(Photo by Daniel Boud)
Midnight Oil will tour no more after 2022. But it’s not the end for the band formed by a bunch of long-haired, prog-rock surfers on Sydney’s northern beaches in the mid-‘70s. Not yet anyway. Probably.
Twenty years after first calling a halt, when lead singer Peter Garrett diverted from songs about politics to a move into actual politics, five years after an unexpected reformation which saw them tour the world for 77 shows from Porto Alegre in Brazil to Sydney’s Domain, and a few days after their most recent album – a collaboration with Indigenous artists focused on First Nations recognition in the constitution – was a nominee in the ARIA Awards, one of the most successful rock bands Australia’s ever produced have announced what they are calling their “final concert tour” in the first quarter of 2022.
A new album, their 15th, called Resist, is the headline news as the first band-only record since 2002’s Capricornia, driven, as ever, by issues-based material such as the climate crisis-inspired first single, Rising Seas. It will also feature the final recordings made by long-time bass player, Bones Hillman, who died a year ago, shortly before the band began touring that collaborative album, The Makarrata Project.
However, for a group which, while selling more than 20 million albums, made its reputation playing hundreds of gigs a year all around Australia and then the world, from sweaty pubs to blocking the traffic from the back of a truck in Manhattan, and the cross-cultural shows earlier this year, it is an end to touring which will garner most attention.
In a statement, rather than a press conference or public appearance, the band said that while the songwriting members – Garrett, drummer Rob Hirst, and guitarist Jim Moginie, all foundation members in 1976, and guitarist Martin Rotsey who joined in 1977 – were “open to recording new music together in the future”, and supporting causes, possibly with one-off performances like the one they did for tsunami relief in 2005, the 2022 shows “will be their last tour”.
Moginie is quoted saying that while “we’re still capable of blowing the roof off any stage, and that’s what we intend to do” a lot has happened in the five years since their return “much has been achieved and with the passing of Bones, much has been lost, so now feels like were at the end of the cycle”.
Even as Hirst declares “I don’t look back”, for Australians, there may be a touch of the Farnhams or Nellie Melbas, about the announcement. And not just because the tour dates so far announced allow plenty of room for extra concerts in all major cities.
Nearly 20 years ago, when Midnight Oil had just started their long hiatus, John Farnham famously announced that he would no longer undertake big tours. Though he never said he would stop playing or recording, the story quickly became he was retiring, so that each time he reappeared he was unfairly mocked for “doing a Melba” and gulling an audience one last time.
Having had at least one musical and one political “retirement” in their career, not to mention solo projects for all members since 2002, none of this may concern Midnight Oil. After all, as Garrett says in this announcement, “we all know time refuses to stand still for anyone”.
Then again, it’s worth noting that Farnham is still playing occasionally. Time? What’s that?
Resist Tour 2022. Tickets on sale from Wednesday, December 1.
February 23, Newcastle Entertainment Centre
February 26, Heifer Station, Orange
March 2, WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong, NSW
March 5, Mt Duneed Estate, Geelong
March 9, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
March 12, All Saints Estate, Rutherglen
March 26, Nikola Estate, Swan Valley
March 30, Adelaide Entertainment Centre
April 2, Darwin Amphitheatre
April 6, Convention Centre Arena, Cairns
April 9, Sunshine Coast Stadium
April 13, Riverstage, Brisbane
April 19, Stage 88, Canberra
April 21, Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney
A version of this story ran originally in The Sydney Morning Herald.