I cut my teeth on Eskimo Joe’s music when I was first exposed to their 2004 iconic sophomore album, ‘A Song Is a City’.
While the album remains one of my all-time favourites and is completely unskippable, I cannot deny the power that is the award-winning ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’. I never thought the day would come where the two would combine to make up a tour where both albums would be played in full back-to-back. With the tour appropriately titled ‘Black Fingernails Red Wine In the City’, the Perth alt-rock trio consisting of Stu MacLeod, Joel Quartermain, and Kav Temperley were eager to provide fans, after having the tour rescheduled due to Covid restrictions, with every track from two of the most popular albums that helped shape their career.
Gracing the stage at the iconic Forum Melbourne on Saturday the 1st of October, the band, accompanied with a drummer and keyboardist, had a giant screen on stage behind them playing visual footage that matched their songs. The screen also showcased photos from the past including old album art, tour related photos, and even music videos. The entirety of the event felt like one big nostalgic celebration filled with mutual happiness, an appreciation for the combination of their hard work and luck throughout their career, and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. This wasn’t just a fun revisit for the fans, but also for the band, affectionately reminiscing over the price of $2 beers and going down the rabbit hole of the iconic Australian music television show that is Rage.
Despite being in the music industry for 25 years, there were still so many patrons at the venue who were all too happy to admit that they were seeing Eskimo Joe live for the first time. One patron shared that he was gifted tickets for Father’s Day and although he had listened to Eskimo Joe for years, this gig marked the first time he’d be seeing them live. Another pair, young brothers from the United States, desperately wanted to witness live music during their visit to Australia at the iconic Melbourne venue and had keenly decided to see Eskimo Joe.
Kicking off the first half of the show, ‘A Song Is A City’ contained hits including my personal favourite ‘From the Sea’, ‘Life Is Better with You’, ‘Older Than You’, and ‘Smoke’. Because the album was being performed from start to finish, more obscure gems that you wouldn’t normally hear performed were amazing to witness live. This included ‘Carousel’ being instantly followed by ‘This Room’, much like it does on the album. ‘I’m So Tired’ also treated the audience to a double drumming performance by the tour drummer and Joel, which was an epic experience you just had to be there for.
If ‘A Song Is A City’ is the light, ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’ is the darkness, with the two albums being performed back-to-back providing a ‘Yin and Yang’ experience. Eskimo Joe, intentionally obvious about this, returned after a brief intermission between albums to perform the ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’ album, but not after cheekily having the ‘Star Wars ‘Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)’ played as the band’s reintroduction music.
While ‘A Song Is A City’ contains a lot of acoustics and is a love letter to Eskimo Joe’s hometown and the loved ones within the port city of Fremantle, ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’ is more bold and experimental, narrating the happenings of the world at the time, much like a snapshot and time capsule. The album consists of songs such as crowd favourite title track ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’, ‘New York’, ‘London Bombs’, and ‘Sarah’, when all we could hope for was an introduction to someone that has caught our eye that we’re aware of but have never properly met. I mean, these days we have social media and dating apps for that stuff. Kav even joked that he had been asked many times by fans, “If you already know Sarah, why do you need to know her name?”.
Like ‘A Song Is A City’ having its rarities, ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’ also has gems that were great to hear live including ‘Comfort You’ and its ‘Reprise’ with their excellent riffs. During ‘Setting Sun’, Kav took the liberty of thanking Miley Cyrus and her movie The Last Song for including their song on the film’s soundtrack. ‘Setting Sun’ was then performed with a selfie-stick and camera, which projected everything being filmed live to the big screen behind them. For one of the final tracks of the album, ‘How Does It Feel’ was performed with Kav encouraging the crowd to put their arms over each other and sway together, and it was something that looked incredible to witness. ‘Beating Like a Drum’ was also fantastic to hear live.
For their encore, after completing both albums, Eskimo Joe performed beloved tracks including my favourite ‘Love Is A Drug’ which was a joy to hear live, ‘Foreign Land’ which had the crowd erupting in unison after hearing the first few notes, and their legendary 1998 tune ‘Sweater’ which was performed live on tour for the first time since 2001. Considering it is known that there’s always one person that shouts to hear the song live at an Eskimo Joe gig, I can only imagine how elated the entire venue must have been feeling to have finally heard the song live after so long. Now if only we could get a chant going to have ‘Turn Up Your Stereo’ performed live, that would be fantastic!
While I did miss many songs during this tour from other EPs and albums of Eskimo Joe’s vast and decorated discography, the ‘Black Fingernails Red Wine In the City’ setlist consisted of no less than 28 songs which is no ordinary feat. This included the three not from either album for their encore.
Eskimo Joe’s music career is nothing short of a triumph. ‘Black Fingernails Red Wine In the City’ which has already visited Brisbane and Hobart, will soon visit Adelaide, Sydney and Perth this month. This tour is an absolute victory lap for this legendary alternate rock Aussie band after 25 years of being in the music industry. Witnessing this band perform live is truly an honour and rite of passage for all Aussie rock fans, with their performances consistently leaving audiences extremely elated, satisfied and yet at the same time, always wanting more. Here’s to 25 more years. Rock on, Eskimo Joe.
Eskimo Joe performed at Forum Melbourne on Saturday October 1st as part of their 2022 tour ‘Black Fingernails Red Wine In the City’.
For more information and ticketing on the remaining tour dates, visit:
Photography by Grant Alexander.