The first thing you notice at a Don Walker solo show is how completely different his audience is to those at a Jimmy Barnes gig. Jimmy epitomises the rock and roll pub culture. His audience come along to sing. Walker’s audience are a sophisticated, gracious lot who come to listen.
At the intimate Caravan Club in the Melbourne suburb of Oakleigh the Cold Chisel songsmith was launching his solo album ‘Hully Gully’. The audience hung off his every word both in song and in banter.
I bumped into Melbourne musician Shannon Bourne who said, “have you seen the crowd? Every songwriter in Melbourne is here. They’ve come to see how its done”. That summarised the respect people have for Don Walker.
Walker’s songs are stories. He articulates Australia in his lyrics capturing the pulse of the people through the very vein of a nation. Don Walker’s legacy is that he can put into words and music a snapshot of the Aussie lifestyle and in doing so has created a musical document of Aussie life in the second half of the twentieth century.
At the Caravan Club, that legacy was showcased in an up close and personal environment.
Walker opened the set solo on piano with a stripped back version of his Cold Chisel classic ‘Khe Sanh’. Without the Chisel big band rock and roll backing the lyrics about a Vietnam soldier dealing with civilian life immediately became focus of the song.
This wasn’t a Cold Chisel solo show by any means nor was it a man and a piano. When Don bought on his band The Suave Fucks, he brought his new masterpiece ‘Hully Gully’ to life.
‘Hully Gully’ is a must hear album. Every song is a potential movie plot with a story from Don’s life or observations. ‘Fishing’ was about his dad and grandad spending their day in a pub and coming home to mum and grandmother, getting roused on and then going night fishing. You don’t need a video to go with a Don Walker song. His lyrics create a theatre of the mind.
Live, the title track of ‘Hully Gully’ announces itself with Michael Vidale’s bass. The album was the centrepiece of the performance and like a good movie you listened as each song took your imagination on another journey.
Chisel fans would be familiar with ‘Everybody’. The Chisel blues-rock version was a single from the band’s last album ‘No Plans’. Don’s solo ‘Hully Gully’ version is a more pure rendition of the song. Same with ‘Yakuza Girls’ originally heard in Chisel form on 1998’s ‘The Last Wave of Summer’ and later in Don mode on his solo album ‘Cutting Back’.
The Don Walker live experience is completely different to a Cold Chisel show. The two back to back would seem totally unrelated.
To listen to Don Walker, one of the greatest songwriters of our day, perform his songs for a few hundred people in such a small environment was indeed a rare treat.
Don Walker will perform again tonight (November 30, 2013) at the Flying Saucer Club at Elsternwick in Melbourne.
The setlist for Don Walker at the Caravan Club was:
Sitting in a Bar
Postcard from Elvis
The Perfect Crime
Four in the Morning
Harry was a Bad Bugger
The Good Book
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