Paul Kelly’s music is the true soundtrack to Aussie life

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Paul Kelly’s music is the true soundtrack to Aussie life


We confirmed our suspicion that Paul Kelly’s music is the true soundtrack to Aussie life in spades during this gig, as teenagers and grandparents alike knew all the words. Despite being a national treasure, though – the man’s humble as fuck. After a succession of cracking support acts in Gretta Ray, Meg Mac and Gang of Youths, Kelly’s first words on stage were to describe the thrill of sharing the bill with the young guns.


From the second song, ‘From St Kilda to Kings Cross’, it was clear that this was gonna be less of a gig and more of a communal singalong. Given that the show was billed as a Christmas event, this was just fine by both Kelly and crowd. A little while later, with his broad vowels and classic twang, proceedings shifted from a singalong to an all-in bush dance. On a warm night with a red sky and songs so familiar, it all felt very Aussie in the best possible way.


I overheard a nearby member of the audience musing about whether Kelly was Australia’s version of Bob Dylan. It’s a fair call – his songs are poetry, representing microcosms of life in a sunburnt country. Then, there’s his singular voice and treasure-trove back catalogue of hits. Damned if he didn’t spoil us for choice, peppering the crowd with faves like ‘Before Too Long’, ‘Careless’, ‘Dumb Things’, ‘Sweet Guy’, ‘Bradman’ (which was like salt in an open wound to the nearby Brit) and ‘To Her Door’ throughout his set. Predictably, we lost our minds over ‘How to Make Gravy’ – yet another example of Kelly’s alchemy, whereby he turns something as prosaic as being in the pen and missing your family into musical gold. 


To celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s demise last year, Kelly and co. set a bunch of the bard’s sonnets to music. On the night, with the Pop-Up Globe in the background, an unexpected highlight came in the form of Kelly’s version of ‘Sonnet 18’ (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?…”). Shakespeare would’ve loved it.


Highlight: The acapella huddle and harmonies of Kelly and mates for ‘Meet Me in the Middle of the Air’ prompted a, “you’re crying,” “no, you are!” moment.

Lowlight: Doors opened at 4pm and day drinking led to a lot of mangled punters and dickhead shenanigans, like the douche who climbed over the barricade at the side of the stage, dangling metres above the concrete.

Crowd Favourite: Where do you even start with this, because there were so many? Let’s go with the closing song, the unfailingly moving land-rights ballad ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’.