Concert Review Jimmy Barnes - Auckland - 28th September 2019

Jimmy Barnes | Photo Megan Moss

Jimmy Barnes | Photo Megan Moss


By Daryl Habraken

Artist: Jimmy Barnes

Date: 28th September 2019

Venue: Spark Arena, Auckland, NZ

Jimmy Barnes wasn’t the big budgeted highly produced shows of other elder statesmen like the Stones or U2. This was a guy who performs for the love of the music, and his family, putting all of himself emotionally and financially back on stage for all to see.

A large part of my adolescent years, Jimmy Barne’s album Two Fires was a staple in my first form year, with his gruff vocal performance, heavy riffs and solid anthem rock sound. When he sang a duet with the inimitable Tina Turner to produce a rousing rendition of Simply the Best, it was one of the greatest sports campaigns in memory for the ‘92 NRL season. His sound was almost a transition for early teen country boys, like listening to the modern heavier productions of our father’s generation.

I was dubious about seeing him live at Spark Arena. It’s a big stage for a voice that has aged over the years. His sound has taken a far more nostalgic, personal, dare I say...melodic tone. I always wanted to see Barnesy in a more intimate setting such as a tavern. There’s a dirty mushy sound to his music that you want to be close to. But my fears subsided quickly after he made his heroic entrance onto the stage.

The audience, made up of a multitude of generations, seemed to be transported to a simpler time. Cheering, hair down, leather jacket sleeves in the air.

The first song blasted out and there’s one thing that rolls through my mind, “What the f$&@ is he singing?” Not one distinguishable lyric can be pulled out of the cacophony of sounds that are projecting from his mouth.

I’m reminded of an Eddie Murphy skit where he makes the same observation of the late James Brown.... sounds great but…what?!

Ok I’m four songs down and I still haven’t made sense of any of this. The music is bluesy with a rock n roll vibe that I’ve come to expect, but his voice is comical. As I look around I see confusion of the crowd, they are trying to understand anything that he is saying. Everyone looks stumped.

Fifth song and finally we were starting to make sense of the ramblings, at least the tune anyway. Trouble was I couldn’t remember the name of the tune because I couldn’t work out the lyrics. You know when you know a song but you can’t remember the name until you hear the chorus? Yeah, that wasn’t going to work this time. Last Train out of Sydney or something.

Despite the lyrical issues the atmosphere was thick with passionate fans. Even though I couldn’t decipher the words, there were plenty around me who could.

The soulful, bluesy passion was real. The musicians were stellar and laced with immediate family members, three daughters, his wife and son all on stage giving vocal and rhythmic support.

Towards the end it was apparent that there was a vulnerability to Jimmy. A man realising the twilight of his performing years and his emotions showed. For his over 60 years on this Earth his energy is there in abundance.

In the end Barnsey produced the goods. Australia’s version of Springsteen, the working class man’s performer who produces hits that, in a live setting, are difficult to comprehend with your head, but impossible to ignore with your heart.