Jimmy Barnes is still the king of Australian rock’n’roll

Jimmy Barnes is still the king of Australian rock’n’roll

Words by Claire Morley

We went along to Jimmy Barnes’ recent show at Rod Laver Arena and it was a wild time.

Rod Laver Arena was full to the brim, buzzing with anticipation for the biggest show of Jimmy Barnes’s Shutting Down Your Town tour.

The show was a true family affair in more ways than one. In every row of seats, there was a family, parents with their adult kids or little ones experiencing the Australian legend live for the first time. Just as his fans are united by his music, so is his family. On stage, he was joined by his wife and three daughters on backing vocals (his wife also played the tambourine), and his son-in-law on the guitar.

As a rock star ages, it could be expected that they’ll slow down. The intensity of Barnes’s singing must put immeasurable strain on his vocal cords and body, and at 63-years of age, the audience was more than ready to cut him some slack.

Yet from the moment he walked on stage, it was clear he wasn’t in need of any concessions. Opening track ‘Driving Wheels’ was an almighty proclamation that he is still unmatched on Australia’s music landscape, as uniquely raspy and powerful as ever.

His voice really is astounding live. It is exactly as it sounds on record, if anything, it’s more impressive for the fact that there’s clearly no enhancements. As he built to vocal crescendos, I kept waiting for his voice to crack, but it never did.

Though he littered in newer tracks, particularly from 2019’s My Criminal Record, there was an excellent mix of his older material and Cold Chisel classics to keep everyone happy.

‘Flame Trees’ was magnificent – one of the few more mellow moments of the night, stripped back musically, but just as engaging as the high-octane tracks that surrounded it on the setlist. ‘Shutting Down Our Town’ was paired with a bagpiper, adding a Scottish charm to the very Australiana proceedings. Not a person was silent during ‘Khe Sanh’, taking the ultimate pub singalong to a new level.

However, the night did have its imperfections. The setlist reminded me of a Taylor Swift album – just a little bit too long, and inconsistently paced. The encore, to be frank, felt mostly unnecessary. He played not one, but two covers, Bob Dylan’s ‘Seven Days’ and The Easybeats’ ‘Good Times’, but as he finished the show with ‘Goodbye’, it didn’t live up to the pre-encore end. The main setlist ended with ‘Working Class Man’, and this felt like the true end to the show. Perhaps this was to cater to a slightly older crowd, who would duck out pre-encore to evade the rush.

Regardless, the show was infectious. He had the energy of a younger performer, and the polish of a legend.

Highlight: The enthusiasm from an adoring, all-age crowd was endearing.

Lowlight: The encore fell a bit flat.

Crowd favourite: ‘Khe Sahn’.