Current Issue #488

Will this be Cold Chisel's last stand in Adelaide?

Daniel Boud

Cold Chisel are getting the band back together for one big summertime lap of the continent – with a South Australian homecoming for good measure.

Brace yourself, friends, for the upcoming Glenelg Beach concert in the new year may well be the very last time that Cold Chisel play on the soil – well, sand – of their former hometown. And as the band’s legendary frontman Jimmy Barnes explains, that’s not marketing hype so much as a reflection of human physiology.

“There’s a real probable chance that this is going to be the last tour,” tells The Adelaide Review bluntly. “We only do this every five or six years, and let’s face it: I’m 63 and I’m the youngest in the band. And Cold Chisel don’t want to go out and not give it one thousand per cent, you know? So we wanted to make every event special on this tour, just in case. I mean, there’s nothing better than getting a bunch of mid-to-late sixties men playing in forty degree heat. Nothing says rock’n’roll like that to me!”

And Adelaide gets another hometown bonus with Paul Kelly on the bill “…which is awesome! I don’t think we’ve ever done shows with Paul. We’re all friends, Don [Walker, ’piano] is a good friend of his and I used to hang out when we were younger, but we’ve never got around to playing together. So it’s a really great thing a) for the bill and b) if it is the last tour it’s just good to be playing with all your mates.”

If the band aren’t about to take their health for granted, it’s because they’ve learned the hard way with the shock 2011 death of drummer Steve Prestwich. While his replacement, former Divinyls sticksman (and widower of the late, great Chrissie Amphlett) Charley Drayton is a relatively spry 54, Barnes has had enough close calls with the Reaper to know that it’s important to take the opportunity to do things while everyone’s still around to do them.

Cold Chisel: Don Walker, Phil Small, Jimmy Barnes, Ian Moss and Charley Drayton
Cold Chisel: Don Walker, Phil Small, Jimmy Barnes, Ian Moss and Charley Drayton

The flipside is that organising a Chisel tour is logistically challenging simply because Barnes has been so damn busy over the past four years. His two volume autobiography was an immediate bestseller and spawned a spoken word tour, an album and a film. The was followed by My Criminal Record, one of his finest solo albums yet, and a massive international touring effort which has only just finished. So thankfully he’s taking some time to kick back and rela–

“I’m writing two books, I’ve got an album out at the moment and two albums that I’m waiting to record [a rockabilly project with the Living End’s Chris Cheney and Slim Jim Phantom of the Stray Cats, and an album with the Australian Chamber Orchestra], I’ve just finished a tour of my own and Ian [Moss, guitarist/vocalist] is in the middle of a tour of his own while we’re rehearsing, and it’s just hard to find ways to slot it all in.”

Oh yeah: there’s also the new Cold Chisel album, Blood Moon, which the band somehow managed to write and record in the middle of everything else. But does this mean that it too could be the last?

“I think it could well be. I mean, it’s easier to get us into the studio than to get the whole machine rolling to get us on tour again. With Cold Chisel it takes a hell of a long time to get things going. The physicality of touring takes eight months out of your life, from go to whoa.”

Ironically, perhaps, the album was preceded by Getting The Band Back Together, a song about men of a certain age deciding that now is definitely the time to chase those lost dreams again.

“For me is wasn’t the perfect single, but it was the obvious one,” Barnes says. “For a band that only plays every five or six years, I thought it was a very apt track. And it’s got a great Drayton groove, and it’s got me and Ian both singing lead, and it just seemed like the most obvious single. And it’s a bit tongue in cheek – of course we’re getting the band back together, just to break it up!”

Well, certainly lyrics like “Davo’s polishing an antique Strat that no musician could afford / He’s got himself a Twin and a pork pie hat / He’s got himself a new jazz chord” are among the most laugh-out-loud funny that Walker has written for a Chisel record.

“I’m sure Don has written this about some of his own mates up in Grafton somewhere, who were in bands at uni and the kids have gone so they’ve dusted their guitars off,” Barnes laughs. “I absolutely guarantee, just from the description of the characters, that these are some of Don’s pals.”

In any case, Barnes feels like if Blood Moon is the band’s valedictory statement, it’s an appropriate one. 

“We sound like a band again,” he explains. “I think the last couple of records, as good as they were and as good as the tours were, we were still getting over the loss of Steve and in a way it’s sad that we’ve just got to this point with Charley, and we’re at the end now. But I think this is a really good time to say thanks to everybody and take this home, and still do it while we’re on top of our game.”

4 January

Cold Chisel Blood Moon tour Adelaide

Andrew P Street

Andrew P Street

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Andrew P Street is a freelance writer whose books include The Short And Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign Of Captain Abbott (2015) and The Long And Winding Way To The Top (2017).

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