Midnight Oil: Still Burning Bright

The Oils still have plenty of fire in their bellies. The veteran Aussie band brought their passion, musicianship, stagecraft and energy to Auckland’s Spark Arena last night, producing a powerhouse show in front of a packed audience. The band swept through a selection of their big songs, surely giving fans what they wanted. Frontman Peter Garrett, now 64, led the troops in his classic manner, owning the stage but also giving due space to his band of brothers. His voice is still strong, his tall frame still lean (no surprise given the work he does on stage). His dancing/strutting is as it always was, staccato and punchy, but also fluid, his movements echoing something indigenous across the Tasman.

Garrett, with several years as an Aussie member of parliament under his belt, is more comfortable than ever in front of a crowd. He did plenty of talking. From his “Kiaora New Zealand” at the start, he peppered his banter with references to New Zealand: the towns they’d visited in the past, the Rainbow Warrior, the song “Shipyards of New Zealand”, and of course the kiwi member of the band, Bones Hillman. The Anzac bonds were well plumbed, and well received. The band has just completed an American leg of its Great Circle tour, and jibes at Donald Trump were to be expected, and were duly delivered. A “You’re fired” Trump t-shirt expressed it best. A band whose reputation has been built from tackling political, social and environmental issues kept those messages front and centre.

They opened with “Redneck Wonderland”, followed by “Read About It”, and never let up. The set featured an acoustic mid-section, with drummer Rob Hirst joining his band mates at the front of stage. They stood close together, reinforcing their mateship it seemed. By the time they closed the main set with a four hit sequence of “Power and the Passion”, “Beds are Burning”, “Blue “Sky Mine” and “Forgotten Years”, you’d have been forgiven for thinking they had little else to give. But the encore hit a wonderful note with a cover of a Kiwi classic “Counting the Beat”, from the Swingers, which of course numbered the aforementioned Bones Hillman. They finished with “Dreamworld”. I’d seen Midnight Oil live once before, at Auckland’s Logan Campbell Centre back in 1984. They were good then. They’re just as good thirty three years later. If you can, see them in Christchurch.


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