Nick Barker travels with the Wilburys’ music
Rated by Rolling Stone Magazine as the best group of all time, The Traveling Wilburys left their mark on music history in the late 1980s.
Superstars Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty collaborated and performed together on hits including “End of the Line”, “Last Night”, “Handle With Care” and “She’s My Baby”.
Their debut album Volume 1 won the 1990 Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance, but the band never performed live.
Now from the producer/director of The Man In Black and At Last: The Etta James Story comes a new style of show.
End Of The Line: The Music of the Traveling Wilburys, to be performed in Geelong next month, takes the audience through a narrative and musical journey of the band and gives an insight into the peaks and valleys of their stellar yet short-lived story.
The show is performed by a who’s who of Australian rock: Nick Barker, Brian Mannix, JR Reyne, Bernard Curry and Taylor Sheridan.
Barker said he was more of a Tom Petty fan than a Travelling Wilburys fan in the late 1980s as he originally derided the band as a corporate supergroup, but became a fan over the course of preparing for what he describes as a “concert with facts”.
“When I started doing the research – I’m a research nut – I was really surprised to find out a) how organic it all was and the way it came together, and b) how great the records were, the songwriting.
“Some of the album tracks are just killer, some of the Dylan stuff. If I was really, really honest, I’ve never been a real Dylan guy either, so it was really interesting to listen to some of the tracks he was writing. It wasn’t light-hearted, but you could tell they were having fun.”
He said the first half of the show tries to capture what it would have been like when the Travelling Wilburys first formed and started writing together, showcasing mostly acoustic material, with the second half a more traditional concert.
“We pretty much put our own experience playing live into the second half, because it’s supposed to be what that concert would have been like, as close as we can make it,” Barker said. “They are fun songs to play, but by no means are they easy; the harmonies are tricky.”
Barker is full of praise for the four musicians who appear on stage with him.
“Anybody can get together a bunch of people who can sing and play, put them on the stage and go ‘righto, here’s the chords, here’s the dialogue; go’ but you need a bit more than that to make these things work. It’s not like playing in a pub. When you’re sitting in a theatre, people are hanging on every word you say and you can hear a pin drop,” he said.
“You’ve got guys like Brian Mannix – he’s a loose cannon, man, but he’s also incredibly intuitive and really good in this situation. You forget he’s done a lot of theatre stuff.
“We were never given obvious characters, but it’s funny how you gravitate towards what you gravitate towards. I’m obviously doing Tom Petty because it suits my voice and I’m no four-octave singer like Roy Orbison, and Brian is really great at the Bob Dylan stuff; it suits his kind of laconic delivery.
“The way I’ve worked with these things is that you can’t tell the whole story, there’s just too much. I always work on the theory that people learn five things after the concert that they didn’t know before it, plus they get to see all the songs as well. And there’s personal stories as well – Brian’s got a very funny story about meeting George Harrison.”
End Of The Line: The Music of the Traveling Wilburys will be performed at Geelong’s Costa Hall on July 3.
For tickets and more information, head to the Geelong Arts Centre website.