the Mac. The group pulled out some tight sounds as the famous drummer loosely kept time up the back while Rick Vito led the proceedings with his raw vocals and guitar.

Their version of ‘Eyesight To The Blind’ was an unexpected piano ditty that differed to the original as well as The Who’s rock version on Tommy. It was a boisterous little cover that sat well alongside the sultry riffs of ‘Black Magic Woman’ and the wistful ‘Love That Burns’.

Later, Fleetwood’s fans were treated to an extended drum solo from the man himself. It was indulgent, but in the best possible way, and would have made a good segue into ‘Tusk’. But instead the band settled on ‘Oh Well’, with special guest Jimmy Barnes singing along to this and red-hot versions of ‘Little Red Rooster’ and ‘Shake Your Money Maker’. As to be expected, Barnes injected some extra fun and charisma into the second half of an already fine blues show.

The night closed with the brooding, instrumental lullaby of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’. Fleetwood and co. had covered great terrain over their two-hour set, exuding much of the crunch, swagger and pop of many of the downtrodden bluesmen who’ve influenced their work. In all, it was one loving homage to the past.


Originally published on 29 March 2016 at the following website:

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Albert Hammond, Jr. arrived for his debut solo headline tour in Australia, despite it being a decade since his first record was released. The Strokes guitarist had a fair swag of material to draw on – with three albums and an EP to boot – and his band played a tight set to a largely lethargic crowd, with a sound eerily reminiscent of the group that made him famous.

The support slot was filled by young Fremantle quartet Gunns, who sound like they should be wearing paisley shirts and mop tops. The group performed a series of pretty, psychedelia-tinged tunes with an added rock punch. ‘Death Of The Sun’ and ‘Who’s Gonna Be Your Dog’ from their new EP were aired during a promising set, in addition to ‘Live By The Sea’.

Albert Hammond, Jr.’s set gave his Australian fans the chance to see the guitarist step out of The Strokes’ shadow and play frontman. The songs sound a lot like The Strokes, and Hammond has a nice voice, but he is no Julian Casablancas. Some of the songs had a great idea, tone or riff, but there were other moments where the tracks sounded far too repetitive and familiar.

‘Everyone Gets A Star’ was a fun and exuberant way to start and ‘Rude Customer’ was a slice of dance-worthy rock that could have been a Franz Ferdinand cut. Hammond’s newer material certainly has a more mature and wistful air, and that was particularly evident in ‘Losing Touch’ and ‘Side Boob’. They were performed well, but the crowd was rather sedate, which could have been chalked up to the evening’s stifling heat or because some punters wanted Strokes songs (there were none).

The set was instead filled with upbeat tunes from his AHJ EP as well as some material from his debut album. ‘Blue Skies’ proved a nice diversion from the more energetic pacing elsewhere, a slower and stripped-back piece of balladry, before the night closed with ‘Holiday’. It had been a show that often hinted at a retro sentiment packaged up in a jaunty, contemporary feeling, and while it had been fun to party with Hammond, some punters were left hungry for a Strokes show.

Originally published on 22 February 2016 at the following website:

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Cold Chisel’s latest run of Sydney shows doubled as their latest ‘last stand’, having famously played farewell concerts in 1983 bearing this moniker. Here in 2015, the same passion, power and fury was present, as the band bid goodbye to the soon-to-be-demolished Ent Cent (everyone always preferred that name) before it’s gone.

Grinspoon took a break from their hiatus to appear in a pleasant but predictable support slot. They blazed through most of their well-known songs (the notable exception being ‘DC×3’) and finished with the INXS cover, ‘Don’t Change’. It had been a short and fine rock show, even though it was obvious the crowd wanted to embrace its inner bogan.

Cold Chisel frontman Jimmy Barnes was in excellent singing voice, belting out ‘Standing On The Outside’, and things only grew exponentially from there. Ian Moss’ guitar playing was a real treat, both melodic and off-the-scales. ‘Barnesy’ and ‘Mossy’ were a veritable powerhouse along with the fabulous pianist Don Walker and the tight rhythm section, Phil Small and newcomer Charley Drayton. Together, they gave a metaphorical ‘fuck you’ to any naysayers that tried to dismiss them as old rockers.

