Jimmy Barnes takes no prisoners in powerful performance

Torrid story of a working-class boy Tearjerker: Jimmy Barnes in his Stories & Songs show at the Civic Theatre on March 23, 2017. Picture: Ian Dunn

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Intense: Jimmy Barnes in his Stories & Songs show at the Civic Theatre on March 23, 2017. Picture: Ian Dunn

In full song: Jimmy Barnes in his Stories & Songs show at the Civic Theatre on March 23, 2017. Picture: Ian Dunn

Rough road: Jimmy Barnes in his Stories & Songs show at the Civic Theatre on March 23, 2017. Picture: Ian Dunn

From Scotland to Adelaide: Jimmy Barnes in his Stories & Songs show at the Civic Theatre on March 23, 2017. Picture: Ian Dunn

Emotional journey: Jimmy Barnes in his Stories & Songs show at the Civic Theatre on March 23, 2017. Picture: Ian Dunn

Straight talk: Jimmy Barnes in his Stories & Songs show at the Civic Theatre on March 23, 2017. Picture: Ian Dunn

Growing up wild: Jimmy Barnes in his Stories & Songs show at the Civic Theatre on March 23, 2017. Picture: Ian Dunn

Honest and powerful: Jimmy Barnes in his Stories & Songs show at the Civic Theatre on March 23, 2017. Picture: Ian Dunn

In full song: Jimmy Barnes in his Stories & Songs show at the Civic Theatre in Newcastle, NSW, on March 23, 2017. Picture: Ian Dunn

TweetFacebook Jimmy Barnes in his Working Class Boy show in Newcastle, NSW, March 23, 2017 +10MORE GALLERIES

facebookSHAREtwitterTWEETemailwhatsappJimmy Barnes came into this world screaming and became famous as one of Australia’s leading rock’n’roll singers in much the same way.

Now, he’s being heard in a new voice, telling the emotional story of his violent childhood and drug-fuelled youth, the product of an alcoholic father and near-equally abusive mother.

As a marketing exercise, his Working Class Boy:Stories & Songs tour which played Newcastle on Thursday night on the back of his best-selling childhood autobiography, Working Class Boy, it’s a brilliant concept. As the lead singer of Cold Chisel he has etched his way into the soundtrack of a couple of generations of Australians. Always known as a brash, bold performer with a big heart, he soul-baring story in words is emotional dynamite.

In this presentation, with spoken word punctuated by a handful of songs which form part of the soundtrack of his life, the drama is real, the audience re-living Barnes’ experiences as if in a conversation with him in his lounge room.

The show was broken into three distinct segments, but the highlight, which could have easily served as the finale, was a powerfully emotive rendition of Flame Trees, the Cold Chisel classic written by Don Walker and Steve Prestwich. Barnes set up the scene by describing the young band’s trek away from Adelaide to Armidale, where Walker was going to attend university, and their return, to his own personal dismay, having so many bad memories of his wild, violent, drug-filled childhood and adolescence in the city’s working class suburbs. For him, this song was about going back to a place you could never call home again.

Backed by his daughter Mahalia, son Jackie and son-in-law Ben Rodgers, Barnesy gave all of his voice to the song, as he has been doing for nearly four decades. But suddenly, he pulled the mike away and sang a capellato the audience, who immediately joined in. It was spine-tingling and raw, it was tearful tonic to a crowd who understood damned well the Australian experience Barnes had been describing –hard-scrabble immigrants, poverty, hunger, mateship.

The eclectic set list included many Barnes has covered in the past, like Mahalia Jackson’s Open Room and and some not heard very often, including his first song of the night, Heartaches by the Number, which he said his grandmother Betty used to sing, and The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

He could not help but finish the night with Shake, Rattle and Roll, seguing in with the line, “rock’n’roll saved my life”.