REVVING up Cold Chisel these days for live performances is much like an old Chevrolet Cadillac.
The motor might have trouble warming up initially and the gear box might creak, but once it’s revved up it’s firing on all cylinders.
“It’s great once you get it together, but it’s hard work,” Cold Chisel’s chief songwriter Don Walker says.
“I’m talking about the rehearsals, they’re really hard work. Getting up to speed to put on a Cold Chisel show is physical and hard work.
“It takes a couple of weeks of really hard rehearsals. By the time we get on stage for the first show it’s very enjoyable because the hard work has been done.”
With all four remaining original members – Walker, Jimmy Barnes, Ian Moss and Phil Small – in their early or mid-60s the youthful recklessness of their late ‘70s and early ‘80s heyday has long since evaporated.
Getting up to speed to put on a Cold Chisel show is physical and hard work.Don Walker
However, it’s been replaced by a firm commitment to high professional standards in musicianship that have maintained Cold Chisel’s esteemed reputation.
“You can’t go out and do a Cold Chisel show and be a bunch of old fat guys, it’s got to be as intense as people remember and we wouldn’t do it any less,” Walker says.
“We recorded the last two shows of the 2015 tour and they’re the best and most intense live recordings we’ve done.
“There’s certain standards with a Cold Chisel show and we meet those standards, but we really beat ourselves over a few weeks to get ourselves up to speed.”
The gruelling preparations will commence in the coming months as Cold Chisel prepare for their only show of 2017 at the inaugural Newcastle 500 Supercars race in November.
Each of Chisel’s three senior members – Barnes, Moss and Walker – have already or will perform solo in Newcastle this year before the Supercars show.
However, Barnes says there’s a certain magic every time the old band perform their multitude of Australian pub rock classics like Khe Sanh, Cheap Wine and Flame Trees.
“We learnt about life, learnt about love, we learnt about sex, we learnt about everything on the road together as kids and we learnt about music together,” Barnes says.
“This band is like brothers. We do fight sometimes, but nothing is ever serious. Regardless of that, the minute we walk into a room and pick up our equipment, a magic happens that doesn’t with anybody else.”
Newcastle was one of the first places to latch onto that magic.
Barnes has countless stories about Newcastle. The raspy-voiced frontman has belted out more performances throughout the city’s music venues than his booze-addled memory could hope to recall.
Yet one memory resonates clearly. It’s from the mid-70s at the old Mawson Hotel at Caves Beach. In those days Cold Chisel were merely another pub rock band from Adelaide trying to earn money to eat and put petrol in their touring van.
However, at the Mawson Hotel Cold Chisel were rock’n’roll stars. The crowds were heaving in the venue’s small band room and many punters would join Barnes at the nearby beach after the show to keep the party cooking.
Barnes would wake up on the beach, dust himself off and hitch hike back to Sydney.
“They got rock’n’roll more here,” Barnes says. “Sydney would go through disco phases, inner-city punk and desert some of the rock’n’roll bands.
“For a while we couldn’t get arrested in inner-city Sydney, but you’d come to Newcastle and people would be packed to the rafters. It’s an important part of our history.”
Cold Chisel perform at the Newcastle 500 on November 25.