Memories of a strapping young lad with an overabundance of excitement marching through the old brick gates of Friendly Societies Oval in Warrnambool come flooding to the fore as I sit in the august surrounds of the Palais, St Kilda, here is 2022.
Memories of my very first encounter with the Midnight Oil live are littered with audible echoes from that 80’s crowd chanting Oils, Oils, Oils as I order a beer at the bar, scarcely believing that all these years later, my own adult son serves the frothy to his crusty old dad. A dad who cannot process into reasonable thought where all those years went between then and now, but oh so privileged to share this moment with my son.
Then I scan the crowd here assembled, and realise so many are making similar skips down memory lane. Some fresh and youthful faces venture only so far as the offerings from Resist released in May of this year, while others recall with fondness a Redneck Wonderland, but tonight I share camaraderie with my brothers and sisters who put the black vinyl to the turntable with crackling ushering tracks like Powderworks and Surfing with a Spoon back in 1978, turning it up to eleven before that was a thing.
We smile knowingly at one another acknowledging that our Aussie staple, the mightily Midnight Oil has literally provided the soundtrack to our lives over thirteen studio albums. Some here were even at the very beginning when Rob Hirst, Jim Moginie, and Andrew James lured Peter Garrett to Farm in 1973. Evidently, after burning enough of it, 1976 saw the name change to Midnight Oil and the rest is history. A rich and rewarding history for band and fan alike, with so many twists and turns, triumphs, and tragedies made manifest in a magnificent and often politically charged plethora of magical musical moments in the unique style of Midnight Oil. The Hirst signature beat, fronted by the familiar spasm-like celebration from Garrett that will be remembered always as his signature move, the shredding of Rotsey, the 80’s rhythm of Peter “Giffo” Gilford, the years of bass brilliance from the late, great Bones Hillman and the unfaltering brilliance of the multitalented Jim Moginie. Then the young man full of excitement from that first gig in 1986 realises that there will not be one more day of eating and sleeping. No more will the Oils be there always and every day. As regular as clockwork with a musical hit to bring current affairs to the ears of the young and old alike. All at an end. Behold Melbourne and commit all the magic to the pages of history.
Tonight, it was advertised as a three-hour juggernaut of Oils tunes past and present, with no support band in place. How do they match the previous show just 2 nights ago? A show where they belted out a massive 27 song setlist with the energy of a band of 25-year-olds.
How do they do this? Well, in true Midnight Oil fashion, they mix it up a little, add a bit of Oils twist and keep us all on our toes. After all, there was plenty here for both nights at the Palais this week, so it was entirely appropriate.
What wasn’t appropriate was so many backs turned, yabbering loudly, and not giving the Welcome to Country the respect it deserved, I feel compelled to apologize because so many of the songs we were about to hear have helped in some way to bridge the gap that has existed between White Australia and our Indigenous brothers and sisters.
So, with a tear in the eye because sadly this is one for the road and it all ends for Melbourne tonight. The last Midnight Oil concert in Victoria and only a handful left for the band. Ever. This is the end.
It was obvious that previous setlists were not to be followed for tonight’s performance as the welcome opening notes of Read About It blast forth from the stage to the obvious delight of the willing recipients. When Don’t Wanna Be The One followed up as a second offering the crowd again exploded into celebration.
Not knowing what to expect and what they were going to play next, Nobody’s Child, Stars of Warburton, and Under The Overpass were certainly lapped up in the appropriate fashion, but if decibels were any true unit of measure it seemed that the crowd was most ready to applaud loudest for hits of decades gone by.
We were all treated to a surprise addition of Common Ground which the band had dusted off from their ninth studio album Breathe. According to sources, this song has not been played live by the band since 2002.
The stage was amazing in its understated simplicity and certainly smacked of Diesel and Dust for me. Corrugated iron and Rob in the shadow of an old water tank. Perfect.
I feel it is superfluous to include each and every track from the gargantuan setlist. Suffice it to say that it was extensive in anyone’s language. I realise that some might be disappointed, as they may have expected something a little different, but for me, the tracks were certainly an appropriate celebration of the decades of the musical contribution that Midnight Oil has provided.
I guess it is a little like somebody who has loved the music over the course of their life but not necessarily identified with the politics behind some tunes or the political stance of some band members. Each to their own, and each entitled to their opinion especially as the words FUCK CAPITALISM emulated from the crowd in agreement with Pete’s proclamations.
Personally, I loved it and one of the big reasons was my feelings from right back at the start of the show. This genuinely felt to me, like an old-school, open-air regional show. Tracks that people felt were best celebrated with a trip to the bar or a cricket walk to the dunny along with those who realised the merchandise queue might be a little shorter now. It had the authentic feel of those shows of old. I must pause and reflect upon the splendid contribution of Adam Ventoura who I felt honored the contributions of past protagonists.
Much to the approval of the crowd, Pete donned an "I stand with Ukraine" t-shirt, while they brought the tone down a little to visit some tracks with a common theme. Tracks such as My Country, Wedding Cake Island, and Wind in my Head.
Kosciusko kicked things off again and had the crowd lifting the roof off the newly renovated Palais Theatre. But when we heard the familiar beats of the start of Power and the Passion ring out, those still sitting launched themselves off their butts to sing out loud, it was quite the spectacle.
All these years, all these hits, and a soundtrack that Midnight Oil has provided to so many lives will help ensure that no one's years are Forgotten Years nor will the tremendous contribution of Midnight Oil ever be forgotten.
After taking a quick breather off stage, they returned one last time for a 3 song encore. Armistice Day, Beds Are Burning, and Hercules.
The crowd roared in applause for each member of tonight's performance as everyone who shared the stage, lined up and took their final bows. Then the 5 band members were left to take their bow, and lastly, the original four took their final ever bow to their adoring Melbourne crowd. What a moment!
Unfortunately, most of the crowd appeared to believe that this was all just a fake encore and that surely there were more tracks on the setlist to follow. Those words of the ever familiar chant “Oils, Oils, Oils” rang out into the Melbourne night, however when the lights came on the parting words from the disappointed marred what was otherwise a phenomenally brilliant show. But that’s what this show is all about, the passion and the pain (or power and the passion, whatever you like 😊 ) the bitter-sweet meaning behind it all because … that’s it… no more. Never Again. And for me and so many, it was a thorough privilege to be present and to celebrate ONE FOR THE ROAD with the mighty Oils.
I would not normally make this superfluous addition but I feel compelled to make one humble suggestion. Look below at the MASSIVE setlist, and imagine the moments, pick your favorites and imagine hearing them for the last time ever live. Surrounded by like-minded peers in unbridled celebration and you have got it in one. Fell those goosebumps? Feel that lump in the throat? That was it right there. Thank you for the years, thank you for the tears, thank you for everything Midnight Oil.
Fri 23 Sep, 2022 Barnard Park Busselton, WA - 18+ [Resist]
Wed 28 Sep, 2022 Luna Park Big Top, Sydney - 18+ [One For The Planet]
Sat 01 Oct, 2022 Fellows Oval, ANU Campus, Canberra - 18+* [Resist]
Mon 03 Oct, 2022 Hordern Pavilion, Sydney - Lic. All Ages [One For The Road]
Tickets Available here