Cold Chisel played in Tauranga's Wharepai Domain this week at the only New Zealand event in its Blood Moon tour. We sent long time Cold Chisel and Jimmy Barnes fan, Tommy Kapai Wilson, along with magazine editor Annemarie Quill who had never heard of the band and did not know who Jimmy Barnes was. Here are their findings:
Tommy Kapai Wilson says:
We all have catch cries and what we consider cool korero when it comes to greeting brothers from other mothers and one we have used for more than forty years is
"Don't let go!"
It came from a Cold Chisel cry - well more of a scream when we first heard Jimmy Barnes at Coronation Park here in Tauranga 40 odd years ago - and again this week at Wharepai Domain.
Letting go was never going to happen from the moment the ageless brave heart Boy walked out on stage.
"Kia ora and how the f--- are you ?!" was how he greeted the gathering of 8000 who were ripe and ready to howl at the moon or each other when the ever ready battery inside the Braveheart boy was fully charged up on nothing more than an attitude of gratitude for still being alive.
Kia ora – the first words spoken by Barnsey means I wish you wellness. This is what Jimmy gave us - the crowd of 8000, who knew we were witnessing a once in a life time line up, very much like the name of the tour itself The Blood Moon 2020 Tour, where the sun the moon and earth all briefly align before returning to their own orbits.
So it was at Wharepai, everything was kapai. Sure the moon was more purple hazed than blood red by the freshly harvested crop of medicinal only cannabis, but for many of us on the sunset side of sixty this time there was not a puff, a pill or a pint on board - on both sides, and we connected on a level that a green room could never get close to.
A V8 voice in a water cooled - electrically fuelled body who kept on giving until the last encore emptied the tank.
And if Jimmy was the V8 then the four on the floor who made up the Cold Chisel blood moon car, didn't miss a beat all night long.
Over the course of their career Cold Chisel has sold almost 7 million albums across vinyl, cassette, CD, downloads and streaming.
Since forming in Adelaide in 1973 and blasting onto the national scene in the late 70s, Cold Chisel has created a uniquely Australian fusion of rockabilly, roughhouse soul, and blues.
Between 1978 and 1983 the original line-up of Don Walker, Jimmy Barnes, Ian Moss (guitar/vocals), Phil Small (bass) and Steve Prestwich who sadly passed away and subbed off the bench by the brilliant Charley Drayton on drums have recorded five studio albums.
The entree served up by the Mutton birds was right on the money. Tauranga means the safe anchorage and their wonderful waiata anchored us all in the middle of the deep blue sea, ripe and ready for the main course of Chisel.
Highlight of the night was watching Trev the local top cop who knew half the crowd - and the songs, as he was there back in the day when the Chisel first came to town.
The audience was zero to the grave and all ages in between. In the mosh pit and out the back, just like the band itself - age didn't matter, it was all about the music and the man up front and on fire.
The "Braveheart boy", who was born in Glasgow and brought up on biffo and booze; told the Chisel story page by page - punch by punch, song by song. Choir Girl, My Baby, Four Walls, Cheap Wine, Khe Sanh all the way through to Flame Tree Georgia and Goodbye that was all class for the hard working crowd who were never going to let go – for any one's sake.
In a world where we seem to be drowning in fake news and climate change blues there was comfort in Cold Chisel as we climbed on board via the last train out of Sydney and all stops in between.
They gave us much more than words to hold on to in these troubling times. They gave us what Jimmy gave the 40 homeless when he gave them free tickets to his show last time he was in town in February 2017.
They gave us a horizon of hope that ain't nobody going to steal away.
It was real it was raw, it was everything but fake.
Jimmy owned the stage and never let it go – for fake's sake.
Annemarie Quill says:
I never heard of Cold Chisel or Jimmy Barnes.
Just like when I say to New Zealanders that I have never mowed a lawn, eaten a pie or put petrol in a car, this statement is met with disbelief.
How can you not have heard of Cold Chisel?
Last year music promoter Brent Eccles visited us in Tauranga and in the course of our meeting said he had big news, that Tauranga had been chosen as the only stop In New Zealand for the Cold Chisel Blood Moon Tour 2020.
The what? My colleague and I glanced at each other blankly. She, born here at least has the excuse she is 22.
"I will play you something, you will definitely know it", said Brent confident that we were not as stupid as we were making out.
But we were.
Each song that he played did not ring any bells. How so given they are Australia's perhaps most well-known rock band?
Well there is good reason because despite resounding success in Australia and neighbouring New Zealand, Jimmy and the band never made it big overseas like they did down under, with an attempt to export their unique sound to the US failing and remaining one of Barnes biggest regrets in life he said on a recent Australian documentary.
