Jimmy Barnes – Live @ Spark Arena, Auckland 2018
Taking my seat amongst a crowd full of Cold Chisel and Jimmy Barnes fans including Neil Finn and Jane, Jimmy’s wife I knew this is bound to be an experience like none other.
WORDS BY KIMBERLY JONES – PHOTOS BY BRAD HOLLAND
Music begins and the crowd starts to amp up to songs like Out Of Time by the Rolling Stones in anticipation for the legend himself to appear. The stage is set up with the band to the left-hand side consisting of piano, electric guitar, double bass and, none other than Jackie, Jimmy’s son on drums. To the right, a small set up made to look like an old dressing room with bottles of alcohol everywhere and a mirror surrounded by lights. Front and centre is a large screen where Jimmy will share all his memories and photos for the audience to see.
The opening video on the screen shows Jimmy screaming at the top of his voice which he promptly explains he does to warm up for each performance. Jimmy begins the evening with a short recap of the Working Class Boy Tour and says we will start where that finished.
In 1973 Jimmy started with Cold Chisel and remembers being told they would only last a month at best. He explains this tour is the title of his second book and will share how he flirted with death and how he met the love of his life, Jane.
”This is the journey of my life”
Explaining how Cold Chisel began in the back of a bread van as a covers band, Jimmy speaks fondly of his bandmates and goes through introducing each member of Cold Chisel with a small story for each to indicate their personality with the band playing in the background and slideshow of photos on display leads into the first song, Happy Together.
Jimmy continues with a tale from Armidale NSW of how his dog ate some weed and how when the band came home they found the poor thing lying behind the door just chilling. Jimmy said he did the only thing he could, picked the dog up and gently laid him on the couch and turned on some Pink Floyd. This was met with raucous laughter from the crowd.
The story evolves as Jimmy shares when bandmate Don Walker proposed they throw out the covers and start with songs he had written. These originals caused the limited fans they had at that point to empty the place within 20 minutes. Jimmy leads into his next song, Northbound Train advising this original actually made a record where they opted to throw the rest aside.
In black jeans and shirt with a grin, Jimmy tells how his ’family’ grew when Alan and Billy joined the band as stage and lighting help. Alan was the size of a fridge, he loved to chase chic’s and he had a bike. That’s why they got on so well Jimmy noted. Don knew the band needed to get their name out and needed to find someone ”stupid enough” to tag it around town.
Jimmy said he and Alan assumed Don meant them as they were the only ones in the room. We hear how Alan and Jimmy make their way to various walls throughout town putting Cold Chisel in 3-foot letters including in police station wall. On their way back we 2.30am, on the busiest block of road Jimmy spotted a brand new, shiny, silver metal corrugated fence which was the final canvas for the night. Next morning, Jimmy woke startled to screaming from their deck. Someone had tagged ”Frank” on their truck. Turns out the corrugated fence owner was a fan of Cold Chisel and knew where the band lived.
Moving onto Melbourne where they met their manager Rod at a squat party Don went to. Rod would then get the band into rehearsal where Khe Sanh (Last train out of Sydney) was written in 1973, however, this did not hit charts until 2011.
Offensive lyrics kept mainstream productions from backing Cold Chisel in the early days but they soon came to regret that decision when the band appeared on a live broadcast of Countdown where they changed song lyrics and smashed the set with their guitars.
Jimmy told of the different influences each band member had and how the diversity is what’s kept them going for over 50 years. Jimmy likes his music loud and hard he explained, but when he would turn his back on the band during a gig they would swap to a reggae best. This was demonstrated on stage to much delight of the crowd last night.
We heard how the East album changed everything for Jimmy. It was at this time he met his Jane as he often referred to her. He shared that at a party they were both at Jane told him she sang, picked up an acoustic guitar and sang Puff the Magic Dragon to him. They had their ups and downs and on the day they got married Jimmy says he looked like he was in court.
After the intermission, Jimmy goes on to tell us how he slowly started losing his friends, whether it was to accidents, natural causes or suicide, the people he cared about were all dying. He went into great depth about his own failed attempt at suicide and you would have heard a pin drop as the audience didn’t move a muscle.
Story after story, Jimmy bears his life to us all. The crowd was very receptive and also very vocal with the occasional heckle to sing a song A song was slotted into the storytelling to reinforce what had been told with Wild Thing and Working Class Man getting the crowd finally moving. I think quite a fair few last night did not realise quite how the show would be portrayed and how many stories there were to tell.
Jimmy told everyone he has a ”voice like a Mack Truck- it takes a while to get started but once it starts up you can’t fucken stop it”. Last night that was very true. He still has it after all he has been through and commands the stage like a pro. Jimmy advocates for seeking help and knowing you are not alone. He says the most courageous thing he has ever done was to ask for help. I feel Jimmy is trying to break the stereotype of addiction, abuse, depression and suicide. I don’t want to get political about it but here is a man that is breaking the mould, taking a stand and wanting to be heard. This was a show that not only mad me boogie in my seat but also made me think. A show like no other by a legend who has walked the line.