Eskimo Joe at Chelsea Heights Hotel, Victoria, November 4, 2019

It is the year 2004. “A Song Is A City” has been released, quickly cementing its place in my personal list of ‘the perfect albums of the century’ (due to me never wanting to skip a single track, which for me is a rarity), Australian rock music is thriving and Eskimo Joe have become one of my favourite bands. In truth, I initially fell in love with the single “From the Sea” and decided to backtrack through their catalog, which at the time only had EPs “Sweater”, “Eskimo Joe” and debut studio album, Girl.

Fifteen years later, it is 2019 and I find myself trekking over to Chelsea Heights Hotel in Chelsea Heights (a place that I have never been to before) on Monday the 4th of November (Cup Eve) for their only Victorian show on their untitled (or self-titled) regional tour. The queue to get into the venue was, to my surprise, not only long but contained a very diverse gathering with fans both older than me (pun intended) and younger than me, all equally keen to see Eskimo Joe live. What didn’t surprise me, after much conversation with those in the queue and overhearing other conversations, was how many people had travelled far and wide to attend the gig, some even driving several hours to be there.

When the Perth band finally took to the stage to a very busy and packed out venue, the band began with upbeat tune “Sarah”, while being confident and genuinely happy to be reunited with a Victorian crowd. Lead singer of Eskimo Joe, Kav Temperley apologised to the audience on behalf of the band for taking so long to come back to Victoria. In a crazy self-challenge and promise, Temperley vowed that he and his fellow bandmates, Stuart MacLeod and Joel Quartermain would do their very best to please everyone and make the night ‘a night to remember’ – but also cheekily reminded the crowd that they were all married and spoken for. This didn’t stop excited fans from cheering and affectionately heckling the band.

While I was completely stoked that Eskimo Joe played some of my personal favourites including “Older Than You”, “Planet Earth” and “Wake Up”, the audience were particularly reflective when Temperley spoke beforehand to introduce the song “London Bombs”, which was inspired by the 2005 London bombings and the band’s personal fears for the safety of their loved ones that resided in London at the time. It is a song that ironically in this political environment, is still hauntingly relevant today.

In a heavier direction, when Eskimo Joe burst into song with “Inshalla”, it was a welcome tempo change and release for the audience, who all were happily jumping along to the upbeat number. This quickly changed again when “Who Sold Her Out” was performed, throwing back to Eskimo Joe’s catchier, playful and carefree beginnings, followed by toe-tapping, head-bopping, 80’s sounding and underrated 2011 single, “Love Is A Drug” from Eskimo Joe’s fifth studio album, Ghosts of the Past.

It wouldn’t be an Eskimo Joe gig without crowd favourite and 2006 ARIA Award winning single “Black Fingernails, Red Wine”. Kav Temperley looking the part while on stage and serenading the crowd with his fingernails fashionably adorned in black nail-polish.

After a quick run off the stage, the band soon returned for an encore to perform “How Does It Feel”, a song where Temperley encouraged the crowd to connect, which soon had the audience linking arms and swaying together in unison. While I do admit, I did laugh at how silly everyone looked in front of me, it was a very sweet gesture and a wonderfully morally inclusive idea.

Everything came full circle when Eskimo Joe finally performed “From The Sea”, the song that ignited my love for their music 15 years ago. Not only did Eskimo Joe absolutely deliver ‘a night to remember’, but the gig was a wonderfully nostalgic journey through youth, life, love, pain and change.

While I am sure that each patron has a different story that entwines with Eskimo Joe’s music, which was evident when I spoke to an elated young man after the gig who excitedly shared with me that he had been wanting to see Eskimo Joe live for years, but was never old enough to attend until now. For me, their music was (and still is) a very large part of my life. To quote their own song, “life is better with you”. At least, I can confirm that my life is.

Although the Perth group did not speak of any new music to come during the show, I certainly hope that composing and writing again for Eskimo Joe is not completely out of the picture. Despite Australian rock music not being as popular as it used to be, Eskimo Joe have grown both as men and as musicians while still keeping their unique sound and identity. They have remained true to themselves, were completely ‘at home’ on-stage and sounded incredible live, as they always have been.

For more information on Eskimo Joe and their tour, visit: https://www.eskimojoe.net

Photography by Grant Alexander.

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