Live Review: Midnight Oil remind Melbourne of their music’s still-crucial significance at the first of three shows

As someone who grew up on the music of Midnight Oil (as I think most people who came up in the 90’s did), I never thought I would be in the position to see the band perform, much less be in a professional capacity to see the band perform. But there I sat yesterday evening, six rows back from the Sidney Myer Music Bowl’s stage, wondering how this show would be remembered by the sold out crowd soon to fill out the bowl and the park.

Both Adalita and The Jezabels enjoyed positive receptions, both showing off two distinct styles of performing and representing the colourful spectrum that has been that of Australian music over the last decade and a bit. From the grounded rock storytelling that brings Adalita’s music to life, to the majestic and oft-times loftiness of The Jezabels’ flair, the support acts for Midnight Oil were different but they seemed to fit in well with the headliner – strong statement acts.

Midnight Oil took to the stage promptly on 8:30pm, with Olympia‘s “Smoke Signals” playing just prior to the stage lights coming down. Rapturous applause filled the outdoor venue instantly, as the iconic group walked on; Peter Garrett taking to the mic, clad in all black, hoodie pulled tight over his head. “Read About It” kick started the 22 song strong show, with the band engaging with the crowd brilliantly throughout.

Sure, you could be mesmerised by Garrett’s infamous dance moves or simply by watching Rob Hirst‘s drumming, but the messages that Midnight Oil’s music have been projecting for years now is the one element of the show that rung out the strongest.

Garrett himself has clearly been relishing being able to delve into this mode of activism. He calls PM Malcolm Turnbull out freely, opines about the disastrous presidency of Donald Trump, and speaks proudly of his and the band’s support of ocean and reef saving organisations. The stage is his soapbox, but the speeches Garrett delivers are ones that the crowd is all too happy to hear passionately delivered. Over the night, the frontman cuts a figure that could indeed be considered severe, depending on where your opinions on Garrett’s activism lay; his two choices of T-shirt are messages in themselves: “I Am Making Noise to End Violence Against Women” and “To Sin in Silence When We Should Protest Makes Cowards Out of Men”.

This isn’t to say the show was all politics, no fun. Oh no. Happily acknowledging ‘the reunion’, Midnight Oil lapped up the strong and enthusiastic sing alongs and response the fans were hitting them back with. Garrett and Jim Moginie shared brief looks of incredulous happiness watching the crowd sing “Short Memory”, while “When The Generals Talk” and “US Forces” brought some of the best moments of the night.

Poignancy came with intense deliveries of “Now or Never Land”, “Warakuna” and “My Country”, and of course, when you’ve got “Dreamworld” and “Blue Sky Mine” also in the mix, a Midnight Oil set is bound for instant success.

With the Hunters and Collectors horn section completing the evening’s stage set up (could it get any better, really?), Midnight Oil stormed through renditions of “Beds Are Burning” and “Forgotten Years”, before re-emerging for a two encores featuring “Power and The Passion”, “King of the Mountain” and “Best of Both Worlds”.

The significance of Midnight Oil’s music, the powerful nature of the lyrics and the thematic content upon which some of their best known songs have been formed, is still all too relevant today. We have climate change deniers failing to see the world’s natural accomplishments crumbling, we have politicians in power who have no interest in advancing anything other than their own skewed agendas, we have our Indigenous peoples continuing to be maligned and abused by those in power.

The songs Midnight Oil performed overnight are no less important now than when they were first released.

MIDNIGHT OIL SET LIST

Read About It
Don’t Wanna Be the One
Truganini
Hercules
Section 5 (Bus to Bondi)
Dreamworld
Safety Chain Blues
No Time for Games
My Country
When the Generals Talk
Short Memory
US Forces
Kosciusko
Now of Never Land
Warakuna
The Dead Heart
Blue Sky Mine
Beds Are Burning
Forgotten Years

ENCORE #1

Power and The Passion
King of the Mountain

ENCORE #2

Best of Both Worlds

Midnight Oil continue their Australian tour through until November 17th – for tickets and information, visit www.midnightoil.com.