May 18, 2017 Midnight Oil Make Epic Return To NYC 5-13-17
Often referred to as The Land Down Under, Australia is a region known for exotic animals, sprawling landscapes, and the world’s largest coral reef. While not often the first attribute to come to mind when studying the continent, one could raise the argument, what about the music?
Coming at a time when Pop music dominated radio airwaves, a band by the name of Midnight Oil broke onto the scene in the late ’70s with a edgier Rock sound. Mixing Punk Rock attitude with thoughtful lyrics and harder tones, in the eyes of the mainstream, there was no place for a band like Midnight Oil. Thankfully their resilience would keep the band going and, as the ’80s approached, Midnight Oil would start to see the success they rightfully deserved with the release of Place Without a Postcard in 1981.
A product of growth, over the decade they would continue to see interest grow as they put out out two more multi-platinum albums before making history in 1987 with Diesel and Dust. Considered their international breakthrough, Diesel and Dust would go on to be dubbed No. 13 of the 100 best albums of the 1980s according to Rolling Stone magazine in the 1989. An accolade fans would agree with, as we approach the 30th anniversary of Diesel and Dust, many raise the question, where have the blokes of Midnight Oil been in recent years?
Well, their tall, lean vocalist, Mr. Peter Garrett, stepped down back in 2002 following the release of Capricornia to pursue a career in politics. Reforming briefly for some special shows in 2009, for the most part, the new millennium has seen an absence of Midnight Oil. That was until recently when Garrett would come out of retirement in May of 2016 to put out his first ever solo album, A Version of Now, and make the excitement announcement that Midnight Oil would indeed be reuniting for a world tour in 2017. A reunion featuring the classic lineup of Garrett, Rob Hirst on drums, Jim Moginie on guitar/keyboards, Martin Rotsey on guitar, and Bones Hillman on bass, The Great Circle 2017 World Tour kicked off at the end of April in South America before coming to North America for the entire month of May.
Visiting the North American region for the first time in over fifteen years, most of the shows sold out rather rapidly and New York City was no different as the initial announced venue had to be changed due to the overwhelming demand. Finding a large room to play, the once 1 night affair with The Big Apple would soon transform into two, Saturday May 13th and Sunday May 14th, at Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom. Both shows sold out, the first of two on Saturday would see an anxious crowd of all ages trekking through the rain to share a special evening with Midnight Oil.
Acting as direct support for the night were a local band by the name of Boytoy. Beginning their string of shows with Midnight Oil on May 9th, the members of Boytoy hail from across the bay in the borough of Brooklyn. Consisting of founders Guitarist Glenn Van Dyke and Vocalist/Guitarist Saara Untracht-Oakner, the band is rounded out with Drummer Chase Noelle. Recently touring around the country on their own, the chance to open for Midnight Oil in front of a sold out hometown crowd was not something they took lightly. In fact, they appeared determined to put on a fantastic set as they offered a mix of original tunes including “Shape Up” and “Blazed.” Raw, lively, and fun to watch, Boytoy received cheers for their performance. With dueling vocals of Van Dyke and Untracht-Oakner on many tracks, Boytoy’s sound is well worth a listen.
With the Grand Ballroom at capacity, patrons were packed in tight, with little personal space to maneuver, but that did not trouble a soul as all appeared to be in high spirits awaiting Midnight Oil. Thankfully the band has little of the obnoxious rockstar flair as others and they did not make their fans wait long as they kicked off their set precisely at 9 PM. Walking out to a ruckus reaction, they wasted no time, going right into “Sometimes” “Bullroarer,” and “Don’t Wanna Be the One.” All easily recognized tracks, suddenly distant memories resurfaced, as many sang and danced. After all, it had been fifteen years since most had seen the band live and they were not going to let the moment past quietly.
From here, Garrett greeted the audience, thanking them for their support before proceeding to express his thoughts on the state of the world. Not shy about his feelings regarding the environment and politics, Garrett was not without humor as he playfully teased one admitted Trump supporter up against the barricade. Aware the topic at hand is a sore one, regardless of which side one was on, Garrett quickly snuffed out any potential of violent crowd reactions, keeping the conversation about society calm and intelligent. It was the music that unified as the band continued on with “Bedlam Bridge,” “Stars of Warburton,” before surprising all with 1982’s “Somebody’s Trying to Tell Me Something.”
Continuing to express views on the world, even if one was on the opposite side of the political arena of Garrett, all could agree with the sentiment that we need to make changes for the future of our children. Speaking of which, Garrett, while sometimes looking intimidating as a tall, bald man with strong opinions, showed the heart of a caring one as he astutely eyed a young girl in the audience, showing concern her parents did not provide her with ear protection. All this said, Garrett’s dialogue was stimulating, acting as a compliment to the politically driven music including “Now or Never Land,” “My Country,” and “When the Generals Talk.”
Interestingly enough, while many of the songs performed were onwards of 20 and 30 years old, they were still as topical as ever, especially “Luritja Way,” “Arctic World,” and fan-favorite “Power and the Passion.” For each of the tracks mentioned, and those before and after, Garrett displayed his signature uncontainable vocal style while sweat dripped from his brow as he moved about with his peculiar dance moves. Matching his passion for the performance, Moginie and Rotsey crossed the platform on various occasions to play side to side, while Hillman peered out deep into the crowd, making eye contact with fans. In addition, Hirst, who was obscured by the large drum kit most of the night, did step toward the front of the stage to perform on hand drums and amp up the audience even more.
Then, the energy reached new heights as they rattled off one adored single after another, beginning with the aforementioned “Power and the Passion,” before soon going on to the anthemic “The Dead Heat,” “Blue Sky Mine,” mega hit “Beds Are Burning,” and closing with “Dreamworld.” Exiting the stage with cheers still filling the air, within moments, the band returned to the stage for more, first gifting an enthusiastic rendition of John Lennon’s “Instant Karma!” as Garrett’s spirit shined through each word. Fittingly keeping with the emotion, the final Diesel and Dust song of the night would come next with “Sell My Soul” before the the chant-along “Forgotten Years” and a finale of “Best of Both Worlds,” which Hirst’s drumming hit hard, matching the killer guitar work of Moginie and Rotsey.
A night no one will soon forget, Midnight Oil did not disappoint in their return to New York City. Bringing a mix of tunes from their past to the spotlight, they offered a set unique to each other night on the tour. Almost unheard of to see a band shuffle around their setlists each night, it just is another reason why Midnight Oil are one of the best live bands around. As the North American leg rounds out up in Vancouver on June 2nd, let your restless hearts not be troubled because Midnight Oil will be back for a four show second leg come August.