REVIEW: MIDNIGHT OIL ARE ONE OF AUSTRALIA’S GREATEST BANDS

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by Patrick Emery

9th November, 2017

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REVIEW: MIDNIGHT OIL ARE ONE OF AUSTRALIA’S GREATEST BANDS

Midnight Oil summed up in five words: Jim Moginie is a genius. Sure, everyone associates the Oils with Peter Garrett’s lanky six foot five frame and bald pate. But without Moginie’s eccentric brilliance, Midnight Oil might just have become another discarded page of Australian rock’n’roll history. Mid-way through Section 5 (Bus to Bondi), Moginie drops into a Byrdsy psychedelic guitar solo that’s fucking phenomenal. The next thing he’s back in prog world for No Time for Games. Genius.

Rob Hirst isn’t bad, either. Rumour has it that he was at high school - a good school, that is - with Malcolm Turnbull. Irony. Hirst is a machine on the drums. There’s a corrugated water tank next to Hirst, full to the brim with the best drum fills this side of Keith Moon. Back when Midnight Oil was still a surf-prog-rock band from Sydney’s northern beaches, Hirst was the group’s vocalist. When he moves down to the front to belt out When the Generals Talk, and a few songs later for a sublime acoustic version of Kosciusko, another piece of the Oils puzzle falls into place.
 
Then there’s Martin Rotsey, the quietly assuming dude who only speaks through his surf-rock licks. Rotsey casts a glance to Moginie, smiles, and drops into Read About It to start the show. Once upon a time Bones Hillman played on The Swingers’ Counting the Beat; now he’s living in Nashville, and solid as a 70s red brick suburban brick house.
 
Garrett was of indeterminate age back in the day, and he’s still the same. Age has curtailed the wildest of his flailing stage move, but it doesn’t really matter. Maybe Garrett’s dance with the major party devil have tarnished the ideological purity of his political rants; then again, as Gough Whitlam - who was tough til he hit the rough, Uncle Sam and John were quite enough - remarked, only the impotent are truly pure.
 
What else? How about the setlist: Don’t Wanna Be the One, Short Memory, US Forces, Hercules, Dead Heart, a blues-addled Beds Are Burning, Truginini, My Country, Dream World, King of the Mountain.  There’s the lyrics, too, a trip back in time to an era when politics was about expression collective identity: white fellas and black fellas, the suburban middle class beaten into submission by the oppressive power of aspirational consumerism, dictatorial tactics of multinational corporations. It’s dirty little secret that Rob Hirst wrote the best Oils lyrics, but then again, the Oils has always been a group effort. 
 
The night finishes with Best of Both Worlds, and a few more desperate cries for a third encore. Tonight was surreal. Midnight Oil’s second coming has been a long time coming. And it’s great to have them back.

Midnight Oil's 'The Great Circle World Tour' concludes Friday 17th November, 2017 in Sydney, NSW. For more information visit Midnight Oil.

Image Credit: Anna Madden

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