Take a look at my profile on the right hand side.
See where it says ‘I like my Macbook Pro, Paul Kelly and Dr Who’. Well in case you were wondering, the Paul Kelly I refer to is not the former Sydney Swans player nor is it the political journalist.
I am, of course, referring to The Paul Kelly, or PK as he is affectionately known to many of his fans.
Several years ago, he created a new type of show, which ran over four nights, in which he played 100 of his songs, old and new, in alphabetical order, A-Z. Twenty five songs a night, all reworked to suit an acoustic format. You could attend one night, two, three, or all of them.
The concept took off and he found himself doing more of these shows.
He generously made recordings of these tracks available for free from his website, one letter per month, over a two year period. Then the songs became the soundtrack for his memoir, prompted by the stories he told between the songs. The book, How To Make Gravy, is a 576 page epic, accompanied by an eight CD box set of the A-Z songs re-recorded especially to accompany the book. I was lucky enough to get a copy of this wonderful package for my birthday last year.
Then last year PK announced he was going to do another series of the A-Z shows and this time he was coming to Tassie. Yippee!
Well true to form, I was extremely unorganised and didn’t book any tickets. I was trying to decide whether or not to go to. Budgetary constraints would have restricted me to one show anyway, and I was thinking about it, decided not to go, wished I was going, wasn't sure if I should, then Slabs got sick and with a small child at home, thought it would be a bit unfair on him in the end. Add to this logistics of living out of town and it all seemed like too much.
Then last night (night 3 of the series), I thought I'd just look and see if there were any tickets for Night 4 (tonight). I asked Slabs if he was feeling better enough to give me a night off, rang a thoughtful relative to beg for a bed for the night and booked what could possibly be the worst seat in the house. The very back row, on the very edge of the row, with ‘restricted viewing’. That didn’t inspire confidence, but hey I had a ticket and I was going to see my favourite performer.
I was very excited! The very first time I saw Paul Kelly live was back in my student days, when he regularly toured with his band (then known as ‘The Messengers’), at the Tas University Bar. I used to baulk at the cost of the tickets back then, because $16 on a student budget was a fair bit of money in those days.
How things have changed! PK doesn’t play uni bars any more – at least not that I know of. Now he plays in theatres and at A Day on the Green. Tickets are more than $16. He’s older, wiser and has developed into one of Australia’s most iconic singer-songwriters.
And I am still a huge fan.
So to the show . . . it was fantastic! The Theatre Royal is a wonderful venue, a perfect size for a show like this. Even with my ‘restricted viewing’ seat I got a pretty good view of the stage and the action.
|My view from HHH 16|
Onstage was a grand piano and an easel displaying a large letter ‘S’. So that’s where we were going to start.
Here’s a very brief rundown of the set list, intermingled with some comments that I jotted down tonight.
PK came out to massive applause and I have to admit I got a little teary seeing the man in person after so long. Luckily it was dark, so I didn’t have to feel awkward about that . . .
He started with Stories of me, followed by Stupid song. Then his nephew, the wonderful Dan Kelly, emerged to accompany his uncle on the journey we’d just embarked on.
I must add I’m a big fan of Dan too, and must be sure to catch his show next time he’s touring, having missed him last time.
They played Standing on the street of early sorrows, which is a great song and Dan’s guitar was amazing. Then Stolen apples, a newer song, and Stumbling block, which is one of the tracks from PK’s Stormwater Boys bluegrass album. Dan played the ukulele, which PK informed us, he had only just purchased in Hobart, so it was his ‘Hobart ukelele’.
Of course an S set needed Sydney from a 747, which is one of my favourite tracks, and then Dan left the stage.
The next song was Sweet guy, which PK wrote from a woman’s perspective, and he shared a story about writing from different perspectives. He mentioned Hunters and Collectors and their song Say goodbye, and how great it had been at one of their gigs to hear 1200 men singing the line ‘You don’t make me feel like I’m a woman any more’.
Sweet guy is such a moving song.
Taught by experts. Another favourite, this time from the Uncle Bill bluegrass recording.
They thought I was asleep.
Thoughts in the middle of the night. I’m not familiar with this song, but was thinking Dan’s guitar in this had a real Twin Peaks feel about it.
To be good takes a long time. A really catchy little number. One of my favourites of recent years. (OK it’s actually from 2004, so if you consider that recent . . .)
He stops for a moment to tell us about his taxi ride in from the airport. The taxi driver says to PK that he looks familiar and asks if he was on TV. PK replies that yes, he has been on TV. Finally the taxi driver recognises him and says ‘oh you sang that song . . . they got married early . . . that was a good song’. PK acknowledges that yes, that was his song. A few minutes pass by and the taxi driver says, ‘oh you sang that other song, the one about the door. That was a good song too.’
