Midnight Oil, Resist, Spark Arena, September 3. Reviewed by Jo Taylor.
REVIEW: It was supposed to be their swansong. Instead Midnight Oil looked and sounded like a band at the peak of their powers.
The group played the second New Zealand gig of their final tour in front of a rapturous audience at Spark Arena in Auckland on Saturday night.
Who could forget the late 1980s, when the Australian rockers burst into the wider public consciousness with Beds are Burningtheir powerful anthem on indigenous rights.
They’d already released a string of incandescently brilliant songs, it’s just that many of us hadn’t discovered them yet.
A slew of other hits followed, all equally stirring. Midnight Oil made political and environmental statements with music that reverberated in your heart and conscience.
It wasn’t just the music that stood out, but the aura of the band.
Rob Hirst was said to beat his drums so hard that they had to be nailed to the floor.
Frontman Peter Garrett was a lofty, bald singer with an unconventional, uninhibited dance style, a distinctive, scorched earth voice and political aspirations.
Most of all, they had something to say and a brilliance that made the world pay attention. They had the feel of the outback, the thrumming power of the big city and a sound like no other.
Now they’re performing their final tour.
Granted, the jawlines are no longer perfectly chiselled, but from the moment they open their set in Auckland, Garrett, Hirst, Martin Rotsey, Jim Moginie and their guests dazzle with a steady stream of hits, lesser-known songs and, at the end , a cheerful rendition of Counting the Beathomage to their late, great bandmate Bones Hillman, formerly of Kiwi band The Swingers.
The 69-year-old Garrett, he of the towering mic stand, has lost nothing. He has the lungs of a free diver and his voice di lui still has that crisp conviction and rightous, soaring zeal.
He’s a friendly, lounge-side ranconteur, a natural storyteller, with humor, sway and conviction.
He’s an indefatigable voodoo dancer conjuring spirits – a stern former environment minister unimpressed by corruption and power differentials.
Garrett’s not a fan of Trump. Or Fonterra. He’s delighted that the men’s toilets at Spark Arena now have information in te reo.
“Are you sure about that?” he says, all Aussie drawl and companionable grin, re-entering the stage after the audience implores an encore at the end of the two-hour set.
It’s near-impossible to take your eyes off Garrett, although, in the brief snatches when that happens, Hirst looks to be loving every minute, ebulliently tossing drum sticks over his shoulder in exchange for fresh sets.
Then birthday boy Hirst becomes the centerpiece in arguably the most powerful moment of the concert: His solo and the instrumental at the end of Power and the Passion.
Hirst is a master musician, a maestro drummer pounding his kit with Thor-hammer swings – and yes, he’s also playing his corrugated drum and it looks and sounds magical.
Then, as the band closes out the instrumental, it’s a musical maelstrom: A perfect storm of brilliance that brings wonderment.
The crowd is in thrall and as “The Oils” performs their final songs, the whole arena sings with them.
This is a band that has perfected their craft. They perform as one, with cohesion and familiarity, and incredible presence.
And if you have the opportunity to see then play in New Plymouth or Wellington, it’s well worth the opportunity.
There will never be another band like Midnight Oil.
Midnight Oil – Resist: Wellington Michael Fowler Center, September 6; New Plymouth TSB Stadium, September 8.