All the ingredients that have yielded Cold Chisel’s iconic status in Australian music were on display as they rocked the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on Tuesday night, a performance that proved, even into the band’s fifth decade, they remain at the top of their game.
Chisel are the embodiment of the glory days of pub rock in this country and, even when translating their performance to big time arenas, they remain true to that ethos. First and foremost Chisel is a band, and, like all great bands, it is greater than the sum of its parts (admittedly, boasting some pretty awesome parts).
There’s an intangible chemistry up there on stage, affording the show the kind of genuine dynamic energy that many performers will try to fake. And while this bond is evident between all band-members, it manifests most clearly in the way Jimmy Barnes and Ian Moss play off against each other, particularly when Barnesy’s powerhouse voice blends with the silky vocals of Moss. Meanwhile, Charley Drayton (former Divinyls and B-52s drummer) fits seamlessly into the outfit, behind the kit in place of the late Steve Prestwich.
The physical staging of the show gives an indication of how the group prefers to operate. The Entertainment Centre is graced with a generous stage, but there’s no need to use all of it: these guys want to keep it close and tight, again harking back to the pub days. While the drums might normally be positioned in the middle and to and back, Drayton sits off centre, with Don Walker on keyboards sharing that part of the stage. It’s an appropriate set up, reminding how Walker’s brilliant song-writing beats at the heart of this band.
The rest of the ensemble remain in close orbit: Jimmy’s tremendous voice is as strong as ever, the solo work coming from Moss on guitar is outstanding, while the versatile bass stylings of Phil Small become even more evident in live performance. The band is ably complemented throughout the night by a range of support performers: backing vocals, sax and harmonica (the latter from local, Dave Blight, who was inducted into the SA Music Hall of Fame during the sound-check earlier in the day). It all makes for a slick and highly enjoyable show.
Being a home-grown product, Chisel is regarded with special affection by Adelaide audiences and the crowd were decidedly animated, belting out the likes of ‘Choirgirl’ and ‘Flame Trees’ in unison, and erupting with raucous enthusiasm to ‘Khe Sanh’. Likewise, the band all seemed pretty happy to be back in the place where it all began.
The setlist was a case of something old and something new, with the material from recent album The Perfect Crime measuring up very well against the band’s legendary back-catalogue (to the point where it actually would have been good to hear a few more tunes from this first-rate record). The highlight of the show came with a characteristically loose and bluesy rendition of ‘Bow River’ to close out the main set. Phil Jamieson (whose band Grinspoon had provided the support act earlier) also thrilled the crowd by joining Chisel on stage to sing a suitably boisterous version of ‘Cheap Wine’ with Barnes (complete with a cheeky reference to South Aussie wines).
The show was a loud and frenetic celebration of rock, but there were also softer moments; ‘When the War Is Over’ and ‘Forever Now’ (both coming in the encore) showcased the versatility of the band, who are just as capable of subtle beauty in their songwriting as busting out a chaotic belter. Meanwhile, new track ‘Lost’ proved to be an area-worthy ballad to start a second encore.
At a shade over two hours, with two encores and a host of songs that have a unique hold on the Australian music psyche, this was a great night of sing-a-longs and upbeat rock’n’roll; by the time Chisel sang us ‘Goodbye’ we’d all had a fantastic time with our favourite pub band and look forward to their next visit.
Check out our review of The Perfect Crime here.
By Matthew Trainor
Picture courtesy of http://www.coldchisel.com