It was the closing night of a tour that took over six months to happen due to COVID delays. The Kasey Chambers & Busby Marou Tour, Behind the Barricade was full of soulful songs of joy. It was jamming, family, friends and palpable hope for the future.
I've been a fan of Chambers for most of my life, and this was my first show. Both bands were glowing after at last getting to go on tour.
Busby and Marou opened. I wasn't too familiar with the Queenslander/Torres Strait Island duo and their coastal laid-back-listening sound, but I loved their attitude. Busby continued to remind the crowd it was a Friday night for their last show, even though it was indeed a Wednesday. Gentle music with stories of the Rockhampton and the Capricorn Coast, the band have lots of songs for lovers although their most requested song at weddings, Best Part of Me, is actually about a breakup. They also covered "one of the greatest Aussie songs ever written", Lonesome but Free by Troy Cassar-Daley, probably my favorite of the set.
Chambers came on next. She said Civic Theatre had the home ground advantage since it was so close to her home on the Central Coast, and, boy, did she put on a show.
"I have a massive smile on my face and all these sad songs to sing; I'm not going to be convincing at all," Chambers joked.
Chambers has a voice that will both break your heart and bring you to Jesus, and she can grin while she does it. She opened alone on stage with Not Pretty Enough, which of course sent the crowd into cheers, and then she brought in the band and proceeded with plenty of hits, many from her Barricades and Brickwalls album released 21 years ago.
Her voice sounds exactly the same as I remember when I listened to that CD growing up. Some people don't like it, and even she jokes about some of her more shriek-sounding-songs. But I think it has such rich authenticity. Like Stevie Nicks, Chambers' voice can't hide and can't lie. It's a rawness and a truth; she's perfect for country music.
And she's got a great band to support her doing it, from the drummer who ran around at one point playing the washboard or her father, Bill Chambers, on the steel guitar. (An audience member asked to marry him multiple times.)
I was enthralled, enjoying hits that I remembered like The Captain and Rattlin' Bones. Throughout the night she played guitar, banjo, accordion and harmonica. She joked that she only gets the banjo out once it's too late for the audience to ask for their money back.
"The banjo is more like an accessory than an instrument" she says of her skills.
And then, while on banjo, to my complete surprise she began to sing a cover of rapper Eminem's hit Lose Yourself. At first I was skeptical. In fact I was almost cringing. This song is so of a time and era, but my opinion completely changed as the song continued. Her guitar player joined and then the entire band chimed in bringing the last verses to a phenomenal crescendo.
Chambers was wild, full of movement, singing her heart out.
Suddenly I was weirdly finding some sort of international ethereal connection between Marshall Mathers' struggles of growing up in the trailer park, trying to be a rapper and the hardships of poor country folks in Australia.
It was a strange but beautiful epiphany, listening to the song and seeing a commonality of people all over the world, clinging desperately to a chance at greatness: "You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime."
Am I really crying to a bluegrass version of a rap song from the 2002 movie 8 Mile? My god yes, yes I am.
That's not the last time I cried either.
Chambers brought Marou and Busby back on stage with her band to sing a hymn a capella I've found a friend, oh, such a friend, so haunting and powerful. They also covered My Island Home - island rhythms with Chambers' country voice, a unique combination. They wrapped up the encore with Barricades and Brickwalls, a powerful way to take out the night out with plenty of energy and the glorious dark desiring lyrics we all love.
Throughout the sets there were messages of joy for being able to perform again. They spoke of family, being barefoot, and love for their children. They are clearly family people in family bands, so happy to at last have had the chance to bring music to people after two years of sadness and little live music.
I'm so grateful to get in on it, and take a little bit of that energy with me.
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