Cold Chisel celebrates 50th anniversary with a national tour

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Cold Chisel are back to celebrate their 50th birthday in style.

The band are marking a golden anniversary with a national tour, kicking off in Armidale where they were based back in 1974.

The beloved rockers will perform in major cities and regional centres across the country, culminating in a big Adelaide homecoming show.

Plus, the concerts in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will be staged under a circus big top, a nod to the wild gigs Chisel performed in tents to promote their 1982 album, Circus Animals.

But Jimmy Barnes is disarmingly frank when I ask him what it’s like to be still playing gigs with his Cold Chisel band mates, 50 years on.

“If you’d have asked me 50 years ago if I would still be doing it, I would have said no, because I didn’t think we’d live to 21!”

Immediately those images spring to mind of a sweat-soaked, bandana-wearing frontman necking bottles of vodka on stage between songs (and sometimes during them).

Jimmy and the band worked hard and played even harder — the death wish was real.

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These days, the pace has slowed a bit. They are, of course, men in their late sixties and early seventies.

But the passion to play together remains undiminished.

“Once you get back on stage, it just gels again,” bass player Phil Small told News Breakfast.

“It’s the amazing thing about this band. It’s enjoyable on that stage. And that’s what we all look forward to.”

Cold Chisel’s national tour starts in October. While there won’t be a new album to promote, a best-of album will drop in August.

It will just be one of Australia’s most popular and enduring bands, belting out anthems like Khe Sanh, Bow River, Cheap Wine and Flame Trees to crowds that will sing along word for word.

Guitarist and singer Ian Moss insists the band knows exactly what the audiences want.

“There’s definitely a minimum of 14 songs [we need to play] if we want to get out of the venue alive,” he jokes.

“Without the songs, you know, we’d be great musicians. But, we’ve got some fantastic songs.”

For chief songwriter Don Walker, composing a set list brimming with classics involves a bit of work.

“Well, I do a lot of consulting with the other guys, and I throw around ideas,” he told News Breakfast.

“You know, ‘what do you think of this?’ And everybody comes back with ‘that’s not gonna work! That’s gonna fall over three songs in!’ And then I go back to it!

“But we eventually come up with — between us — the right thing.”

The tour will be especially meaningful for Barnes, who survived a near-death medical emergency late last year.

A bacterial infection led to open heart surgery, and months of painstaking recovery.

“In November when I got sick, prior to that week, I was healthy as a Mallee bull,” he said.

“I was probably healthier than I was back 30 to 40 years ago in Chisel. But I got a bug, and it nearly killed me. And it shows you how quick and how fleeting life can be.”