GEELONG – WEDNESDAY AUGUST 7
The facebook message reads: Is there any specific reason you’re not coming to Geelong? I think it’s quite rude.
Originally I mixed up the dates and couldn’t do this show but it’s a genuine surprise to me that people would care so bless his dear soul for the passive aggressive note. Tonight was another cracker. You know when you’re walking on a footpath and clumsily trip over nothing but pretend it didn’t happen? That didn’t happen tonight. There was a parting of the wild seas of ambiguous stage banter leaving the crowd and your dear correspondent in perfect symmetry*.
*Probably complete bullshit
MELBOURNE – THURSDAY, FRIDAY AND SATURDAY AUGUST 8-10
There is a strange feeling in the air in the moments before I hit the stage on this tour, as if I’ve opened a door and wandered into a private moment between two people. There’s an intangible tenderness between them that regularly breaks out into elation, masking all but a faint smoke trail of tension floating around the theatre. It says something about the deep affection audience members feel for Paul, and the little ditties he’s given them. He keeps giving them. Watching from side of stage you catch the eyes and open-mouthed smiles from each seat and each row directed at him every song and every set. It’s more than a mere performance of pop songs; it’s an activation of sleeper cells buried in people’s memory. For some it’s close to the surface; they’ve seen him recently; for others, it seems like they’re returning home, at last, for one night.
Music reveals a little of its essence when a story or melody abducts the ear, but its power is awe-inspiring when the song becomes synonymous with memory. They say that couples start to look like one another after years together – or more weirdly – owners start to look like their pets over time. Songs start to look and sound like memories, as if stuck like a barnacle on the hull of a ship, so that the song can’t be heard without being transported back to the intoxicating events they’re associated with. Hard to think of a better example than How to Make Gravy despite, I’m guessing, most of us never having actually done time.
And give my love to Angus and to Frank and Dolly
Tell em all I’m sorry I screwed up this time
And look after Rita, I’ll be thinking of her
Early Christmas morning
When I’m standing in line
That song has an added layer of immediacy for me now because it’s the tune they play before Jane and I join them on stage. The notes ring out and signal and end to our conversations or the quick mission from front of house to the side of stage.
Or the reflection felt in the lyrics to Careless:
It strikes me how beautiful it is that someone else’s words can convey something so hard to express. There are some nights on this tour I get swept up in it. During a moment of weakness when I’m missing my lady, and knowing my baby Jetta is at home and I’m holed up in a concrete basement backstage thousands of kms away.
What if we get caught raiding Mr Kelly’s rider dad?
Not tonight though: both these two are with me as we try and manage the long stints – plus combining our love of Melbourne by pretending 5 gigs in 5 days is our first family holiday.
One thing I’ve noticed with city crowds is a finely tuned knowledge of running times – consequently we play to a half empty room each night at Melbourne’s Recital Hall. The bitter, unspeakable pain of an unpleasant opening act proving too ghastly a memory to chance too early an arrival.
Due to the DIY philosophy that’s brought me to this point in my career, I’ve ended up being in the headline slot for years so I find this dance with the scattered few oddly appealing. When you steel yourself to ignore an older lady blocking her ears, it really makes you treasure the cracks that slowly break into smiles on their faces. By the end of our set any awkwardness has subsided and we feel welcome. They’re still his best friend, but I don’t feel like I should leave the room.
I brought my baby JJ along to some of these shows and I have the unfamiliar experience of pacing the back halls putting her to sleep, eventually setting her down under the baby grand piano in our dressing room. This is the Everest of my rock & roll lifestyle to date. Someone barely important, somewhere, is snorting coke off a toilet seat backstage and aspiring to follow me up that mountain.
At the conclusion of the show, as I gently rock Jetta in the hallway, I hear “can I take her?” Paul had quietly walked up beside me, having changed out of his blue suit into black jumper and jeans. She was completely oblivious, arguably disrespectful, as Paul softly sung to her while a cacophony of noise spilled out of his green room. A dozen musician mates, ex-AFL players and numerous family celebrated the shows in a tiny room overlooking a construction site. Sitting down with him as he held Jetta was a beautiful moment I’ll remember and embellish in future years.
BALLARAT – SUNDAY AUGUST 11
Tonight we play in a cinema. We walk all our gear past people lining up for popcorn. Ballarat is one of those great Australian towns that hasn’t let its history slip through its fingertips. If I prick my ears up as we navigate our way down creaking timber staircases I swear I can hear the ghost of an old gold prospector. Tonight was fucking excellent. So nice to get back to a regional show where the house is full within 20 minutes of doors opening.
Tomorrow it’s back home for two shows in both Sydney and Thirroul, plus a date with Canberra.