Paul Kelly at the Triple Door

Paul Kelly at the Triple Door, Seattle | 21 March 2008

The Kelly’s

What better place to spend a Friday night, but at the Triple Door with my wife and some friends watching an Australian legend. Paul Kelly’s sojourns to the US are few and far between, which is understandable because though he is a house hold name down under, here he claims merely a devoted cult following. In his late fifties, he still writes provocative songs, and seems to push himself artistically, and he can still put on a pretty darn good gig.

Last night he appeared solo on stage in a black jacket dinner jacket and looking significantly older than the last time I saw him, which was nearly ten years ago. After two songs one of which was an old favorite I Can’t Believe We Were Married, he was joined by his nephew Dan Kelly. Dan contributed mostly electric guitar, but he also busted out a mandolin and provided some excellent harmonies and pretty falsetto on Careless. The single electric guitar accompanying Paul’s acoustic brought a sound to the show that was reminiscent to Kelly’s early albums like Post or even the very under produced (but still amazing) Gossip.

Being a long time fan, I was partial to the older songs that he plucked from his back catalog and so it seemed was the rest of the audience. During Dumb Things, his guitar flaked out and he had to quickly switch guitars mid-song, the audience took care of the lyrics for him with the entire room singing “In the middle, In the middle, In the middle of a dream, I lost my shirt I pawned my rings, I’ve done all the dumb things”. The surprise of the night for me was Don’t Harm the Messenger. He introduced the song saying, “This is an old one. When we recorded it Grant McLennan did the speaking part, tonight Dan’s gonna do it. This one’s for you GW”. Before they even started playing it I had tingles going up my spine. The minimalist rendition of the song reminded me of the version on Gossip, and Dan’s narration was just fine. Of course there were shouts for old many favorites like Bradman, Adelaide, and Darling It Hurts which Kelly politely ignored. He played a good helping of his songs from his latest Stolen Apples which has been out in Australia since last year and will get issued here next month. But old fans couldn’t really complain, since he peppered the set with songs from his entire career. He even took a break midshow to give his nephew the spotlight for one song. Dan has a career down under as a solo artist and is in the band the Alpha Males.

Paul Kelly has a rare ability to develop characters and create a story in a three minute song, painting characters with few words, yet grabbing the listener either with his economical use of language or a melody. So when he named an album after a Raymond Carver story back on 1989’s So Much Water So Close To Home he turned me on to the great American short story writer. Across the Sound in Port Angeles is where Carver called home. In his introduction to Everything’s Turning to White, Kelly noted that every time he’s in Seattle he was reminded of Carver. He ended the evening with an old favorite, To Her Door. It’s a classic Paul Kelly story song, a story of a relationship that hits the skids set to rousing chorus all done in three minutes, Carver would have approved. This of course left all of us wanting more, I guess we’ll have to wait a few more years.

mp3: Paul Kelly and the Messengers – Don’t Harm the Messenger (from Gossip)

The setlist, at least from what I can remember. The order is incorrect but these are the songs (I think).
Won’t You Come Around(?) / Just About to break / I Can’t Believe We Were Married /Don’t Harm the Messenger / You’re 39, You’re Beautiful and You’re Mine / Careless /Keep on Driving / The Foggy Fields of France / Dumb Things / The Oldest Story in the Book / Stolen Apples Taste the Sweetest / So Much Water So Close To Home / To Be Good Takes a Long Time / Please Leave Your Light on / God Told Me To / How to Make Gravy / You Broke a beautiful Thing(?)
Encore: Right Outta My Head / To Her Door

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