The legendary Paul Kelly hit Adelaide for the first of two sold out shows at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre Theatre with Steve Earle and up and comers The Middle Kids. As far as bills go this is premium considering the calibre of what’s on offer. Much has been said about how sterile the Theatre is at the Entertainment Centre but considering how hot it was the air-conditioning provided some welcome relief to fans who could sit back and enjoy the show.

The Middle Kids are no doubt on the way up and the sky is the limit and they forge their reputation overseas. For me this was the first time seeing these wonder kids play and they were impressive. Some songs off their self-titled EP featured prominently in their set including Your Love, Edge Of Town and Never Start. Definitely well worth a look next time they are in town.

Country-rock troubadour Steve Earle was next and seemed to resonate with the more “mature” crowd to assembled to see Paul Kelly. The last time I saw Earle was across the road at The Gov some ten or twelve years ago with Tim Rogers. His reaction to playing Copperhead Road was just as terse back then as it is now making the remark after “well, that’s out of the way” playing it first off. Steve Earle is a lot mellower these days but the tales from his wild life and the stories he has to share make for an interesting listen. Highlights from his set include The Devil’s Right Hand, Hometown Blues and new song The Firebreak Line.

Paul Kelly took to the stage to a hero’s like welcome and it seemed appropriate to open with Life If Is Fine because no doubt it is with the success so far of what is touted as one of his best albums in years. The flavour of something new kept going with Rising Moon and Finally Something Good to follow. Kelly said “now to play something from the twentieth century” pulling out Before Too Long. This was just the start of all the awesome songs old and new that were about to come.

Kelly is always backed by the best going around with nephew Dan on guitar (“oldest son of my oldest brother”), Peter Luscombe on drums, Bill McDonald on bass, Cameron Bruce on keyboards and the fantabulous Bull sisters – Vika and Linda – on backing vocals. At times the Bull sisters steal the show. Vika took lead vocals on My Man’s Got A Cold and hot damn! That was good.

The biggest cheers were reserved for set staples including Careless, From Little Things Big Things Grow, To Her Door to more recent Kelly classics Deeper Water and Firewood And Candles. For a show that spanned just over two hours Kelly didn’t put a foot wrong and my favourites for the highlights reel include Love Never Runs On Time, Dumb Things, seeing Linda take the reigns on Sweet Guy and How To Make Gravy was brilliant. If there was a blemish it would have to be the set closer and the cover of The Travelling Wilbury’s Handle Me With Care. Great to see everyone on stage paying homage to the legends of Tom Petty and Roy Orbison but they did this cover no favours at all.

Returning for the first of two encores and being the eve of the ashes it was fitting that Bradman got an airing but one of the magical moments of the night was the stripped back version Meet Me In The Middle Of The Air. Wow! A song doesn’t get any more powerful than that, perfect harmonies, perfect everything!

The second encore topped things off brilliantly with Kelly encouraging the crowd to get out of their seats for Leaps And Bounds and Darling It Hurts. What a night! Who’s backing up for night two?

Review by Rob Lyon