10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 was the feature of the Midnight Oil gig at The Palais on Monday night. The seminal album released in 1982 contains rock classics and political profundities and is etched into the skin of the mainly Gen X audience crowded into the venue. Peter Garrett is 69 years old; lithe, energetic, passionate with a voice so flawless it was difficult to distinguish it from album recordings.
Although the band formed in NSW their affiliation with Victoria is strong; Garrett reeling off memories of venues such as The Crystal Ballroom, The Corner and The Ferntree Gully Hotel. Bemoaning the fact he couldn’t surf in the Bay he still cited a quite deliberate preference for the Victorian state, despite a dig at Dictator Dan, and mentioned Warrnambool as a particular favourite destination.
To the music. Well, what can one say? Midnight Oil is as comfortable in inner city Melbourne as they are in any red centre setting. Making their way through 10, 9, 8 took us back to the ‘80s – a highly political time with most relevant local and global issues featured on the tracks. The haunting Short Memory, the thumping Read About It, the demented Only the Strong and the critical US Forces all reminded us of the longevity of sound paralleled with the permanence of frightful political issues. Sadly, political angst has not changed but has become worse, a situation that must ache at the souls of the band members.
Rob Hirst, Martin Rotsey and Jim Moginie provide Garrett with musical support many front men could only wish for. Hirst’s energy is cyclonic, twirling drumsticks, bouncing in his seat and providing a constant vibrant presence. On stage Rotsey and Moginie flank the great singer, calm, capable and mesmeric in their effortlessness. Hirst’s moment came, as always, I suspect, in the drum solo during Power and the Passion. Tight, impeccable, and uncompromising he had the audience eating out of his proverbial stick fisted hands. At the conclusion of the solo, he drew a sigh of relief and tossed the sticks away like a pain inducing inconvenience.
The show lasted two and half hours – nonstop energy and memories culminating in the band members bowing to the audience, arms around shoulders, and soaking in the appreciation of a creativity unique to the genre, unique to the music world, unique to Australia. Midnight Oil we salute you!