John Schumann & The Vagabond Crew @ The Gov, Adelaide 24/6/2023

“We haven’t done this show, Back Tracks, before so we will probably fuck it up” John told us at the beginning. “It’s to show that “Only 19” wasn’t all I did”.

The six-piece band, affectionally introduced as Storm Boy, Bollard, Fknuckle, Macaroni Pony, Aristotle and Rock God, walked on stage and started playing Times Like These. John soon joined the band, taking up the vocals. It was obvious from the beginning that the Vagabond Crew were not just a “make up” band to support John, it was a whole wonderful collective of musicians and a great singer that gelled together.

Etched in Blue followed and then Second Class Wait Here from his album of Henry Lawson poems put to music, called simply, Lawson. The show was more than music though, as John told stories of the songs and how they came together. Working Class Man rolled out next, a version as far removed from the Jimmy Barnes version as you can get.

John told us how he was asked to write a theme song for Port Power, which at first, he refused, but eventually relented. It wasn’t accepted but he changed the lyrics to make it a football song in general. While the song was good, you can understand why Port never chose it.

Tonight wasn’t about Redgum songs but we got a great version of The Last Frontier which went down a treat. A history lesson about explorer John McDowell Stuart gave way to the song Fade Away. If I Close My Eyes has never been played live by The Vagabond Crew but they certainly, did it justice. Paul Keating didn’t like the song Eyes on Fire apparently and Anzac Biscuits was based on his friend, Phil Cummins, children book of the same name.

On Every Anzac Day gives tribute to the Australian Indigenous soldiers, who have fought for Australia in every war since The Boar War, but never have had the recognition. Khe Sanh, the Cold Chisel song was played with just a solo haunting guitar backing and renamed Long Thanh, as John told Don Walker, Australia never fought at Khe Sanh.

I’ve Been to Bali Too was revisited tune wise as I’ve Been to Plympton High telling stories of 1960’s school days. Been to Bali was a popular song in the 1980’s but has dated very much and changing the words to Plympton High couldn’t change that.

The run home gave us the ode to Police Officers and the hard job they do in Graduation Day, another Cold Chisel Song, this time Steve Prestwich’s When the War Is Over and finally For the Children.

John left the stage but the band stayed on. It was encore time, but the attitude seemed to be, why leave the stage just to walk back. Why indeed. John soon came back and we naturally were expecting and got I Was Only 19 (A Walk In The Light Green). As John said after the song, “Don’t believe anyone who said music cannot change the world” This song certainly did. Waltzing Matilda rounded out a great evening.

John Schumann and The Vagabond band gave us a very entertaining and educating evening. There is certainly a lot more to John Schumann music than I Was Only 19.

Live Review By Geoff Jenke

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