RED WINE WONDERLAND
Hope Estate, October 21
There is a point where you have to get past thinking these are blokes in their 60s and sounding stupidly good; that Rob Hirst doesn’t just look lethal (still, the bastard) in a cut-off shirt but plays with the same lethal power of decades back; that Martin Rotsey and Jim Moginie together remain like the one bifurcated guitar brain and, simultaneously, a pair of enjoyably combative siblings batting ideas back and forth; that Bones Hillman still doesn’t know the meaning of the word fuss; and that Peter Garrett seemingly hasn’t added an ounce of fat, a choreographer or a wind-down button.
For those of us in the winery audience, that point is hard to reach intellectually because while we like to pretend we’ve not really grown up (yep, I’m looking at you fellas who drank all day like you’re at your mate's 21st and that slab only cost you a fiver each), this band has had more than a decade away from proper touring, there's been a Canberra career in a suit for one, and hugely varied musical explorations for the others, and then there's damned reality. Which means a return for this band, for any band, would always feel precarious in advance.
But, yeah, whatever. Jeez, Midnight Oil are good.
From the iron-fisted guitars over tick-tock trepidation in Redneck Wonderland (all fiery lights and smoking putdowns) and the snapped-shut rhythm with urgent responses of Read About It (blue-tinged and sharp-tongued). Through the helter skelter pop of Hercules (snare drum snaps and guitars at prickly jangle) and the softer-edged pop of Blue Sky Mine (a buoyant church of the poisoned lung).
Among the more restrained turns such as In The Valley (ruminative but with momentum), River Runs Red (tension coiled just below the unruffled surface) and Put Down That Weapon (approaching claustrophobic in its first half even under open skies). And on to the machine-meets-mania of Best Of Both Worlds (spiralling free of its tethers) and exultant rush of King Of The Mountain (now inevitably one for the terraces).
It was all there and quite often exhilarating, like that spectral yell in Stand In Line, sadly the only song from Head Injuries we got.
Each time Hirst brought down that left arm on the snare you expected something to break. Each time Garrett manhandled a move you suspect he learnt watching go-go dancers on Kommotion your shoulders twitched in spirit, or sympathy.
When Moginie took to the piano or one of the machined rhythm tracks were flicked on you were reminded that narrow thinking had never been an Oils weakness - let’s not forget they were quite prog-ish early doors). And when a tune lingered in the crisp valley air it was a reminder that their later development into fine melodicists was neither fluke nor short-lived.
Damn fine show. They’ve got a future.
Only Midnight Oil show with tickets left is November 15, Myer Music Bowl, unless you want to hang around near the Domain in Sydney on Nov 11 and 17. Good luck.