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Review & Set List: Jimmy Barnes Talks Everything That Went Wrong (and Occasionally Right) in His Life

by Paul Cashmere, Noise11

Imagine if Kurt Cobain or Michael Hutchence were around today to tell you what they went through. Imagine Elvis or Bon Scott or Janis or Hendrix standing on stage in 2018 and telling you blatantly “this is how I fucked up my life”.

This is what the Jimmy Barnes' ‘Working Class Man’ show is all about. It is both a concert and a motivational speaking tour. It is equally uplifting and emotionally draining. It is the most honest show you will ever witness from a man who defied all of the odds and do something he was never destined to do … live past 27.

From the day he was born drugs and alcohol were a part of life to him. He grew up with a lifestyle people are warned about. It took him to the brink of self-destruction. In this book, and now the show ‘Working Class Man’, he reveals how close it came. It was something that happened that he immediately regretted and vowed to never talk about. But he is for this.

Every high has a low. For every number one record Jimmy Barnes has a number one regret. For decades, one of Australia’s biggest stars of the past century performed songs about his life that carved their way into Australian culture. Through his books and the ‘Working Class Boy’ and ‘Working Class Man’ tours, we are learning that the DNA of this incredible career was a path of self-destruction.

Unlike Kurt, Michael, Elvis, Janis, Bon and Jimi, this Jimmy survived to tell the tale.

‘Working Class Man’ will keep you riveted to your seat for three and a half hours. In that time, Jimmy talks about a life that shouldn’t have lasted and a career that never should have taken off.

The drugs and alcohol didn’t kill him for the career happened and then that voice that some thought wouldn’t last six months coupled with lifestyle should have taken him out before the first hit.

Jimmy tells us how when his band Cold Chisel transitioned from a covers band to original songs it was almost all over. When Chisel finally recorded an album, the first song ‘Khe Sanh’ was banned from radio, and it could have been all over again. The second album ‘Breakfast At Sweethearts’ was also inconsistent and even at that point Chisel could have ended.

Then along came two things by looking back are the reason he is still around today. He met his wife Jane and Chisel recorded ‘East’, (which included the song ‘Rising Sun’ about almost losing Jane).

Jane, his wife of 36 years, is the great stabilising force in Jimmy’s life. She hasn’t cured Jimmy’s death wish, she controls it. There is no question about it. Without Jane this tour today would be the Jimmy Barnes hologram tour.

The ‘Working Class Man’ tour kicks off where ‘Working Class Boy’ left off. Chisel were forming and playing covers. Jimmy plays The Turtles ‘Happy Together’, from an early Chisel set.

Each song relates to a moment in the Barnes’ story. ‘Northbound Train’ from the first Chisel album was the only song from Don Walker’s first batch of original songs to make it though to the debut album. ‘Letter To Alan’ is about Alan Dallow from the band’s roadcrew who died in a road accident.

Part one of the show (90 minutes) is the Cold Chisel story and explains why the band ended when it did.

After intermission Part two takes you through Jimmy’s solo career. Jimmy opted for the independent artist approach for his solo career hooking up with Mushroom founder Michael Gudinski who opened doors for him in the USA. Jimmy started working with Jonathan Cain and Neal Schoen of Journey, Stevie Van Zandt and David Geffen. You would think it would have been a formula to crack America but that big US breakthrough has always evaded Barnes.

Part two features ‘No Second Prize’, ‘Working Class Hero’, ‘Better Time Better Place’ and ‘Working Class Man’ (written by American Cain).

The encore pays tribute to Jane with a montage of their life on screen to the song ‘Still On Your Side’ … and then a surprise. Jimmy doesn’t wrap up this show with a classic, he ends it with a brand new song you haven’t heard before.

‘Criminal Record’ was written by Jimmy and Don Walker (suggesting it is more likely an upcoming song for a Chisel record than a solo song but who knows, with Jimmy, the future is unwritten).

‘Working Class Man’ is confronting because of its raw honestly. Some fans may be shocked, others enlightened. As Jimmy emphasises “men do not talk to each other”. For many ‘Working Class Man’ will be music therapy.

The set list:

Set 1
  • Happy Together (The Turtles cover)
  • Northbound Train (from Cold Chisel, Cold Chisel, 1978)
  • Rising Sun (from Cold Chisel, East, 1980)
  • Letter To Alan (from Cold Chisel, Circus Animals, 1982)
Set 2
  • No Second Prize (from Bodyswerve, 1984)
  • Working Class Hero (John Lennon cover)
  • Better Time Better Place
  • Working Class Man (from For The Working Class Man, 1985)
  • I’m Still On Your Side (from Freight Train Heart, 1987)
  • Criminal Record (unreleased)
The Jimmy Barnes tour ‘Working Class man: An Evening of Stories & Songs’ will head to Sydney, Darwin, northern Queensland, regional New South Wales and return to Melbourne on June 9 before ending June 10 in Adelaide.