LIVE REVIEW: Paul Kelly – Riverstage

‘How To Make Gravy’ isn’t your normal Christmas song, and maybe that’s why Australians have embraced it so much. The fictional but sweeping story of a man named Joe writing to his family from prison apologising for his actions and regretting that he’s missing the Christmas festivities with his loved ones is a touching and evoking story for people who miss out on the special day. It’s a song that has seen December 21st (the day the fictional character wrote the letter) been dubbed as Gravy Day as well as the song being inducted as Australia’s unofficial Christmas anthem. Last year Paul Kelly celebrated the song with an exclusive festive show on the forecourt of The Sydney Opera House to 12,000 lucky fans. But this year he’s decided to take it on the road for 3 exclusive outdoor sold out shows. Turning this celebration into a festival he invited some of Australia’s most exciting homegrown artists to create something a little unique. 

Wrapping up the east-coast run of dates in Brisbane on the holy day which is December 21st, this show was always going to be a little special. As the excited sold out crowd draped the hill of The Riverstage with picnic blankets it was obvious that the ridiculous humidity didn’t deter anyone away. Walking onto the stage with a whole lot of guitar driven energy, Alex Lahey powered through a set which proved why she’s been one of the busiest touring musicians this year. Kicking off with ‘I Love You Like A Brother’, ‘Awkward Exchange’ and ‘Perth Traumatic Stress Disorder’ it became apparent that a lot of people in the audience were well acquainted with her quirky alt-rock. Her songwriting is so different and honest and that’s why she has successfully and extensively toured the world with her debut record. She didn’t waste any time between songs as she dived back into her first EP with the singalong favourites ‘Let’s Go Out’, ‘Ivy League’ and ‘You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me’. Thanking the crowd for coming out early, she confessed that she always loved playing in Brisbane because she’s such a fan of the Queensland Memes page on Instagram. Highlighting the growth of her songwriting on her debut album with ‘Backpack’ and ‘Lotto In Reverse’ she closed her set with the massive singalong’s ‘Every Day’s The Weekend’ and ‘I Haven’t Been Taking Care Of Myself. 2018 really has been a massive year for the Melbourne singer-songwriter but 2019 will see her continuing her angsty and powerful live shows with the release of her sophomore record which I’m sure will have more high energy and honest moments. 

Switching up the pace, Australia’s favourite brother and sister duo Angus & Julia Stone brought the relaxed and dreamy vibes as the sun set over The Riverstage. Opening with the magical “la, la, la’s” of ‘Snow’ they instantly transported the crowd to this dreamy state of mind. A softly spoken Julia thanked the crowd for coming along to celebrate their last show of 2018 with them and promised a mix of old and new favourites and they didn’t disappoint. Drifting between the singalong chorus of ‘Oakwood’, the soft stylings of ‘Wherever You Are’ and the funky delivery of ‘Private Lawns’ they had the audience captivated. Surprising the crowd with fan favourite ‘Santa Monica Dream’ which has become a rare inclusion in their setlist, this show seemed quite special. As they crept closer to the end of their set, ‘Grizzly Bear’ and ‘Big Jet Plane’ were received well from the crowd before Angus performed his original track ‘Uptown Folks’ from his side project Dope Lemon. Wrapping up their set and 2018 with ‘Chateau’ they thanked the crowd again for sharing this final show with them and what they described as a very special year. It was a very sweet and reflective performance that had you swaying along to their harmonies and singing along to their pop-folk infused hooks. 

Whilst the festival setting made for a memorable night, the crowd were all eagerly awaiting for one man and one man only. Paul Kelly has become an Australian icon because of his unique and vivid storytelling that transports through the realms of folk, rock and pop influences. His show marked a celebration of his long and impressive career that has just been added wth a new album. But this tour was treated like a greatest hits experience and saw him kick off the show with ‘And Death Shall Have No Dominion’, ‘Rising Moon’, Before Too Long’ and ‘Careless’. With the sell out nature of the show I was a little disappointed that he didn’t really have any production nor even a backdrop to visually enhance the massive venue. But he did have giant inflatables scattered across the Riverstage of gravy and tomato sauce bottles which added a personal touch. But it would’ve been nice to see that flare reflected on the stage too. However it meant that the crowds full attention was on Paul and his incredibly talented live band the whole time, which is what they deserved. ‘A Bastard Like Me’, ‘Song From The Sixteenth Floor’, ‘With Animals’ and ‘Firewood And Candles’ followed before he was joined on stage by special guest Kate Miller Heidke. The contemporary Australian favourite performed a rendition of ‘Bound To You (Aisling Song) with him and delivered some impressive high notes that left the audience floored. Thanking the crowd for spending this special day with him, he offered some candid little stories in between songs that made the big venue feel quite intimate. With ‘St Kilda To Kings Cross’, ‘To Her Door’, ‘Josephina’ and ‘Dumb Things’ creating some big singalong moments, the rain that down poured onto the crowd was quickly forgotten. 

Throughout the whole show Paul made sure that each member of his band had their own unique time to shine and showcase why they were up there performing with him. It made it feel like a collision of talented artists instead of just a singer-songwriter and his backing band. ‘Sweet Guy’ and ‘Deeper Water’ preceded the momentous singalong of ‘How To Make Gravy’ which was followed by a cover of the appropriate ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’. Returning for the first of two encores he wrapped it all up with ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’, ‘Meet Me In The Middle Of The AIr’ and ‘Darling It Hurts’. The lengthy and extensive show covered all of the different moments of his career and entertained his big, diverse and appreciative fanbase. It was a unique way to celebrate the end of the year and hopefully won’t be the last time he throws this celebratory run of shows. 

Check out the full gallery captured by Lyndon James Photography HERE;

Photos by Lyndon James

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