“My favourite venue is a full one,” Jimmy Barnes cackles when asked to name top spots for a sweaty Cold Chisel or solo gig.
“I don’t mean that in a flippant way,” the 59-year-old Oz rock legend adds. “I’ve played in places that hold 100 people and had as much fun as I’ve had playing to 100,000. It’s all relative. It’s all about intensity and connection with the audience.”
Chatting from Thailand on a family holiday, Barnes keenly anticipates the Flesh and Wood acoustic tour with his “solo” band next month as well as the barnstorming One Night Stand jaunt with the mighty Chisel.
The latter tour kicks off at the Deni Ute Muster in Deniliquin, NSW, and takes in performances at the NRL grand final, V8 Supercars on the Gold Coast, Hanging Rock, Hope Winery and the final shows at the old Sydney Entertainment Centre.
“Cold Chisel is going to be a monster of a tour,” the Working Class Man singer says. “It’s a great time for us and great for our fans. I love being a part of Cold Chisel.”
One Night Stand also sees Barnesy and the boys — Ian Moss, Don Walker, Phil Small and Charley Drayton, who took over on drums after Steve Prestwich died four years ago — rock Perth Arena for the first time.
“Cold Chisel’s been coming to Perth since 1975,” Barnes says. “We used to come and do that Ent Cent there. There’s been a big hole in the market since that shut down, so it’s really great to be playing the new Arena.”
The Arena opened in late 2012, the same year Chisel unveiled No Plans — their first studio album in 14 years — and played at Sandalford Estate in the Swan Valley.
The Adelaide-spawned pub rockers boasting Oz rock classics, including Khe Sanh, Cheap Wine and Forever Now, have gone from playing beer barns to wineries, probably to the same fans.
That’s just a sign of the times, reckons Barnes, who adds that you can have as much fun at a winery as a sweaty pub.
“With the wineries you can get down the front and have people vomit on you if you want, like you do at a pub, or you can put a blanket down and have a picnic with your family,” he laughs.
Cold Chisel are not mellowing. Far from it, if Barnes’ assessment of their next album is on the mark.
The five-piece recorded in Sydney’s 301 Studios and Barnes’ Freight Train Studio with renowned hard-rock producer Kevin Shirley, aka the Caveman, who also did No Plans.
As with classic Chisel albums such as 1980 pinnacle East, all members (bar Drayton) contributed songs. Barnes says the common thread is a bar-room vibe, driven by “left-hand piano” a la early rock’n’rollers Link Wray and Jerry Lee Lewis.
“We didn’t polish it up,” the singer adds. “There’s some beautiful songs on it but it’s really raw and edgy. I think people will really like it.”
Barnes, who also recorded a soul record in Nashville this year, expects the unnamed album to be released in time for the national tour.
The other news is that alternative rock outfit the Living End will join Chisel at the Arena.
“They’re one of my favourite bands in the world,” Barnes says of the Melbourne trio led by Chris Cheney. “Chris is just a phenomenal guitar player, great frontman and their rhythm section is unbelievable. They’re gonna make Cold Chisel work pretty hard.”
The love is mutual. Chatting from Portland, Oregon, also during a family getaway, Cheney rates Chisel in the top-five Australian bands of all-time.
While Flame Trees is his favourite song, the Living End contributed a breakneck cover of Rising Sun to 2007 tribute album Standing on the Outside.
Cheney’s first Cold Chisel memory is of the cover of 1992 live album The Last Stand. “Jimmy in the white T-shirt, black leather pants, headband, bottle of vodka in one hand, microphone in the other,” he says. “The absolute epitome of a rock’n’roll singer.”
The Living End frontman, who has lived in LA for the past four years, admits that growing up he was more into 1950s rock and rockabilly, and “wrongly thought they were just a dumb Aussie bogan rock band”.
“I was totally naive,” Cheney adds. “Now I think they are one of the greatest bands ever, no lie.”
While the Living End have only played one gig with Chisel, they have toured with Barnes on several occasions and the two singers are good mates.
“We toured with him last year and he helped me get through a couple of shows when my throat was cactus,” Cheney recalls. “He would send out little care packages to me whilst we were playing, mainly consisting of small bottles filled with clear liquid. No, it wasn’t water.”
Cold Chisel play Perth Arena on November 14, supported by the Living End. Jimmy Barnes plays Crown Theatre on July 10. Tickets for both concerts from Ticketek.