Australian blues rock band The Black Sorrows are heading to Dubai for dinner-and-a-show at Le Meridien’s Yalumba restaurant on September 30. The group formed in 1983 at the hands of affable front man Joe Camilleri. The seasoned vocalist, saxophonist and guitarist, now 70, spoke to Gulf News tabloid! ahead of the intimate gig about what fans can expect.
You have such a rich discography. How do you narrow down a set list for a show like this?
I don’t have a song list. I never use them. You know that feeling when you meet somebody, you say, ‘I feel comfortable.’ And sometimes, you don’t feel so comfortable; people put you at arm’s length. And my feeling [with the audience] is that I’ll have to test the water the moment that I step on stage and feel [whether] we can give each other the energy that’s required for us. Every musician wants to be loved. It’s up to the audience to come for that ride.
The Black Sorrows are known for their live shows, but was there ever a time when you weren’t so comfortable on the stage?
Well, I’m not comfortable on the stage. I’m very nervous. I find it very humbling, mainly because every performance is a risk. I don’t have a show, I don’t have big lights, I don’t come out with gold teeth and red hair. It’s just about the music.
When you were growing up, was there a musician you saw live who changed your perceptions, or stuck with you for a long time?
There were plenty, because it was the ‘60s [when] I was a teenager. I thought the Rolling Stones were incredible, and the Animals. I didn’t know anything about performance. What I knew was how much I liked the songs. I went and saw Lou Reed. It was electrifying. But I also remember going to see Duke Ellington. I thought that was probably the most incredible concert I’d ever seen at that point of time. Then seeing Ray Charles... It was always all about the music. I recently saw Pharaoh Sanders play in Melbourne, a jazz saxophone player. It was so spiritual that I had to leave the room. I was overwhelmed by it. Music still does that to me.
Black Sorrows members change frequently. You’re the only constant. How do you decide who gets to perform under this name, and who’s out of the picture?
I can’t sack myself, but if I could, I probably would [laughs]. I don’t sack anybody. I don’t say, ‘Here’s you plane ticket. Thank you very much.’ It’s an evolution of what people want to do. You can be whatever it is that you want to be inside the band as long as you respect the song. Normally, I don’t even have to have that discussion. People say, ‘I can’t make the next tour… I love being in this band, but it’s time for me to cut myself loose.’ Lots of people that have done that have gone on to have a much bigger career. I encourage that.
You’ve had quite a few side projects over the years. Why is it important to have musical outlets outside of The Black Sorrows?
It’s about starting all over again. Sometimes, the more popular you become, the harder it is to be. I just recorded another record, I don’t have a title for it. There’s no drums, it’s just double bass, pedal steel and a guitar. There’s pretty much hardly anything on it. It goes way back to the start of why I wanted to be a musician in the first place. I don’t know when that’s going to be released, or if it’s ever going to be released, but I think for me, [the point] was to record it because it made me feel good.
The event will kick off at 7pm, with an open buffet. Dinner and beverages are priced at Dh279.