Chisel’s shows are an eclectic mix where you can coast along for the subtle ‘Choirgirl’, then enjoy the funk factor on ‘Rising Sun’ thanks to long-time touring saxophonist Andy Bickers. ‘Cheap Wine’ had everyone singing along and hiding the fact they could relate to the ‘rocket fuels’ in the lyrics.

The longer second half of the show was virtually all killer and no filler. There was our unofficial national anthem ‘Khe Sanh’ and ‘Flame Trees’, a virtual hymn that’s known to make hardened men cry. It was a feast of nostalgia with a setlist inspired by the 1983 shows and a desire to tear down the venue with music. Chisel also threw in some covers: ‘Georgia On My Mind’ (made famous by Ray Charles), Chip Taylor’s ‘Wild Thing’ and Roy Hamilton’s ‘Don’t Let Go’.

It was fitting, as always, to finish with ‘Goodbye (Astrid Goodbye)’. It had been both a stunning farewell and a jubilant return to a venue that became synonymous long ago with the Chisel name.

Originally published on 17 December 2015 at the following website:

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You wouldn’t let your daughter date a Rolling Stone, but chances are you’d let your mum spend a night with Neil Diamond. The 74-year-old played an epic 25-song set at Allphones Arena with songs spanning decades of hits (including many cuts from his Hot August Night double album) as well as some new tracks. It was no mean feat for a man who first toured Australia back in 1976.

This was an evening all about good old-fashioned manners, from the announcer welcoming patrons to the actual star himself. Diamond was a gracious artist, frequently walking across the length of the stage to make sure every single person in the room got a chance to be sung to or connected with.

The show began with a Diamond-penned track made famous by The Monkees and the Shrek film, ‘I’m A Believer’. This big band version was filled to the brim with horns and some old razzle-dazzle. Another song made famous by a different group (UB40) was Diamond’s ‘Red Red Wine’, which had just the right amount of pop and reggae thrown in.

The star was backed by a tight, 13-piece band of musicians who were adept at playing lots of different instruments. This helped create different moods and flourishes, from the cool pop groove of ‘Crunchy Granola Suite’ all the way to some softer wistful ballads like ‘Love On The Rocks’.

A long and sprawling interpretation of ‘Cherry, Cherry’ still boasted that great acoustic guitar hook and allowed Diamond to step back and introduce his entire band. But the biggest song of the night was undoubtedly ‘Sweet Caroline’, during which a huge sing-along in the grey-haired crowd ensued, as well as a hilarious moment when three older women held up huge, Bridget Jones-like knickers. Enough said.

There were moments of pure sentiment and home movies (‘Brooklyn Road’) through to swaying pop songs, all from a man just happy playing his plain old daggy self. Diamond can still smoothly croon away like a youngster, but he also has the worldly wisdom of a gentleman who has learned a thing or two about the art of love.

Originally published on 10 November 2015 at the following website:

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The Just for Laughs stand-up series does what it says on the tin. It’s a show that features local comedians doing stand-up routines and is also part of the Just for Laughs Sydney Comedy Festival. It’s also a mini comedy gala hosted by Dave Thornton and included some billed and some surprise guests. It proved to be a fun little evening, which definitely had its moments.

Dave Thornton has hosted the show before and once again did an excellent job of warming the crowd up and acting as the glue between the acts. He was funny when he talked about how crazy the signs on toilet doors have become (the simple male/female universal signage has been replaced by top hats and feather boas and in the stupidest example in a hipster café, a rake and a shovel). He was self-deprecating as he described his not being useful in an apocalypse and at the same time, talked up tradies. He had a very funny story involving a laid-back plumber who made a cool $200 in 10 minutes.

Dirty Laundry Live’s Lawrence Mooney spent a good part of his set impersonating Malcolm Turnbull and getting upset about missing Tony Abbott. It wasn’t bad but he did spent a little too long on some unfocused political material. Mel Buttle (The Great Australian Bake Off) went into a bit too much detail about her pelvic ultrasound and her fear of snakes. Her set could have done with an edit or two.

