Cold Chisel still the big draw
OPENING night at Bluesfest marked a set of firsts for Aussie rock icons Cold Chisel.
For Chisel it wasn't only their Bluesfest debut, but their first time playing Byron Bay.
On the eve of releasing the band's first album in 14 years, No Plans, bassist Phil Small admitted the firsts without Steve Prestwich would always be "bitter sweet".
"He's always been an integral part of the band and a huge part of the chemistry," Small told The Northern Star backstage at the festival. "It's like one of the finest... he's always in the music."
Prestwich died from a brain tumour in January last year, only months after the band began recording their seventh album.
Taking to the Mojo stage to rapturous applause, replacement drummer, Charley Drayton wore a t-shirt with Prestwich emblazoned across his chest.
The band's set, two hours including the encore, kicked off with an almighty wail from the unmistakeable frontman Jimmy Barnes.
Standing On The Outside and Cheap Wine from the band's classic East (1980) reminded punters why, after 35 years, Cold Chisel is still such a drawcard.
The title track, No Plans, from their latest album was the first new song for the night, setting a strong blues ethic and "f*** you" attitude from a band who will always do what they want.
After sell-out shows and 270,000 tickets to last year's Light The Nitro tour, the band feel like they're in a good place. But that's not to say it wasn't a surprise.
"I certainly didn't take it for granted when management set up the tour and they kind of announced 'OK we've got Acer Arena and we've got the Entertainment Centre, Rod Laver Arena, ticket sales start on Monday'," Ian Moss, guitarist, said backstage at Bluesfest.
"At first I shook my head and said, 'how's this going to look when we've got these venues that hold 10,000 people and they've only got a couple thousand people in them?'
"It'll look pretty silly. So, it was a nice, a very nice surprise."
Don Walker said everything is coming to life when they hit the stage, making it difficult to pick out a highlight from the live show.
"The way the band's playing at the moment, all of them," he said. "In the last six months everything seems to have gotten a new lift and a new lease of life in the way that we're playing things live."
After playing dates in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne in the next two weeks the band, fittingly, has no plans for the future in Australia.
"This little run that we're doing - it's due to finish in two weeks," Walker said. "These four last dates, Byron is the first; Perth, and again down in Sydney then Melbourne.
"And then we don't have any plans beyond that for years to come - not in Australia.
"We're doing a few dates in London and around the UK in July but after this weekend and a couple of weeks we won't be together again for quite a while."