Midnight Oil – Spark Arena September 9, 2017

Michael Flynn Photography

Reunited and proving to be as passionate as ever, Midnight Oil brought their Great Circle 2017 Tour to Auckland’s Spark Arena. Despite this being a reunion tour, there seemed to be little nostalgia on hand as the band’s songs resonate even more clearly in these unsettling times.

First up, I’ve gotta say it was cool to see Wellington trio The Nudge playing on such a large stage. Even though the house was only half full when they took the stage at 7:30, I’m sure they made more than a few new fans.

But tonight was all about The Oils, and by the time they arrived, the Spark Arena looked full to me. Right from the get-go, the atmosphere was electric as the imposing figure of Peter Garrett paced the stage, hand twitching, in anticipation of getting his message across.

That message is, and always has been, raising awareness for environmentalism, indigenous rights and general political saneness. There was no room for love songs here.

It would be nice to report that these topical themes are quaint relics of the past, but unfortunately, they seem even more relevant today than they did when they were written, some of them over thirty years ago.

But the fact that they remain important resulted in a powerful, compelling show.

Garrett sounded as impassioned as ever and the rest of the band was tight-as. For the record, they are drummer Rob Hirst, Jim Moginie on guitar and keys, Martin Rotsey on guitar and Kiwi Bones Hillman playing bass. Also appearing from time to time was Jack Howard of Hunters & Collectors playing trumpet, flugelhorn, keys and drums.

The band hit the ground running, rocking hard for the first 6 or seven songs. I was particularly impressed with drummer Rob Hirst, whose style reminded me a lot of Blondie’s Clem Burke.

Hirst moved to the front of the stage to sing When The Generals Talk to start, what was to be, a semi-acoustic section of the show. It was then that Garrett removed his jacket to reveal his Donald Trump “You’re Fired” T-shirt and then told a story of encountering Trump voters during the band’s recent sold out US tour.

The crowd was feeding off the energy throughout the show and when the band launched into an extended intro of The Dead Heart, they were already singing the lyrics back to Garrett.

The set ended with big hits Beds Are Burning, Blue Sky Mine and Forgotten Years and then another treat…in honour of Bones Hillman’s time with The Swingers, they performed Counting The Beat before dipping back into their own catalogue for River Runs Red, Dreamworld and, finally, Best Of Both Worlds.

More than two hours later it was all over, band and audience spent…and newly inspired at the same time.  Let’s hope they don’t have to sing those songs out of necessity in another decade.

Marty Duda

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Midnight Oil set list:

  1. Redneck Wonderland
  2. Read About It
  3. Put Down The Weapon
  4. Don’t Wanna Be The One
  5. Truganini
  6. Shipyards Of New Zealand
  7. Hercules
  8. When The Generals Talk
  9. Luritja Way
  10. US Forces
  11. Tin Legs And Tin Mines
  12. Kosciusko
  13. Only The Strong
  14. Now Or Never Land
  15. Warakurna
  16. Power And The Passion
  17. The Dead Heart
  18. Beds Are Burning
  19. Blue Sky Mine
  20. Forgotten Years
  21. Counting The Beat
  22. River Runs Red
  23. Dreamworld
  24. Best Of Both Worlds