Paul Kelly + Courtney Barnett + Kate Miller-Heidke + Marlon Williams: Live gallery and review | Brisbane Riverstage | Saturday 21 December 2019

The Riverstage in Brisbane is a great venue. Take a (small) blanket, set up on the grass and chill. Wherever you are you can see and hear all the action. A thing to remember, which I forgot, no bags over A4 size and only plastic water containers…. But there is the cloakroom so all was fine.

First up was an artist I had not seen before, Marlon Williams. A superb vocalist, I reckon he has a touch of the Elvis about him (yes an awesome voice), and his songs have a pacific island, country, cruise vibe to them. His band was first class, the sound was amazing, and chilling on the grass at the Riverstage, I thought I had just drifted away to one of the Hawaiian Island. Marlon was on early so had a smaller crowd, but he impressed and was received well by the growing crowd.

Kate Miller-Heidke (KMH)

Wow, I have seen KMH a few times before, and her voice is an instrument on its own, a finely tuned instrument at that. The places her voice reached are on another planet.

After one song she made remarks to the internet comments on her, which did provide some laughs – she has been called “The Yodelling Ambulance”, and another compared her sound to be like  “Enya on crystal meth” – which she said was great, as that is the sound she had been aiming for her whole career. Funny lady!

The band was great, and KMH has a top body of work, which the audience loved, she performed superbly, and her band really was together, tight, succinct, and was the perfect foil for KMH’s vocal soundings.

Courtney Barnett

Curt Cobain, I heard her called by a punter. Courtney Barnett’s lackadaisical style, left-handed guitar playing, and off the cuff vocals do conjure similarities with the deceased king of grunge. Courtney was particularly animated at this gig, really rolling her axe, playing leads with the guitar in the air like she just doesn’t care, she had that perfect foil coming from the rhythm section of Dave Mudie on drums and Bones Sloane on bass ruling the songs. These two are so solid, they let Courtney have the freedom to run and roam all over the songs giving her the unique sound that she has.

It was a great performance, and surprisingly, even though the audience were mostly of a more senior vintage, the crowd knew all the words and were singing along, I was digging the vibe. Still, everyone chilled on the blankets, and it was set up for a great final with Paul Kelly up next. Courtney Barnett was great and it was awesome that there were three bands, all of them different styles on before the great Paul Kelly took the stage.

Paul Kelly

The blankets were packed up and one and all are standing once Paul Kelly took the stage. I said to my partner in crime at the gig, ‘how does a guy with such a massive catalogue of great songs actually trim them down into a set of around two hours? Which ones can you leave out?’ Paul Kelly could possibly play for a week and still leave some great songs from the set.

As Kelly said, he bought everyone along, Vika and Linda Bull on stage, and a great collection of top-notch musicians, with members of the supporting bands coming out through the set to combine their unique sounds with Paul Kelly to meld a wholly unique experience. The song ‘I will follow’ had Kate Miller-Heidke sing the part of the ghost in the song, no words just vocal soundings of the ghost, and it was next level if you did not have a reaction to that you were deaf or dead. “Wow” is all I could say at the end of the song.

Paul Kelly performs with such vigour and style, her is a true troubadour, his stories and tunes cover so much, even Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 18’ (Shall I compare Thee to a Summers Day) is cover, but a story told so fine by this man. Kelly is like no other, he played the classics ‘Darling it Hurts’, ‘Dumb Things’, ‘St Kilda to Kings Cross’, ‘To her door’, and Vika Bull was great singing ‘Sweet Guy’. Like I said before, how does he trim this to a two-hour set?

The title of the tour was “Making Gravy” and it is a great Christmas song – The song begins on the date it was that night (21st of December) and has such emotions, and the story does touch the heart, even though I have heard this many times before.

Then the topper, which had a tear in my eye. Paul Kelly calls out Kev Carmody out on stage, as “Kev from Queensland”, and they perform the song they wrote together ‘From Little Things’, with a giant image of Gough Whitlam and Vince Lingiari and the first steps of recognition of land rights for or Indigenous Australian peoples. That was a moment I will remember.

A great gig to finish off 2019, Paul Kelly is an Australian icon, and his music should be taught in schools, even though it is already in Universities.


Images (C) Simone Gorman-Clark

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