Fast forward to 5 January 2020 at Wharepai Domain which is filling up with 8000 fans. I notice that there are all ages – in fact the first group I interview are a couple in their 50s with five children aged 12 to 24 and all of the children are huge Cold Chisel fans telling me excitedly about their favourite song –Khe Sanh.
How do you spell that? I asked
The 12-year-old looked at me with that look of disbelief again.
What can I do?
I can get to the front of a mosh pit in no time.
If you can speed walk central London streets at rush hour you can use the same method in the mosh. Especially with this good-natured crowd many of whom seem to have sunk quite a few wines and Woodstocks so they parted ways quite amicably so I could secure my spot right in front of the stage.
I had told the photographer that I was just there to get a few shots and video close up, telling him I would then make a graceful exit and head home, job done, because I didn't fancy staying the whole night stone-cold sober listening to some Australian rock band.
I presumed you must have to be drunk or some other influence to enjoy them anyway as I had read that the lead singer – this Jimmy Barnes fella – used to drink a bottle of vodka a night on stage.
The crowd around me were definitely eclectic. Behind me three teenage boys who were making a running commentary about what the song order would be. A family to my right of all generations. Couples, mates, groups of girls going wild, and I spotted a fair few people I knew.
It seemed like the whole of Tauranga was here. It had been a sweltering day and now the moon was beaming its light over the stage.
The lights went up and the crowd started shouting Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy.
I was quite curious to see what was this thing about Jimmy, I got my phone at the ready to shoot him. Hurry up Jimmy, because I want to go home.
The band roared on stage and I got first sight of this Jimmy.
In a bit too tight shirt, what looked like jeans or track pants with a stripe, a face that looked like he had really lived and worked hard all his life, ravaged from time, feelings and the sun.
I shouldn't be judgy but my first thought was that he didn't look very 'rock star' he did look like some dad called Jimmy Barnes, who had just finished work and was ready to party and have a few beers with the lads.
But then he started to sing. I didn't know the song, I didn't know any of them, but the crowd around me was singing
"I am a wild colonial boy
My name you'll never see".
He was yelling into the mike, but still with a beautiful tone to his voice, jumping around on stage like he had just got out of jail, pouring what seemed like every single bittersweet human emotion into this song. Steady on Jimmy, it is only the beginning of the night.
Little did I know that this energy was just going to get higher and higher and the crowd got wilder and wilder. I was mesmerised. It seemed like I knew the songs. I knew all the feelings he was singing about.
Next up he's singing about a choir girl. He is still kind of shouting but in a beautifully tuneful type of way. He comes right to the edge of the stage to sing as though he is spilling his insides right into the crowd who are singing along with equal passion.
The teenage boys behind me, start doing a running commentary for each song,
"oh wait for it, wait for it, this is it" as the guitar solo by Ian Moss soars. Barnes and Moss look like two mates just out for a good time with the crowd. But oh that voice and that guitar. This is seriously good.
I have enough photos now. My phone is nearly flat. The plan was to leave but I am still standing, slipping occasionally on cans as the crowd gets lively.
Normally a flat phone alone would have me heading to the nearest charge point to plug in. But instead, I used the last of the battery to message the photographer that I wasn't coming out, I was going to stay.
Alone in the mosh he said? But I thought you are not even a fan?
I wasn't alone; I was with all these people around me. And we were with Jimmy Barnes.
And yes before I was not a fan. Now I am thinking, Cold Chisel, Jimmy Barnes, where have you been all my life? Along with that bottle of vodka a day myth apparently he slept with 1000 women. Can I be woman 1001?
As the night went on it just got better and better. The people around me filled me in on what song was what, everyone they started got more and more crowd approval
I started to think to myself each time, oh I like that one, Saturday Night. No, I like this one even more, War is over. No this is the one.
I didn't know what they were about, but I did, because they conveyed all of our life's journey in all its joy and pain through the music.
Jimmy was leaping around so much I thought he is literally going to take off and fly to the bright moon any second.
I looked back at a sea of people all filled with the same energy under the night sky. Living through every emotion.
Is he singing about his life? Or my life? All our lives. Tauranga you were rocking!
The set was generously long like they were giving everything they got to New Zealand. When he was shouting Goodbye, we were all thinking no don't go yet. So they didn't,
When we walked out of Wharepai Domain I kept bumping into people I knew. Buzzing and not just from the Woodstocks and wine but from the music.
With the Blood Moon album out with the tour marking 38 years since their first album, I am discovering Cold Chisel a bit late in the day. From never hearing of them before, here I am hand in the air on a warm Wednesday night under a magical moon, with a bunch of strangers that all seem like friends. Laughing, crying, shouting:
JIMMY! JIMMY! JIMMY!