Paul Kelly – Riverstage

Paul Kelly – Riverstage

Written by Billy McLeod

Photos by Vincent Shaw


 Paul Kelly – Riverstage, Brisbane – 21/12/2019 

When I think of Christmas, two main themes come to mind; family and tradition. I can’t think of any other artist who quite captures the feelings of warmth and love of the holiday season through storytelling like Paul Kelly does for me.

As I make my way to Riverstage on a day no more perfect than the 21st of December listening to his newly released “Songs from the South 1985-2019”, I find myself reminiscing on past Christmas days with many of these songs being played with family.

Kate Miller-Heidke (10 of 10)

Opening up the third instalment of “Making Gravy Tour” the charmingly charismatic Marlon Williams is quick to set the stage for the plethora of talent performing tonight. Following up is the raw and powerful performance of Kate Miller-Heidke whose stunning vocal performance captures the beautiful essence of her songs. Next is the intriguing Courtney Barnett. Every time I see Barnett I am fascinated with the punk attitude and the performance she displays on stage that seems to capture a crowd every time. All acts are evidently very honoured to be gracing the stage in this line-up, showing many thanks and appreciation to all other performers on the bill, as well as the crowd. It has become a custom for Paul Kelly to pull together a star-studded line-up for his “Making Gravy Tour” and this one makes no exception.

Kelly begins the set with just himself and acoustic guitar in hand, silencing the sold out 9,500 in attendance with a crowd capturing performance of “I’m on your side”. After this Paul welcomes his band of 6 to the stage to play through a wide range of cuts from the classic-filled discography. The love and appreciation continues with Kelly sharing gratitude to many, from the crowd in attendance, other performers and to collaborators that were involved in the songs that were being played through.

 Courtney Barnett (13 of 13)

As the band play through one of Paul’s more recent tracks “Firewood and Candles” I take the time to look around the packed hill of Riverstage to notice that if most weren’t already up and moving, you were for this song. It’s hard not too! With the set progressing, Kelly makes time to include all support acts with a song for each to sing with himself, but the highlight for me is the fantastic take on Archie Roach’s “Charcoal Lane” with Courtney Barnett. This cover perfectly displays the synergy that the two share.

More classics like “Leaps and Bounds” and “To Her Door” inspire crowd-chanting singalongs until we eventually arrive at the song that the night is named after, “How to Make Gravy”. There is an overwhelming sense of joy and excitement filling the air straight after the strum-through of the first few guitar chords. A loud roar emerges from the crowd as the lyrics “it’s the 21st of December” are sung.

Whilst Paul brings back out every performer from the night to perform a rendition of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” I’m once again reminded of the feelings and themes of family that is sprinkled through memories of listening to his music.

 Paul Kelly (11 of 18)

Paul and band leave the stage and if the set were to end here I would be very content but not long after a large encore chant they are back to play through more great tracks including one of the largest singalongs I have experienced for the incredible “From Little Things, Big Things Grow” in which Kelly is joined by original lyric writer and collaborator Kev Carmody.

The set ends clocking in at a whopping 2 hours and 15 minutes with 29 tracks and no sign of exhaustion from the energetic Paul Kelly. I am reminded of why this man is one of the classic greats of Australian music and why his legacy continues to withstand the test of time.


Paul Kelly (18 of 18)