Live Review plus Gallery: MONA FOMA Festival, Paul Kelly, Odeon Theatre, Hobart 18.02.2024

Feature Photograph: Arun Kendall

It’s a strangely warm night at the edge of the world in Hobart and it must be quite a shock for the troubadour extraordinaire Paul Kelly who has only just got back from performing on a ship in Antarctica. The thing is, though, Kelly and his band raised the temperature quite a bit on their own with an absolutely transcendental and luminescent performance.

Across two sold out shows in Hobart’s stately Odeon Theatre, Kelly brought to life his 2022 compilation album – or his mixtape as he called it – entitled ‘Time’ – a collection of compositions that link to the concept of time. Kelly says:

We kill time, we waste time, we do time, we use time, we find time, we lose time, we race time, we hate time. Time keeps ticking—a heartbeat, a bomb, a spur. Time doesn’t wait, nor does it hurry. It moves too slow for lovers apart, for lovers together too fast … we play songs in praise of, in spite of and in the shadow of time.

Kelly is of course an Australian singer-songwriter who is known for his storytelling lyrics and diverse musical style. He has been a prominent figure in the Australian music scene for several decades and has released numerous albums that have received critical acclaim. In the process he has become a national icon and there is no better evidence than the band Kelly brings with him, including musical luminaries such as Ashley Naylor (Even, The Church to name but a few) on guitars, Dan Kelly (nephew) on guitars, Bill McDonald on bass, Cameron Bruce on keys, Pete Luscombe on drums and Jess Hitchcock on vocals.

The set kicked off like a rocket with ‘Before Too Long’ and the nearly two hour set was just as incendiary. The band set fire to the material and the on-stage camaraderie was infectious and joyous – Luscombe’s drumming was powerful and transfixing while Naylor and Dan Kelly guitar antics were mesmerising. Dan Kelly plied his trade with mandolins, banjos and guitars while Naylor create a shimmer with six and twelve strings. The backing singing and stage presence of Hitchcock was stunning – her performance in ‘Every Day My Mother’s Voice’ (a song dedicated to First Nations footballer Adam Goodes) had the entire theatre on its feet, joined by every hair on the back of my neck.

Indeed there were many moments during the evening that were transfixing and euphoric – certainly fueled by Kelly’s more well known tracks like the sentimental ‘How To Make Gravy’- the unofficial Australian Christmas anthem – and the sheer power of and majesty of ‘Leaps and Bounds’ and the anthemic ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’.

True to the concept of the inevitable passage of time, Kelly made special mention of two of his fellow musicians who helped shape the music but were no longer on this mortal coil – Steve Connolly and Spencer Jones – and quoted from one of the most powerful poems about the folly of power and the passage of time, Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Look on my works, ye mighty and despair indeed.

The set was punctuated by Kelly’s good humour and repartee and a brilliant production in the theatre. The reception from the full house was tumultuous and a testament to the power of MONA FOMA in bringing together such a marvelous program.

Paul Kelly Setlist

  • Before Too Long
  • The Pretty Place
  • When I First Met Your Ma
  • Back To The Future
  • To Be Good Takes A Long Time
  • Randwick Bells
  • Love Never Runs On Time
  • Every Day My Mother’s Voice
  • Ozymandias
  • Cities of Texas
  • For The Ages (solo)
  • If I Could Start Today Again
  • I Wasted Time
  • Winter Coat
  • Sonnet 60
  • To Her Door
  • The Oldest Story In The Book
  • Time and Tide
  • Won’t You Come Around?
  • Deeper Water
  • How To Make Gravy
  • From Little Things Big Things Grow


  • Young Lovers
  • Leaps and Bounds
  • The Magpies

Feature Photograph and Gallery: Arun Kendall

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