Johnny – or these days just Diesel – is no stranger to playing in Cairns and at Brothers Leagues Club. It seems like he is here around this time every year and has been for a quite a few footy seasons, which has never been a bad thing.
Since starting off playing in Jimmy Barnes’ backing band to fronting his own band the Injectors before finally settling on a solo career, Diesel has always had the one constant of being a hell of a guitar player. Some of his earlier songs are etched in the annals of Australian rock history, and now, some 13 albums later, it seems Diesel is finally prepared to knock it down a few cogs.
Starting with a couple of songs off his latest outing, ‘Let it Fly’, Diesel
showcased a softer, dare I say it, lazier, side of his musical scope, with his choice of songs to open the show reeking more of self promotion rather than crowd sentimentality. That being said, he fired up into some of his older material by the third song with the soulful, almost hypnotic ‘Since I Fell For You’ kicking things finally into gear.
The stage set up was minimal, yet impressive, with just two gels and a backdrop of small white lights over black material ensuring the sole focus of the performance was on Diesel, his voice, and his guitar, and that was all he needed as he peeled off a selection of his earlier hits from his band, Johnny Diesel and the Injectors. ‘I Don’t Need Love’ and ‘Soul Revival’ proved that a good song still maintains it’s dignity whether played with a band or as solo, and Diesel’s constant swapping of guitars (he had six ready to go) and alternation of vocals and harmonica ensured the tempo changes and vocal harmonies of each song ebbed and flowed accordingly.
It was difficult to gauge the crowd because of the intimate setting, with tables lining the room and chairs set up all the way to stage, but every time Diesel encouraged his fans to clap or sing along they responded in kind, but unfortunately there was far too little crowd participation with Diesel preferring to focus on his guitar playing , which was not necessarily a bad thing.
It was evident that guitar is his primary passion, and he looked most at ease when cruising through his (not enough of) solo’s rather than trying to play guitar, sing and play harmonica. Not that it detracted from his performance but it just seemed to have more punch when he was concentrating on one or the other.
Favourites ‘All Come Together’, ‘Come to Me’ and ‘Tip of My Tongue’ were rolled out to the crowds delight, and by the time he finished with a cover of Hendrix’s ‘Hey Joe’ and compulsory ‘Crying Shame’ most of the crowd were happy to have seen another Diesel show, but to me that’s all it was, just another show.
Not that it was bad, it just seemed he was going through the motions. His voice is still strong and soulful and his guitar playing as good as ever, but the show lacked that knockout punch that Diesel has delivered so many times in the past.