WHEN the Rolling Stones hit Adelaide Oval tomorrow it will be the biggest production ever seen in the South Australian capital.

And they have chosen their support act wisely: a 58-year-old, Glasgow-born, larger-than-life Aussie legend, by the name of Jimmy Barnes.

Barnes first made his name as the charismatic singer with the Australian rock band Cold Chisel, and when they broke up, he embarked on a long and remarkably successful solo career, the 30th anniversary of which he is marking with a new album.

He has enjoyed no fewer than nine chart-topping solo CDs. All but one of his 14 studio projects have landed feet-first in the country's top three.

And the 15th, the anniversary-celebrating album Hindsight, went straight in at number one as well.

Hindsight is a tour d'horizon of Barnes' long career, with his classic songs - Working Class Man, Ride the Night Away, Stone Cold, The Other Kind - all getting a fresh treatment via guests and friends such as Joe Bonamassa, Steven Van Zandt, Tina Arena, Aussie favourites The Living End and many others.

Barnes was born James Dixon Swan, in Cowcaddens.

"We emigrated to Australia in the summer of '60 and arrived in '61," he says in a phone call from Whyalla, South Australia, where he is playing a gig with his band in a few hours' time. "I was five years old when I left.

"Growing up in Australia, I just presumed I was a wild Australian, you know? I came back to Scotland in 1979, when I was 23, and I got the train up and arrived in Glasgow, and halfway across from the trains and taxis, some drunk tried to pick a fight with me. And then another bloke waded in and tried to help me.

"I remember walking away, shaking my head, and went to get a cab, thinking 'These people are nuts. These are my people!'"

In Australia, Barnes had grown up in the outskirts of Adelaide and was working as a railway apprentice before deciding to volunteer, at the age of 16, as a prisoner of rock 'n' roll.

He fronted Cold Chisel, one of the country's most prominent rock bands, but they broke up at their peak and Jimmy embarked on a solo career.

His debut, Bodyswerve, came out in September 1984, and went to number one.

He's had success upon success, and has lived the rock 'n' roll lifestyle to the full. By the time he turned 50 he was fitter than he had ever been and had kicked the booze and the drugs, but in 2007 he needed open-heart surgery to repair a congenital defect.

He's now the picture of health, thanks partly to yoga and meditation; his voice still has the power to strip paint off walls.

However, as it turns out, he had another brush with surgeons recently: "I went into hospital for some routine back surgery, small stuff, and I had all these complications and ended up being in hospital for 24 days," he reveals. "I was in intensive care for a week, and that was the worst pain I've ever felt.

"But that seems to have healed. I had a couple of weeks off, re- scheduled a couple of shows, and started again this week."

On YouTube there's a recent clip of him and his band playing a couple of numbers on an Australian radio show: he looks utterly at home behind a microphone.

I also mention that I remember the sheer energy of a show he did at Barrowland in the early '90s.

"I love playing live," he says, "but most of that power and energy in a show come from the audience. A great audience makes the band, and me as a singer, actually do much better than I'm probably capable of doing by myself.

"I sing at home and I can sing on records; I sing good, I can sing fine by myself, but put me in front of an audience... It's not showing-off. It's just the energy and the anticipation the audience has: you can see it in their eyes, you can see them wanting more from you, and they just drag more out of you. You sing with more soul, more power, more dynamics."

He TALKS entertainingly about some of the songs on the album, about how he finally got to record his old hit Ride the Night Away with its co-writer, Springsteen guitarist Steve Van Zandt.

It is a fine record, and there is one superb three-track sequence near the end of I'd Rather Be Blind, When Your Love is Gone and Steve Earle's The Other Kind. The latter dates from the time in the 1990s when Barnes and his family temporarily re-located to France and he found time to re-engage with music, to listen to and write songs that meant a lot to him.

Cold Chisel have come out of cold storage from time to time, and next March they'll be marking their 40th anniversary with a gig at the Clipsal 500 Adelaide - a high-profile V8 supercars event with nightly concerts. Promoters are in talks to bring Barnes himself to Europe.

Personally, Barnes himself couldn't be happier. "I've got nine grandkids, and two more coming in January. I've nearly got a football team," he quips.

He has homes in Sydney and the Southern Highlands, 60 miles to the south, and enjoys a remarkably close family set-up. Australia sounds fantastic, and he sounds so happy there.

"I have a great time wherever I am," he says. "I really enjoy life. My wife Jane is incredible, I have a great family...

"We've got a great life, nothing to complain about."

As for tomorrow's gig in Adelaide, he says: "I'm a huge Rolling Stones fan and I'm really looking forward to opening up for them.

"It will be an honour and a lot of fun. Can't wait to hear 20 or so of my favourite songs."

Hindsight has its UK release on Provogue Records on Monday.