James Reyne continues to cement his spot as the hardest-working man in Australian show business.
In recent years Reyne has been permanently on tour – and 2024 will be no different with his Crawl File tour kicking off at Kingscliff on January 6.
The tour arrives in Brisbane for shows at The Princess Theatre on February 23 and 24. Reyne then veers all over the place, including Adelaide and Melbourne and regional towns over several months, ending back in Queensland’s north to finish the tour with shows in Bundaberg and Maryborough in July.
Reyne is undoubtedly one of this country’s finest singer-songwriters. He continually sells out venues around Australia and he can hold his own anywhere, from a pub gig to an arena.
With a slew of solo hits, and songs covered by everyone from Paul Kelly (Reckless) to Daryl Braithwaite (Motors Too Fast), Reyne continues to make quality records. Witness 2020’s Toon Town Lullaby. Yet, there’s always interest in where it all began for the artist with his band, Australian Crawl.
In 2024 Reyne sets off on a national tour that will see Australian Crawl fans’ hearts racing. Yes, it really will be 40 years since Australian Crawl released their greatest hits LP, Crawl File.
In summer 1984, you couldn’t get away from the band’s music and radio was alight with songs such as The Boy’s Light Up, Errol, Beautiful People, Downhearted and Oh No Not You Again.
To mark the occasion, Reyne and his eight-piece band are getting back on the tour bus.
As lead singer in Australian Crawl, and the band’s primary songwriter alongside the late Guy McDonough, the songs Reyne will perform on the Crawl File tour will run the gamut of the band’s studio albums and the Semantics EP.
Watching Reyne play live today, it’s hardly a nostalgia act. There’s something about the power of those vintage songs, and the intent with which the band plays them, that brings the tunes completely into the now.
“I’m always moaning to the band about how old the songs are,” Reyne begins, “But they tell me I’m stupid and I should embrace them. I’ve made 400 solo records, but there’s some resilience in those Australian Crawl songs.
“I often suggest playing a cover but our drummer John Watson says, ‘Why, when we’ve got so many songs people know’. The band is very supportive of the material and that attitude supports me.
“It sounds like a cliche, but I’ve found something in those songs that resonates on a certain level. We do Daughters of the Northern Coast, for example, and that’s an old song, but there’s something in it and the way the band plays it that feels special.”
In full flight, Reyne’s band is a thing of wonder. Watson (who replaced Bill McDonough on the Australian Crawl drum stool) is flanked by Andy McIvor on bass, Sean Johnson on keyboards, and Melinda Jackson and Nicky Kurt on backing vocals. There’s also the sublime twin guitar attack of Brett Kingman and Josh Owen.
Reyne grew up watching bands such as Skyhooks and The Dingoes. Like their work, his own songs invoke a sense of Australia. Why sing about Nashville when he could write about “a trackless tram Bondi bound”?
Looking back, Reyne sees Australian Crawl as an apprenticeship. The band first made a dent on the public consciousness when they appeared on ABC-TV’s Countdown to perform Beautiful People, with Reyne’s arms in plaster after being hit by a car.
Their first three albums, The Boys Light Up (1980), Sirocco (1981) and Sons of Beaches (1982), all sailed to the upper echelons of the charts, with the first two albums each earning four-times platinum status.
“It was great fun,” reflects Reyne. “We were really young. There was a certain camaraderie, a great security and strength in numbers. You get your little gang and it’s you against the world. There’s a lot more confidence that way, but I must admit when the band finished I was relieved. Anyone who’s been in a band will know that it gets tough sometimes.”
“When we made our first album (The Boys Light Up) we had no idea how to make a record. We were just happy someone let us make one. After the first one did so well, we subconsciously hoped that the next one was going to do as well. You don’t want to have a failure. When we recorded Sirocco, we wanted to capture what the band actually sounded like live.
“With Sons of Beaches … it had a couple of good songs on it. We didn’t make the best record of our little life, but we recorded it with (Australian producer) Mike Chapman in Hawaii and had a great time.”
“It was all a long time ago and sometimes I feel like it was another person who lived that life. But I’m still making music and I’m still on the road.”
One song that continues to tower at Reyne’s shows is Reckless (Don’t Be So). That song marked a new sound and direction for Australian Crawl around the time they signed an international deal in the US with Geffen Records.
Reyne promises the band will play it – alongside other hits – and with good reason.
“Well, we’d be lynched it we didn’t.”
Crawl File 40th Anniversary Tour 2024; jamesreyne.com.au
Your support will help us continue the important work of InReview in publishing free professional journalism that celebrates, interrogates and amplifies arts and culture in South Australia.