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(Photo by Jordan Munns)


Vivid Live, Opera House northern boardwalk, May 27

Time means nothing in the waiting, but everything in the anticipation. But what does weight does it carry in retrospect? And what if you aren’t always sure you remember rightly?

Paul Kelly’s ongoing attempt to answer this finds him with a show that’s only semi-contrived around the idea of time and tide. It’s a convenient hook for a man with songs like Love Never Runs On Time and Finally Something Good, sure, and a new song like Back To The Future, which jostles for space in the canon as much as in the theme, with If I Could Start Today Again.

However, in the way Kelly has always blurred the line between old and new sources, from Shakespeare and Bradman to the Bible and bluegrass - with a Shelley recitation and a Dylan cover as bonuses this night alongside, yes, that one about gravy - there’s an ongoing story. A story that both runs with and questions the social and political core of that cover, The Times They Are A’Changin, which opened the show and set out his slightly provocative stall, much as did his personal acknowledgment of country and the Gadigal people who have kept care of this land for millennia did.

(Paul Kelly - by Jordan Munns)

After all, while the sound was superb and beyond what we might reasonably expect in an outdoor show by the water and against glass and tile and concrete, we are talking about a man who, unlike Dylan, presents his songs much as they always have been heard. And has them performed by a band who have been beside him for 10, 20, and in some cases nearly 30 years.

Yet he or we seek a new reconnection each time with Deeper Water or a Randwick Bells, or step back into the unchanging always changing stream with Vincent Lingiari and the Vestey men, all while a Dylan line faintly echoed: “Come gather 'round people wherever you roam/And admit that the waters around you have grown/And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone.”

There’s a purpose in that, Kelly explained as he introduced To Her Door: parts such as the guitar lines Steve Connelly laid down 36 years ago allow them “to carry our friends with us” unchanged, all while time brings new slants or new companions such as Thelma Plum.

(Thelma Plum - by Jordan Munns)

And for us the certainty of style and songs at a Kelly gig does the same. This is how we remember it. Or anticipated it. These songs are just going to be with us, to be in us, for all time aren’t they?

Paul Kelly plays the final show in this series on Tuesday night as part of Vivid Live.

A version of this review was first published in The Sydney Morning Herald.


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