It was destined to be one of those warm autumnal evenings when funny things happened on the way to the Forum.

And it wasn't the ghosts of Frank Thring and Clara Bow making impromptu returns to the scene of their rhymes.

A well-orchestrated street occupation under the Flinders Street station clocks and outside the Apostle Paul's temple due west of the Forum had all the hallmarks of late thespian Frank's chariot cameo as Pontius Pilate in 1959 Ben Hur movie epic.

But it was not just the horse-drawn tourist traps stalled and lined up Indian fashion under the gaze of the station hands of time.

Trams from the middle-eastern suburbs had been diverted so this lonesome traveller opted for a ride on Shank's pony for the final lap of his journey.

Which, of course, was the reason I only caught three songs by Cowarr colt Harry Hookey who kicked the dew of the glass at the opening bounce of this Kasey Chambers double bill.

I was much luckier than Carlton footy stars Andrew Walker and David Ellard who attended the 2102 Lee Kernaghan-Dierks Bentley St Kilda Palais concert.

Their chances to catch fanatical Carlton supporters Kasey and her dad Bill were thrown out the window when the aptly named Bittersweet tour was postponed from spring when the headliner suffered protracted throat trauma.

Instead they had a daunting double booking due east at the nearby MCG where they hoped to celebrate Mick Malthouse's record breaking 715th game as an AFL-VFL coach with Carlton against his former employer - Collingwood.

But, by the time Kasey mounted the stage, the duo and team-mates were, ah, singing the blues as they were belted by the Magpies.

Maybe this was why the phalanx of Greco-Roman statues, high above patrons and performers in this stately historic Flinders and Russell St corner coliseum, appeared to shed tears from above and beneath the royal blue theatre ceiling, replete with a vast array of twinkling stars.

It was not because of any atmospheric ablutions from the minaret and cupola sharing the skyline with a majestic clock tower it was the energy emanating onstage from Harry and his brothers Teddy and Jack but not Sam who had foreign assignation with Charlie Hebdo hombres.

Hookey revealed his clan hailed from Cowarr, population 360, an old gold mining town 27 kilometres north east of Traralgon in east Gippsland.

But they joined the jet set with a gig the previous week in Lyon with Jack, who had found a Jill while visiting Sam.

Harry followed one of his many originals - most appropriately Let Me Die In Loving Arms - with his French frolic yarn.

“After the gig I left Jack at the bar and headed to the apartment where we were staying but we only had one key and I locked the door and fell asleep. Jack met a girl, brought her back to the apartment but they couldn't wake me. After half an hour waiting in the cold she called a cab and left.”

The salient sequencing ensured the next tune was Sometimes - “mothers lie awake at night/ while brothers go to bars to fight/ and fathers stay up drinking till their money's all spent/ sisters wake by the early morn/ leave notes on their bedroom doors/ say I never want to see your face again.”

Hookey saved the best to last as he revealed why tonight's audience might include a passionate posse of lawyers with money, and maybe not guns, from his previous profession.

Hookey revealed that he shocked his Chambers colleagues in his lucrative law career by decamping without notice.

“I left Chambers without telling anyone, not even an email,” Hookey explained, “I never went back. I realised I didn't want to do that job anymore. So this is a break-up song.”

Fittingly he finished his set with his debut album title track Misdiagnosed.

There didn't appear to be any writs served on Harry and band for breach of contract.

The half time interval enabled your reviewer to be reunited in the foyer with another Chambers - Bill.

Bill recalled the summer of 1971 when I saw him performing Hank Williams tune I Saw The Light at Pinewood rock festival west of Mt Gambier with his rock band The Deerstalkers.

Although he formed the Deerstalkers at school he confessed that tonight he would not be singing Beatles hit When I'm 64 .

At 64 he instead introduced me to fellow South Australian born singer-songwriter Liam Gerner who returned to Nu Country TV the previous week with his classic crime narrative Hank And Tammy .


By the time Kasey, Bill and their band took the stage their football team was deeper in defeat but that did not deter them from opening with the powerhouse passion of recent Bittersweet single Wheelbarrow and the bluegrass stomp of Still Feeling Blue.

Kasey reached to her distant past for major hit Not Pretty Enough and revealed her love affair with The Forum began as she shared a bill with Angus & Julia Stone and more recently Steve Earle as he recovered from his seventh divorce.

But it was when she was offered a support role on The Eagles tour she suffered a bladder malfunction.

