In the lead up to a new album release later this year, Eskimo Joe have headed back onto the road for their Winter Warmer tour which included a stop at Melbourne’s Ormond Hall last week. There were mentions of showcasing some new tunes, and dusting off some of the oldies, not to mention the words “acoustic-based show” – absolute music to my ears. But the night turned into a chronological journey back in time from album one through to present day, and a glimpse at what the future has in stall. Talk about taking a step (or a few) back in time!
From humble beginnings to first attempts at ‘serious’ songwriting, we were taken on a discographical journey of Eskimo Joe albums. With Kav Temperley assuming the role of lead storyteller along with usual duties of vocals and instruments, tales about the songs and the band were intertwined between key tracks from each album in their barer arrangements as Stu MacLeod and Joel Quatermain moved around the stage at the helm of various instruments throughout the night.
While it was quite reminiscent hearing tracks from Girl, things really got nostalgic when we moved to the second album A Song is A City, and the first Eskimo Joe track I knowingly remember hearing, ‘From the Sea’. With it came some show and tell with the original ‘investment’ of the metronome (‘held’ against a mic for minimal effect), soon to be replaced by the click track accompaniment (far more effective!). It’s always been a stand out track, but hearing it with a simpler arrangement really showcased it in another light and together with ‘A Song is a City’ and ‘Life is Better with You’ (being both enlightened by the tale of ripping off Neil Young and humoured by the alternative ‘Life is better with Stu’ lyric) it was a reminded me of all the things I loved about hearing this album all those years ago, and still enjoy now. Shame that ‘Older Than You’ didn’t make the set, but I’ll let that slide this time…there were still three albums to cover, not to mention the new stuff.
More tunes and band stories later brought us to album #3 in Black Fingernails, Red Wine with ‘New York’ (including a little mash-up with Hall & Oates’ ‘Out of Touch’ – nice touch!), Kav wandering through the audience to serenade a Sarah in the crowd with ‘Sarah’ and a nice big sing along with ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’.
While it was great to hear the old tracks, it was finally time to hear a new track after a short interval in ‘Every Harmony’. Given that all the songs were given the acoustic treatment for the evening, it’s not immediately apparent as to how much this will differ from all the previous albums but based on this, it shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system…
Returning to the touring and accompanied tales of Black Fingernails, Red Wine, work began on a beautiful track called ‘Inshalla’, and probably a personal standout of the night. Perhaps it was a little more raw, or perhaps listening to Inshalla now comes with many more years of wisdom and subsequent interpretations of the lyrics. Whatever it was, it served as a fine introduction to all the tales behind the making of album #4, Inshalla; the production, the jam room sessions, and the ten minutes it took to write the drum loop for ‘Falling for You’ before the more sombre story behind ‘Foreign Land’ and life events leading to ‘Childhood Behaviour’.
The night wouldn’t have been complete without getting to the more recent album #5, Ghosts of the Past, seemingly the darker album of questions and contemplation highlighted with ‘Just Don’t Feel’ and ‘Love is a Drug’. Not to be left hanging, talk of album #6 on the night cued to providing some of the resolution and break through from these questions…all sequential and logical steps to the story. Another new track and an impromptu encore of ‘Breaking Up’ with other tracks from Black Fingernails, Red Wine for some fun facts on shared chords wrapped up the evening nicely.
There’s certainly been a few years that have passed, and stories that have been retold about all the albums and tracks spanning the band’s career but it certainly puts the albums into context with a new fondness and appreciation, along with building more interest into what the next album might have to offer.