Early on in their set, between songs Peter Garrett started talking about a recent NYT piece on the hazardous conditions that will arise from Salt Lake’s evaporation before stopping himself and saying “Let’s not start on the politics quite yet.” With a band like Midnight Oil, it would be extremely weird if there wasn’t any political discourse. Not many rock bands can boast of a front man who was elected to the House of Representatives and also served as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and The Arts and then later filled the role of Minister of School Education, Early Childhood and Youth. This isn’t Jason Aldean we’re talking about.
The comfortably full room consisted mainly of people who were of age at or before the big MTV breakthrough of “Beds Are Burning” back in the late 80s but there were definitely members of the next generation who came along with their parent(s) to check out the show. As a band, Midnight Oil is a firecracker; a well-oiled (oof) machine that while losing one of their key parts two years ago still has the vital core of Garrett/Hirst/Moginie/Rotsey and demonstrated that they are still a compelling live band.
“Walking your own path, truthfully. Strongly. That’s what these songs are about.” Garrett and company have been applying that ethos for decades now and the newer material of Resist still rings true to that clarion call of contributing to the greater good. Though “Rising Seas” wasn’t played, “Reef” called stark attention to the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, a wholesale ecological disaster unfolding within our lifetime. “Last Frontier” also calls out the frustration and listlessness of our shared failure; “Who pays off the debts we’re creating?/Who fixes the messes that we keep making?”
“Stand In Line” was the oldest song they played, giving Garrett plenty of opportunity to showcase his spasmodically gyrating dance moves. Some classics were re-worked; “The Dead Heart” was presented in a mostly acoustic manner. “Kosciusko” started out as a busker song with Hirst playing a minimal kit at the front of the stage before taking his usual position and the song really sprang to life, tossing sticks occasionally and lending excellent backing vocals in the process. While “Beds Are Burning” was a direct look at the shame of their native country’s treatment of the Aborigines, “My Country” was another salvo to national pride. “Short Memory” widened the scope and called out the global scourge that colonization foisted upon natives worldwide. Closing with the classic Elvis Costello via Nick Lowe “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” seemed like the perfectly brilliant stroke to end the show, and then off they went. Midnight Oil wasn’t meant to burn forever; thank you for shedding your light as long as you did.
Liz Stringer represented the Melbourne contingent of Australia and played a solid solo set, peppering her song breaks with bits about trying unsuccessfully to pick up a cop at a Canadian bar, and describing “Dangerous” as being about a person who turned their life around and then others by becoming an effective union organizer. She’d later be on stage providing backing vocals along with Leah Flanagan who would also take the opening slot at North American shows.