To her door. Perennial crowd favourite.
Coming back into the theatre I decided not to return to my seat and I stood right up the very back. I wasn’t any further back than I had been, but I was in a more central position. It had felt kind of weird to be sitting down watching an artist I’d always stood up to hear in various bar environments. (To recreate this environment as best as I could, I also had a beer in my hand – in a stubby though, not a plastic cup, so it wasn’t quite the same!) I had a clear view down the aisle to the stage and I didn’t miss having to shuffle around in my seat every time the guy in front of me moved.
It was a better view. It was also a more moving experience for me.
It was a joy to watch the old master at his craft (yes, I probably need to be careful with using the term old), and to continue the analogy, his younger apprentice (although that’s a discredit to Dan, since he’s an accomplished artist in his own right) alongside him, enhancing his uncle’s performance and taking the performance to a more polished level than it would have been if it was just the master on his own. (Not that it would have been a bad show if Dan hadn’t been there, not at all.) He enriched the sound, made it feel somehow fuller, if that makes sense. And it struck me that some of the material would have been written, if not before Dan was born, then not that much after, and what a treat was to see these two performers of different generations and with different influences take that material and give it new life in such a cohesive way.
At the same time watching them together was a little bit sad, a reminder of how we all get older (a theme of one of the songs we heard a bit later in the night). While our songs might live forever, we won’t.
But on with the show . . .
|Until death do them part|
One U song. Until death do them part. Apparently PK has been asked to play this at weddings.
We were up to V. PK has no songs starting with V, so he said that the Very Good Dan Kelly is Very Versatile, so he would be doing the next song. What followed would have delighted Juniordwarf completely. Dan told the story of his song Bindi Irwin apocalypse jam – one of Juniordwarf's favourites. Then he taught the crowd the chorus so that we could sing along, and launched into it. I’m not sure how many of the older fans had heard it before – judging by the laughter it seemed to be new to many people there (but maybe I didn’t laugh just because I’ve heard it soooo often!) Nevertheless it was an unexpected treat to hear Dan play it live (and I loved how he changed the lyrics ever so slightly).
When I first met your ma, love like a bird flies away. Another oldie.
Wintercoat. Before he played this song PK recounted how he and Dan had paddled to Bruny Island in kayaks with a mate who had picked them up after last night’s show. They’d seen seals in the river and eaten steak at 3 am on the beach. The perfect way to follow up a show, he said. This has never been one of my favourite songs. In fact it’s one of my lesser liked songs, but tonight it was just fine.
PK has no X songs either. He said he had a few options, but was going to play an x-rated song, the first line of which was ‘I’m gonna fuck her right outta my head’. Everyone laughed. The song’s called Right outta my head.
Finally, after 17 songs, the piano was put into use with You can put your shoes under my bed. Then he was back to one of his guitars (he had many guitar changes over the course of the show) for You can’t take it with you.
Dan returned to the stage for You broke a beautiful thing, which PK had written for Renee Geyer. She originally didn’t want to sing it because she said it sounded like a country song, and she doesn’t sing country. I’m glad PK talked her into it. She does a wonderful version. As does its composer.
Your little sister, in which Dan rocked out.
A song which PK originally wrote for Tex, Don and Charlie. I couldn’t work out which song it was as he was telling the story about how it came about. I was trying to think of more Y songs, but they all escaped me. PK told how Tex, Don and Charlie had wanted a song from him, but not a cast-off, they wanted ‘top shelf’ material, and how he hadn’t heard from them so assumed it wasn’t going to be on their album, then months later found it had made the cut. Then he described the trouble he’d had in getting his version just right. You’re 39, you’re beautiful and you’re mine. Of course it was. A very touching song.
(I didn’t know he’d written it for Tex, Don & Charlie and haven’t heard their version, but will be looking out for it.)
Your loving is on my mind.
Zoe, a track from his Stardust 5 project.
And that was it. S to Z.
I wondered if there would be an encore, because what else is there after Z?
But he didn’t disappoint. We were treated to Young lovers (the audience loved the line about the old man having to sit down to take a piss), You’re so fine and Summer rain (which a lady in the audience had been calling out for).
A second, and final, encore of Would you be my friend solo and then Dan returned, and to my absolute delight, they sang Under the sun.
I love this song! It’s the title track of the first PK album I ever heard (a couple of years after its release, mind you, I was a bit behind the times musically), and that song and the song I see as its companion, Forty miles to Saturday night, take me right back to the end of Year 12, leaving school, leavers parties, summer, fun . . . It was an almost perfect conclusion to the show (40 miles would have been perfect), that took me right back to my earliest memories of this wonderful artist, who has been part of my life for over 20 years.
What more could I ask for?
What a great night. I loved it and I feel on top of the world right now!