Steen Raskopoulos should be commended for taking an ambitious approach to his set. He reviewed Frozen (haven’t we moved on yet?) while dressed like a priest. He also ran a very funny freestyle rap competition. Raskopoulos’ set probably works better on TV as a series of sketches. In the context of a live environment and specifically a comedy gala it had its moments but you also got the sense that this wasn’t achieving all that it could have done.

The two best comedians of the evening were undoubtedly Wil Anderson (Gruen) and Celia Pacquola (Utopia). The Gruenhost’s delivery was very tight and polished as he told us about his osteoarthritis. It’s a horrible-sounding condition affecting 50% of people over 70. It’s also one that isn’t helped by health professionals who doll out advice like keep a pair of barbeque tongs handy in case you need to pick stuff up. Pacquola on the other hand was very funny whilst describing modern dating and being a single girl who went to a cat café. Her funniest joke was when she was defining that anxious feeling you get when your flatmate jumps into bed with you, until you realise you live alone!

The Stand-up Series offered up lots of local comedians doing their best routines. The night was a bit hit and miss with some comedians offering up hilarious, A+ material while others could have done with an edit or a slightly different platform to work with. In all, this was a fun, little comedy night celebrating home-grown talent in an iconic, Aussie venue.

Originally published on 26 October 2015 at the following website:

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The Just For Laughs Sydney comedy festival turned five this year, and to celebrate it held two all-star comedy galas at the iconic Sydney Opera House. The lineup of seven comedians included top-notch international and local talent giving us all about ten to 15 minutes of their funniest, A-plus material.

Celia Pacquola opened the night, making some great points about Tiger Airways (why would you name an airline after an animal that doesn’t fly and kills people?) as well as modern dating, rings and wristies. It was a cheeky set, almost the opposite of Danny Bhoy’s material, as he made some funny swipes at politics, religion and celebrity.

Dave Hughes and Tommy Tiernan did more personal material about their families. Hughes played the part of the loveable Aussie bogan well, as he described travelling with three young kids in his own unique style. Tiernan, however, was the flattest comedian of the night.

Wil Anderson was a polished performer, with some hilarious material about his osteoarthritis and meeting a crazy survivalist in Alaska. Stephen K Amos was also very well prepared, offering up a thoughtful spot on racism and homophobia, and he even brought in his own bag of Allen’s chicos to really bring the message home.

One of the zaniest performances of the evening was The Pub Landlord, AKA Al Murray. He sloshed beer around the Opera House stage and made some great exchanges with the audience. It was a flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-style slot, but it really seemed to suit the gala format and was a good little interlude.

The short and sharp sets from these seven talented comedians left many people wanting more, as they’d each done a stellar job of taking us on a ride and making us laugh.

Originally published on 27 October 2015 at the following website:

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On album number five, Sarah Blasko shimmies and struts to the language of love. Her recent show at the Sydney Opera House for Graphic Festival saw the world premiere and official preview of her latest offering. It was worlds apart from her previous concert at this iconic venue where she was backed by the Sydney International Orchestra. This time around it was about taut, indie pop tunes and celebrating a crazy little thing called love.

The evening started with track one from Eternal Return, “I Am Ready”. One thing that was immediately apparent was that this record is a synth-laden offering that was no doubt influenced by its producer, Burke Reid, formerly of the band Gerling. Sarah Blasko was also a little nervous about presenting it because it is so different. She was dressed in head-to-toe black and backed by no less than three musicians on keys (David Hunt, Neal Sutherland and Sarah Belkner) as well as Donny Benet and Laurence Pike (PVT) on bass and drums, respectively. The music shared more in common with the likes of St. Vincent and Bjork than her previous pop songs and ballads.

Sarah Blasko was funny and self-deprecating between tracks. She also showed a real assertiveness during “I Wanna Be Your Man”, but the clear highlight of the new material was “I’d Be Lost”. The song was absolutely beautiful, with some New Order-like keys (think of “Elegia”) and Blasko’s vocals that straddled the line between soaring and lilting. It was such a raw, strong and impassioned plea and it’s one you can definitely see doing well from this album.

