By Brian Wise
Midnight Oil @ Hanging Rock – Saturday November 4, 2017
Midnight Oil emerged out of the darkness like a massive road train thundering across the landscape, sweeping everything before it. Beneath the legendary rock that loomed under a full moon and 20,000 fans, the band proved not only that they were still the nation’s most powerful musical voice but also, after an absence of fifteen years, that they were still as needed as ever.
The video screens carried the UN Declaration of Human Rights and other messages for marriage equality and against coal mining but these were matched by the power of the 100 minutes of music to follow.
As the Oils kicked into gear and Peter Garrett commanded the stage it was hard to believe that there had been any hiatus at all. All Garrett’s moves were still there – albeit a little slower – and the other band members fell in behind him in perfect lock step.
In this amphitheatre setting, with a huge PA, you can truly appreciate just how powerful this band really is, with guitarists Jim Moginie and Martin Rotsey powering the rhythms and bassist Bones Hillman and drummer Rob Hirst in the engine room. In fact, Hirst’s muscular drumming underpins the whole band in the same way that Charlie Watts anchors the Stones. Garrett might not be the greatest singer – though he sounded great this evening – but he is the perfect singer for this band.
Last time Midnight Oil toured it was only a year after 9/11. George W Bush was President of the USA and about to invade Iraq while John Howard was PM here and about to support him unquestioningly. Somehow things don’t feel that much different, which is why when you watch Garrett and company you cannot help but feel that regardless of their reasons for reforming the time is right. Garrett put his life where his mouth was for more than a decade by going into politics but here he can deliver his message direct without the filter of a political party.
As soon as the band launched into ‘Redneck Wonderland’ the audience erupted and we were reminded how the music truly reflected ‘the tempo of the times.’ (Ironically, during the evening a few over enthusiastic people who had become ‘tired and emotional’ had to be assisted out of the event, giving added meaning to the opening song’s title). ‘Lucky Country’ immediately rammed home the point.
Garrett eventually shed his hoodie and shirt to reveal a slogan emblazoned t-shirt but he did note that ‘You Victorians really know how to out on a balmy evening’ in reference to the chilly weather. (He should be there when it rains!). During some songs he made his way down the catwalk that protruded, Rolling Stones-style, into the audience.
What really sent the evening to another level was the version of Yothu Yindi’s ‘Treaty’ about half way through the set that featured Yirrimal on vocals and gathered the band together centre stage. It was yet another powerful moment that was followed by ‘US Forces,’ as if to contrast the local and the international.
A horn-section, featuring Hunters & Collectors’ Jack Howard, appeared and kicked the band into another gear adding colour to ‘Dead Heart,’ ‘Beds Are Burning’ ‘King of the Mountain,’ ‘Blue Sky Mine’ and ‘Forgotten Years.’ It was here that the night ramped up and that magical connection between the Oils and their audience was once more apparent.
The encore included ‘Power and The Passion,’ a song that almost perfectly sums up what Midnight Oil is all about. As the music faded and we walked to the car I couldn’t help feeling that in this era of ‘if you are not for us you are against us’ politics this band is needed more than ever.
Before the show I declared to a friend that Midnight Oil was the best Australian band I had ever seen and I have no reason to change that opinion.
[I should also mention that the solid supports for the evening included Frank Yamma and David Bridie, a very tight Something For Kate and the John Butler Band].
Midnight Oil appear at the Myer Music Bowl on Monday November 6, Wednesday November 8 and Wednesday November 15. They also play the Domain in Sydney on November 11 and 17 and the Wollongong Entertainment Centre on Monday November 13.
Stars of Warburton
Sell My Soul
Read About It
If Ned Kelly Was King
Stand in Line
Treaty (with Yirrimal)
Only the Strong
The Dead Heart
Beds Are Burning
King of the Mountain
Blue Sky Mine
Put Down That Weapon
Power and the Passion
Best of Both Worlds