Whispering Jack era John Farnham.
Whispering Jack era John Farnham.

The John Farnham joke I’m sick of hearing

THERE'S something you can now add to death and taxes.

That is the fact that when John Farnham announces a new concert some rocket scientist will post the comment online 'Isn't this his 20th comeback tour?' or 'So much for his retirement!' as if they're the first to make the hilarious gag.

Last Saturday night, as Farnham walked off stage after thrilling 12,000 fans at his sold out A Day on the Green show at Rochford Wines, one Instagram hero took precious time out from their own compelling evening to note "Still doing shows after telling everyone he'd retired I see."


For starters, that mythical 'final' tour was actually his 'The Last Time' tour of 2002, named after the album which took its name from the Rolling Stones song he covered. You'd imagine Farnham wished he could pick another song to christen that tour with now. His plan was to stop playing the national arena circuit after each album - an incredible problem to have - and do things differently. Not actually retire, just not do full scale national tours.

John Farnham never claimed he retired, and will play to 110,000 fans this year. Picture: Supplied
John Farnham never claimed he retired, and will play to 110,000 fans this year. Picture: Supplied

He's since done joint tours (Lionel Richie, Olivia Newton-John), played smaller venues and one-off shows and discovered a whole new world playing the outdoor circuit over summer. Many of those shows are outside of the major cities, taking him into rural areas and many swap seated indoor gigs for standing outdoor gigs that often attract a younger audience.

This summer alone, between his headline shows at A Day on the Green and Red Hot Summer Tours, John Farnham will play to over 110,000 fans across Australia. That's impressive for any act, let alone one who turns 70 next year and has been doing this since 1967.

He is one of the fastest-selling ticket sellers for both outdoor festivals, one of the acts their databases are happy to see each year and never tire of.

In the last 12 months he played for the retirement crowd circuit on cruise ships and was the special guest for hipster band Client Liaison at their travelling festival Expo Liaison, where he was treated like a hero to people not born when Whispering Jack was released in 1986.

Indeed, Farnham's first hit, Sadie the Cleaning Lady, was released in 1967. It's difficult to think of any other Australian act from that era still able to fill arenas and headline festivals 50 years later.

John Farnham has been delighting crowds like this since 1967. Picture: Luke Drew
John Farnham has been delighting crowds like this since 1967. Picture: Luke Drew

He doesn't even play anything from the 60s or 70s, only going as far back as 1984's Playing to Win from his time fronting LRB.

It's simple supply and demand. If people stopped buying tickets to his shows, or if he wasn't enjoying doing them, then maybe he might think about stopping. Unlike many acts 20 years his junior, his voice remains powerful and resonant.

Both Kiss and Cher have 'retired' and then gone back on the road, as has Suzi Quatro. Most musicians tell you they have the best job the world. So why leave it? To do what?

Plus it takes a village. John Farnham being on stage keeps a small industry in work, from his band to his crew right through to security and bar staff and the flow-on effect to local businesses. We should celebrate this kind of success.

Indeed, listen to the people screaming with joy at the Farnham shows, not the ones moaning online. Which ones do you think are having more fun?

Cameron Adams is the Herald Sun's music writer.