Jimmy Barnes at Home Of The Arts, Gold Coast, October 20, 2019

Words | Tammy Whitlaw

Header image by Tam Schilling; see the full gallery here.

Christmas has come early for Cold Chisel fans this past week. The announcement of a huge outdoor summer tour in 2020 along with the promise of a brand-new album before the end of the year was enough to fill any fan’s Christmas stocking. All this while still riding the gigantic wave of a Jimmy Barnes solo tour. Tonight, that huge wave rolled into the Gold Coast, finally stopping at the beautiful new outdoor amphitheatre at HOTA.

Riding in with Jimmy on his Shutting Down Your Town tour were two Australian bands that have also found themselves on somewhat of a ‘reunion’ tour. It’s been quite some time since we’ve heard from support acts Thirsty Merc and Jet. Both bands deliver solid sets, anchored by their biggest hits. Rai Thistlethwayte’s voice sounds as clear as it did 15 years ago on In The Summertime, while Nic Cester’s screaming intro to Cold Hard Bitch could just about rival Jimmy’s. The tambourine intro to Are You Gonna Be My Girl? is all it takes to get the crowd up out of their camp chairs and dancing their way towards the stage.

Jimmy Barnes shows have always been a family affair. In fact, his immediate family make up more than 50% of his backing band. Wife Jane, along with daughters Mahalia, EJ and Elly-May provide backing vocals, while son Jackie is perched up high behind the drumkit. Pacing the stage like a prize fighter ready to take on the battle of his life, Jimmy tears into Driving Wheels.

New tracks I’m In A Bad Mood and Stolen Car (The Road’s On Fire) follow, hitting the crowd with full force. Both the band and Jimmy’s voice blast out into the amphitheatre like an out-of-control car. How Jimmy maintains his signature growl throughout the entire set is just mind-boggling, and when he finally stops to take a breath, he welcomes the crowd: “How are you, gang? How the f-ck are ya?”

Earlier this year, Jimmy released his 17th studio album, My Criminal Record. (Read our review of the album here, and our interview with Barnesy here.) Introducing the title track, Jimmy laughs: “If it were really about my criminal record, it would be a much longer album.” The ARIA Award-nominated release features a stirring cover of the John Lennon classic Working Class Hero, which makes a welcome appearance tonight.

Jimmy’s set wasn’t without Cold Chisel classics. Songs like Khe Sanh and Flame Trees have become as much apart of the Australian songbook as Waltzing Matilda and Home Among the Gumtrees. The crowd knows every word, and if they don’t, they just mumble along like they do (much like the second verse of the Australian national anthem).

The only thing more rock’n’roll than the growl of Jimmy Barnes’s voice is the howl of an electric guitar, and Jimmy knows it. Stepping into the shadows, he relinquishes the spotlight to his guitarists many times throughout the set. Ben Rodgers (who also happens to be Jimmy’s son-in-law) is an absolute showman, tearing up the stage as he delivers the howling solo on Boys Cry Out For War.

Outdoor concerts are always a risky undertaking, especially as we approach the wild QLD storm season; clouds above threatened rain since Jimmy first stepped on stage. When the rain eventually came down, fists went up in the air for Working Class Man. The rain did little to dampen the spirits of the crowd – it seems this working class doesn’t stop.

Tonight’s encore is full of special guests. Lisa Hunt, who was once a back-up singer for Jimmy, joins him on stage for a soaring rendition of When Something is Wrong With My Baby (the classic soul hit Jimmy famously recorded with John Farnham, for his 1991 album Soul Deep). The return of Nic Cester is welcomed as the pair combine their powerful voices for The Easybeats’ Good Times, the lyrics so incredibly fitting: “I’m gonna have a good time tonight/ rock and roll music, play all night.”

Judging by some of the spirited (and slightly questionable) dance moves I witnessed in the crowd, a good time was definitely had. After this tour, I think it’s safe to say the Barnes clan have earned their place as the First Family of Australian rock’n’roll. My only question is, with all these reunion tours, when will see a Tin Lids revival? Perhaps when the next generation of Barnes kids are ready to take the stage? I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.