“Beyond” was a sprawling and atmospheric tune, while “Luxurious” was dark and broody and similar to her older material. Some of the songs had a tendency of blending into one another in terms of texture and tone, but it will be interesting to hear these mixed in and integrated with Blasko’s amazing back catalogue at other shows in the future. The new album definitely appears to have its fair share of incredible moments but it is a very strong stylistic change for Blasko so it’s hard to know how her fans will react.

The main set finished with the record’s final track, “Without”. This also saw the end of artist Mike Daly’s visuals, which had been full of lots of metaphors and symbolism throughout the evening. They really supported the new material brilliantly. But it was clear that the audience still held a candle for Blasko’s older material. An encore featuring the quiet, “Here” from I Awake, as well as that record’s title track were brilliant. These older songs provided a better springboard for Blasko’s amazing voice while her new material seemed to support her cute, Deborah Harry-inspired dance moves a lot more. The audience were also treated to a magical, “All I Want” and the fifties-inspired, nostalgic pop sounds of “We Won’t Run”.

The Graphic Festival was ultimately a place where Sarah Blasko made a welcome return to the stage after a busy year making records, taking part in different collaborations and becoming a mum. Blasko’s voice remains as beguiling and wonderful as ever and her songs are still very relatable and complex, even though this time around the prevailing theme is lightness and love (leaving behind the darkness of some of her previous work). Sarah Blasko is a fabulous performer and songwriter and it was a real joy to preview her new album and share in a little slice of heaven with her.

Originally published on 12 October 2015 at the following website:

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Johnny Marr: 'We invented indie as we still know it.'


Should Johnny Marr be re-named ‘Johnny Young’? That was the question at Marr’s Enmore show in Sydney on Monday night. And it wasn’t because he resembled the former host of Young Talent Time but because the former Smiths guitarist oozed energy and charisma. This was definitely a case of a charming man looking half his age but playing with the virtuosity of a hardened axeman over double his age.

The support for the evening came courtesy of a young, local quartet known as Flyying Colours. The music was very layered and textual, like running your hands over some shag pile. At times this reminded people of Ride while at other moments they referenced sixties pop, garage music and Nirvana. “Bugs” – from their eponymous, debut EP – had a very dreamy quality and proved a pleasant ending to their short set.

But there could only be one man of the hour and his name was Messer Johnny Marr. The former guitarist of The Smiths who has also played with The Cribs and Modest Mouse but these days plays solo save for a tight backing band put on an excellent show. The inevitable comparisons between Marr and his former Smiths bandmate, Morrissey were unavoidable but Marr is so down-to-earth, friendly and sweet. He’s a true, English gentleman to Morrissey’s uptight, prima donna diva.

The show started with some crazy, computer game-like sounds that marked “Playland”, as the audience was launched “Again and Again” into Marr’s rock ‘n’roll fantasy camp. This was followed by an excellent cover of The Smiths’ “Panic” before the band started alternating between songs from Marr’s solo records, The Messenger and Playland. In “Easy Money”, Marr took a page out of Franz Ferdinand’s book by offering us some very danceable guitars that were also catchy. “New Town Velocity” seemed a curious choice given our close proximity to Newtown and was the antithesis of the former and was instead, a broody rock song.

During “The Headmaster Ritual” by The Smiths, the audience were enchanted by a heady mix of scatter-gun guitars and melodic guitar riffs. It was a very similar feeling that Marr also conjured up in “Generate! Generate” in all its wordsmith-like glory. “Bigmouth Strikes Again” was another favourite for the crowd, as was “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”. But for this writer, it was Marr’s take on Electronic’s “Getting Away With It” that was sheer bliss. This self-described “Disco song from Manchester” was excellent and while Marr’s voice didn’t resemble his bandmate, Bernard Sumner’s, he definitely got into the spirit of it all.

Johnny Marr was the quintessential English gentleman at his Enmore show and his encore featured not one but two Smiths classics, “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” and the remarkable “How Soon Is Now?”. Marr’s solo numbers are strong and they were performed well but there was no denying that the audience loved the slices of nostalgia that came from hearing The Smiths’ covers live. In all, this was an exceptional show from a good man and a wonderful guitarist. He promised he’d be back next year, but not before he had proven to be this charming man and artist.

Originally published on 23 July 2015 at the following website:

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