Jimmy Barnes is the type of singer who can sell out entertainment centres, so it’s always a thrill when he decides to put on a more intimate show at a venue like Lizotte’s. It’s been far too long since I’ve made the trek down the Pacific Highway to the only remaining Lizotte’s venue, but the promise of “hits and rarities” was too appealing to resist.

Jimmy’s daughter Elly-May Barnes warmed up the crowd with her star-studded band, The Ragged Company. With The Superjesus’ Sarah McLeod on tambourine and The Art’s Kara Jayne and X Factor winner Reece Mastin on acoustic guitars, this act was always going to impress. Their set was made up of covers destined to please the mostly baby boomer crowd, including cuts from David Bowie, The Everly Brothers, and Neil Young. I was a little concerned at first, with Elly-May’s vocals clearly showing nerves. However, a couple of songs in she seemed to find her feet and sing with sweetness and surety. The band’s harmonies were gorgeous and their organic arrangements of these classics allowed them to shine. The quartet seemed to be having such fun together, and the crowd responded in kind.

While Elly-May and her crew were well received, her dad was the man we were all here to see. The atmosphere when he took the stage was electric. We hung on his every word as he delivered an empassioned version of “Trouble of the World,” a song Mahalia Jackson sang in the classic film Imitation of Life. After he was done Jimmy told us about watching the movie with his dad as a young boy, thinking little of the film but being so blown away by Mahalia’s performance that he decided to bestow the name upon his daughter. She was there to his left, supporting his rich, raspy voice with her own throughout the show.

And what a show it was. I’ve seen Jimmy Barnes so many times over the years. He was actually my first concert all those years ago. Most times I’ve seen Jimmy he was rocking out with the sound turned up to 11, delivering the kind of hits that have become Aussie radio staples. This was a different kind of show, one that allowed Jimmy to celebrate favourite songs from his own back catalogue and the world of music that wouldn’t fit at those other gigs. I never would have expected to hear Nat King Cole’s “Around the World” at a Jimmy Barnes gig, but he performed it beautifully. Flesh and Wood was a favourite album when I was growing up, and I loved hearing cuts from it like “Brother of Mine” and “You Can’t Make Love Without a Soul” that rarely make the live set. No doubt with the stories contained in his upcoming book Working Class Boy fresh in his mind, Jimmy punctuated his songs with tales of his childhood and relationship to music.

I heard a few grumbles about the notable absence of hit singles, but I didn’t mind doing without them. While a ballad like “Flame Trees” made sense on a night like this, Jimmy’s more raucous numbers would have seemed incongruous. I’ve heard those songs so many times before anyway, so getting the chance to hear other tracks provided a welcome change of pace. Where he might ordinarily close the night with “Working Class Man,” we heard a flawless rendition of “Love Me Tender” instead. It was the perfect way to close this very different and very special Jimmy Barnes show.

Image source: own photos