Paul Kelly's "Life Is Fine" Tour
New and Familiar Songs
This is a review of Paul Kelly's show in Darwin, Australia on the 18th of November 2017, one of the very first on his Life is Fine tour of Australia. Life is Fine is Kelly's 23rd and first ever #1 album. More details about the tour - which was originally sold out and had more shows added - can be found on the Frontier Touring website or at paulkelly.com.au
A veteran musician, many would say that Paul Kelly is to Australia what Bruce Springsteen is to United States of America. Like The Boss' lyrics, Kelly's are laced with lines the common person relates to. His talent for a great line, conjuring powerful imagery and connecting with his audience sets him apart as arguably Australia's best singer song-writer. That's why when Kelly releases a new record and sets out on a tour to promote it, we pack out venues Australia-wide to get as up close and personal as we can with an Australian music icon.
Kelly's brought old mates Vika and Linda Bull out on tour with him, who at times steal this uplifting and well paced show. The gig started with the entire 'Life is Fine' album. The first track 'Rising Moon' sounds like one we've heard before. When the chorus kicks in, we felt like we knew it and could sing along, even though it was the first time we'd laid ears on it.
'Leah: The Sequel' is the wonderful last track on side A of the new album. Kelly explains the collaboration that was required with Roy Orbison's estate to his fascinated audience, just before launching into it. Kelly's knack for story telling - both through his songs but also on stage between songs - makes each night unique and special. Looking around the auditorium, we could see that everyone was deeply engaged and loving the personal touch from Kelly.
Track 10, 'I Smell Trouble', starts with Kelly in a trance on keyboards, the band has disappeared. It's a deliberate shift from the upbeat mood created to this point. Kelly starts by wailing: Trouble, I smell trouble. Trouble, coming on down the line... The song moves relentlessly to its climax: Trouble, that old friend of mine... As silence briefly descends, Kelly looks out fleetingly at his audience. He knows that he's jolted us, so he tells another story about the genesis of the next track, Petrichor (the smell the earth gives off when it rains). Another beauty.
By the time Kelly and his gang have finished the album with the familiar but new 'Life is Fine' (for which the album is named), we're ready for some of his classics. Kelly delivers in spades. Social media in following days has seen many at this concert speak of it as the best they've ever been to. There is no doubting the effect Paul Kelly's classics have on an intelligent Australian audience.
'To Her Door', 'From St Kilda to Kings Cross', 'Look So Fine Feel So Low' all sound as good, if not better than when they were first recorded by the younger man. Kelly's voice hasn't changed much, like say a Bruce Springsteen's, but it seems to draw on a deeper reserve of X factor.
Linda and Vika lift songs to new heights, and Dan Kelly turns every riff into an experience in itself. In fact the younger Kelly clan member is central to the success of this show with his brooding presence and guitar mastery. His restraint on the mic adds to his presence. Those who know his body of work understand his vocal talents, yet they are contributed sparingly.
Walking away fro this show is the way you hope it will be every time. You're buzzing, and eager to share just how brilliant it was with those you came with. Although you've been infused with the great Kelly tracks in the last half of the show, there's a lingering sense of the new album, enough to draw you to the marketing stall to buy it.
This is a tour not to be missed for the Paul Kelly fan. Or any music lover. The craft and the familiarity of Kelly's voice and lyrics create a space for the something special we all hope for when we buy the ticket.
4.7 stars (not to be missed).
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© 2017 Thomas Martin