On the eastern fringe of Sydney’s CBD lies The Domain, it’s rolling green hills and shaded alcoves perfect for the all-day festivals it hosts. The only problem was that when the gates were to open for the first Making Gravy act, Angie McMahon, the city was hit with a torrential thunderstorm. Despite the cataclysmic weather causing multiple delays, the show went on with hundreds of Sydneysiders roughing the rain to support Australian music. With Paul Kelly headlining and the likes of Angus and Julia Stone joining him, the relaxed musical vibes had a greater cleansing affect than any bit of rain.
The weather did impact the set times, with a reduced schedule due to the heavy rain, but credit to Frontier Touring for dealing with these unforeseen circumstances and not cancelling any supporting artists. These supporting acts did everything they were supposed to do, even with the reduced time. Ranging from D.D. Dumbo’s rhythmic electronica and Alex Lahey’s upbeat pop-rock to Angie McMahon’s emotionally driven rock, the supporting acts’ diverse styles of music created a consistent atmosphere of excitement and anticipation. Angus and Julia Stone’s set was yet another reminder of why these indie veterans are still so beloved. As fast tempo songs like ‘Chateau’ got people dancing, the audience continued to swell in size, filling out the Domain. By this time the crowd was a mix of emotions, from frustration over the rain, surprise at the age gap between Paul Kelly fans and frustration with boisterous drunks, to calm over the music and excitement for the headlining act. This is when Angus Stone gave an abridged version of the love story that inspired ‘Big Jet Plane’ and a breathtakingly surreal rendition of their first big hit. With the weather holding up enough for one last trip to the bar, the crowd was ready for Paul Kelly.
Like a fine wine from the Barossa, Paul Kelly’s distinctly Australian folk music has aged well. A testimony to this was the generationally spread fan base that came to see him rain, hail or shine. Both young fans who have recently discovered Paul Kelly through their parents or covers of his songs by groups like Luca Brasi and A.B. Original, as well as old fans who have loyally followed his career were brought together through an appreciation for one of Australia’s greatest storytellers. A huge uproar burst from the crowd as he walked onto stage. Ever the gentlemen, he thanked everyone for making it out in the rain, before playing. As a special holiday concert for the Domain, Making Gravy had everything. This included newer tracks off 2018’s Nature and 2017’s Life is Fine LPs as well as the early 90s classics that captured Australian hearts and souls.
Once he began, Kelly balanced the old and new with the fast and slow, matching the tempo of the crowd’s collective heartbeat with the music. Some of the more upbeat songs, like ‘Before Too Long’, ‘Firewood and Candles’ and ‘Dumb Things’, got feet moving, which subsequently churned the muddy ground up into a boggy mess. Tracks such as ‘Deeper Water’, ‘With the One I Love’ and ‘Leaps and Bounds’ maintained this energy while pulling the audience in to listen to his complex lyrics and smooth vocal style. Kelly would then take the crowd’s kinetic energy and channel it into the slower ballads, gathering the crowd in to listen to his poetic stories. Of these included the protest song ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’, his all-time classic ‘To Her Door’ and of course the titular ballad ‘How to Make Gravy’, for which the audience stood shoulder to shoulder and sang along to. Beyond this collection of crowd pleasers, Paul Kelly performed some numbers that stood out for their spectacle. The main two were his latest single ‘Bastard Like Me’, dedicated to Charles Perkins’ grandson in the audience, and ‘Sweet Guy’ performed by stellar backup vocalist Vika Bull, who stunned the crowd as she bellowed the chorus.
Finishing up with a quick Christmas song, Paul Kelly wished the packed Domain a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Those who purchased tickets for Making Gravy in the Domain had left home unsure if they should go. Those who attended Making Gravy in the Domain were left certain they made the right choice.