“It was a dream come true when I was asked to do some gigs with The Eagles , I was trying to act cool but a little wee came out,” Kasey confessed.

It was not the royal we but close enough as she explained why her tour was postponed from spring to autumn because of her throat traumas.

She reached back to The Captain for This Flower as father Bill chose lap steel as his first instrument of choice for the evening before reverting to the title track of her first duet disc Rattlin' Bones with former singing spouse Shane Nicholson.

“People said great there will now be a divorce album,” Kasey joked, “if I don't do a divorce song they'll take away my country music license.”

Instead she told a tale about eldest son Talon, now 12, from a previous relationship.

“I thought he would be confused because he spends time with his dad who is an atheist and me who comes from a religious Seventh Day Adventist Family ,” Kasey revealed, “but he said he believes in God when he's with me and not when he is with his dad.”

That made an innovative intro to her new tune Is God Real accompanied by a video screened on Nu Country TV , on May 23.

By the time she reached back to 2004 album Wayward Angel for Pony it was Bill's turn to have the wee extracted.

“We have been touring for 25 years,” the singer recalled as a fan cheered for Bill.

“We have finally found your fan, don't encourage him, he'll get a big head and want to get paid.”

She also introduced band members bassist James Hazelwood, and 19 year old duo Brandon Dodd and Josh Dufficy - the latter two are members of the Grizzlee Train band she found playing in the front bar of a NSW Central Coast pub.

“I stumbled across these kids one night when I was drinking at the pub and they started playing and just blew my mind. They were amazing and I started jamming with them a little bit and then said ‘I want you in my band',” she said.

“They were stoked and they've given me this new level of excitement. They're super talented but also just really lovely guys, and they're playing music for all the right reasons.”

And a good segue into next tune.

“This next song brought me back from divorce,” she joked as she introduced Stalker from Bittersweet .

“It started out as a little crush I had on Doctor Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds , not the actor but the character who is a real nerd who has a dreary life outside of solving crimes. If you want him to notice you, well you have to commit a crime.”


Chambers then dismissed her band for acoustic delivery of her most recent composition - and probably the creative peak of the concert.

In contrast to Stalker it was a true tale from 1938 - Behind The Eyes of Henri Young.

“In 1938 in California orphan boy Henri Young, just 17, was jailed for stealing food worth $5 to feed him and his sister,” Chambers revealed.

“It was a Federal offence because he stole the food from a grocery store that is also a post office so he was sent to a Federal jail. He is apprehended and his sister is sent to an orphanage. Henri never sees his sister again and is sentenced to Leavenworth Penitentiary, Kansas . After later being transferred to Alcatraz , he participates in an escape attempt with two other prisoners.

He tried to escape and the warden threw him into solitary in the hole for 19 days but he was kept there for three years with no light, no toilet, no furniture and nothing to read. He went mad and killed his cellmate who turned him for trying to escape. It inspired the movie Murder In The First .”

The 1995 film starred Kevin Bacon as Henri and Christian Slater as the public defender who represented him.

Young is convicted of involuntary manslaughter, not first degree murder, and is returned to Alcatraz where he subsequently dies.

Kasey then handed the reins to Grizzlee Train who performed one of their own tunes on guitar, harmonica and an innovative slap drum.

But the full band returned for I Still Pray from Barricades & Brickwalls while extolling the virtues of banjo - “everything sounds better with a banjo.”

So did Chambers humour when she previewed her seventh album title track Bittersweet recorded with Powderfinger singer Bernard Fanning.

“I was lucky enough to have Bernard Fanning join me on the album on keys and guitar,” Kasey revealed.

“He's such a great guy, he plays music for all the right reasons but he moved to Spain . But who needs Bernard Fanning when you can have Harry Hookey.”

Your reviewer was not reading between the lines as Hookey joined Chambers as her surrogate duet partner and also harmonica and stayed for the bluegrass stomp of her post-divorce celebratory anthem and album finale I'm Alive .

There was more joy when the singer revealed she wrote The Captain before her newest band members were born.

She also explained her roadie and lighting man Worm, whom she went to primary school with, contributed to The Captain.

But an extended on stage cameo by Worm , whom she claimed had fondled Ed Sheeran's buttocks in a backstage photo op, went almost as long as Henri Young's time in solitary in Alcatraz.

Poppa Bill saved the day when he did an inspired solo on his 2009 album title track Drifting South .

But, unlike Carlton 's final quarter, the concert ended on a high on riveting finale - the Barricades & Brickwalls title track.

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