November 27, 2015 Colin Hay Fascinates Town Hall NYC 11-19-15
“Okay, Colin, time to play that song about that place that you’re not from!” So stated Ringo Starr nightly (according to Colin Hay) during the 2003 and 2008 All-Star Band concert tours. Hay would then launch into a spirited version of “Down Under” backed by the former Beatle and his band of celebrity musicians which included among others: Sheila E, Paul Carrack and John Waite, Billy Squier, Edgar Winter and Gary Wright. It is true that Colin Hay, who most people think of as the lead-singer of 1980’s Australian hit-makers Men At Work, is not Australian. He is actually Scottish and was born in Kilwinning, North Ayrshire, Scotland in June of 1953. His father owned a music store. He and his family moved to Australia in 1967. It was not until 1978 that Hay met Ron Strykert. Men at Work was born soon after. In 1981, Men At Work released its debut album Business as Usual via Columbia Records. They released two number 1 singles in the United States: “Who Can It Be Now?” and “Down Under,” both songs that are still well known today. To understand just how successful Hay was with Men At Work, The Business As Usual album reached number 1 on the Billboard charts, while both “Down Under” and the Business as Usual album itself hit number 1 in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
In 1986, after a commercial peak followed by a slight downward trend in popularity, Hay disbanded Men At Work. Since that time, he has worked as a solo artist releasing several major label and smaller label solo albums. In 2004, Hay contributed “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You” to the Garden State soundtrack album. They movie and the CD were big hits and Hay was exposed to a new audience. In addition to his music career, Hay has also acted appearing in a number of movies and television shows. His appearances on Scrubs have become somewhat legendary as he also performed some of his songs. In 2006, Hay provided his voice for one of the characters in animated movie The Wild. In addition to all of this, in August of 2015 the documentary Colin Hay: Waiting For My Real Life premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Through all of his commercial success, Hay has called the United States home. Moving to Los Angeles way back in 1982, he has not officially become a U.S. citizen, but has lived there for the past thirty-three years. Now supporting his twelfth overall solo album, Next Year People, to the delight of fans, Hay has spent most of 2015 touring. While he shared time on Last Summer on Earth Tour with Barenaked Ladies and Violent Femmes in June and July, Hay has also taken to the road for solo gigs that are scheduled well into 2016.
With that in mind, on a very rainy New York City Thursday evening of November 19th, the accomplished Colin Hay brought his one-man show to the historic Town Hall. Appearing at just a few minutes after 8pm, Hay strolled out onto the sparse stage wearing a light jacket over his white shirt and dark vest. He immediately took the jacket off and hung it from a stray microphone stand, surveyed the audience, waved hello, said, “It’s not a full house but apparently all the important people are here,” and got right down to it. Opening with a strong one-two-three punch of “Beautiful World” from Going Somewhere, “Wayfaring Sons” from the album of the same name and “Who Can It Be Now?” (which is quite possibly the quintessential Men At Work song), Hay was in fantastic voice from the start.
Hay, who has a wickedly funny sense of humor, has had quite the interesting life. Interspersing tales both poignant and humorous between his songs,. Hay had the audience on the edges of its seats as he wove tales that waxed philosophic while never failing to see the lighter side of life. The man is a natural; storyteller. Had he not made a name for himself as a musician, Hay could have easily been a stand-up comedian.
With stills and film projecting on the large screen behind him while he played, Hay told the story of his life with a self-deprecating grin and smile that immediately made everyone on attendance feel as though he was an old friend. He told the crowd that he “wasn’t a drinking man when I was young. I liked the weed. I wrote all those hits for Men At Work when I was stoned. I’ll never know if I could have done that straight. Then I discovered alcohol and almost immediately I was an alcoholic…what would you expect, I come from two places filled with alcoholism–Australia and Scotland. So I ran away to LA and lived in a place called Topanga. It’s an Indian word. I think it means septic tank.”
Hay obviously misses his late father. He father he said owned a music store in Scotland. “One day,” he said his dad called him over and, “played me a new single by this new band called the Beatles. He asked me what I thought. I replied that I liked it. My dad said, ‘yeah, I think they’ll go far.'” After that he told his father’s favorite joke. It was a fantastic yarn that got a great roar of belly laughs from the crowd. He then played “Dear Father.”
Hay offered numerous nuggets of wit and wisdom. He introduced “Mr. Grogan” with, “I’m gonna play a song from my new record. I have to keep making new records because I’m optimistic.” He further explained with a huge grin on his face that he loved the song “because it has the word Labradoodle in it.” Hay went on to tell a story about performing a show at a venue that was both intimate and sparsely attended. he said the he was able to converse with the audience members. One woman mentioned to him that she thought she was going to see someone else because she was expecting to hear “Safety Dance” (which was made famous by Men Without Hats). He further explained that he would be playing “a song or two from my old band so you can realize that you’re at the right show.”
When he switched guitars, and had to take a moment to tune-up, he quipped, “I used to have guys that handed me freshly tuned guitars. First thing that goes.” The performance was everything that the mostly middle-aged audience could have wanted and expected… and even more. ), Hay played with a passion and a joy that only those who truly love what they do can offer. In addition to the legendary Men at Work singles “Down Under” and “Who Can It Be Now,” the troubadour also played a fantastic version of his original band’s “Overkill.” He also covered all facets of his solo career, offering “Maggie” about his first love, the girl he left behind in Scotland when the family moved to Australia. He also explained that “we went on a boat. It took about 4 weeks to and we arrived on the 13th of June 1967. Australia is about as far as you can go before you get to then end and have to turn around to go back again.”
Before playing “Scattered In The Sand” with its poignant opening verse, “Somewhere along the river bend, maybe we will meet again. Things we thought were there at our command, scattered in the sand, scattered in the sand,” Hay told a story about his mother. He said, “A couple of days before she died we were watching a movie that I happened to be in and she looked at me and said, ‘we had a good time, didn’t we son.'”
“Waiting For My Real Life to Begin,” which many originally heard on an episode of Scrubs, where the cast sang the lyrics, is an interesting song. The song has definitely touched the lives of many and has also been features in numerous other television shows: Dawson’s Creek, The Hills, The Cleaner, Judging Amy and Brothers & Sisters to name but a few. It’s kind of melancholy and sad. It is also hopeful; its protagonist is sure that things are going to change and it that one “Mr. or Mrs. Right” will make it happen. When one hears Hay talk about it, it becomes even more interesting. Before he played it he mused, “A lot of people get married to this song. I know that because they write to me. I think it’s a kind of strange choice.”
Other highlights of the evening included: “If I Had Been A Better Man,” “Did You Take The Long Way Home” (about a man waiting for his runaway wife to return), I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You” and “A Simple Song.” The night ended when Hay closed the performance with the title track from Next Year People. When he set down his guitar, stepped forward and took a bow the applause and cheers were deafening.
Hay’s two-and-a-quarter hour performance was truly magical–one half was storytelling, the other half was pure acoustic singer-songwriter wit and charm. This performance was what VH1 had in mind when it created Storytellers. It is a shame that they did not do an episode with Colin Hay. When last seen, a smiling Hay was in the lobby of the venue doing an impromptu meet and greet. The singer posed for pictures with his fans and signed CDs and LPs, while giving his fans who were lucky enough to stick around after the show ended another reason the remember this delightful and special evening.