Midnight Oil has long been one of my favorite bands and after seeing them in 2002 and learning of their breakup that year, I was not expecting to ever see them live again. When their reformation and world tour was announced earlier this year and a Minneapolis date was added, my excitement to see them again grew to almost teenager level. Judging by the mood or the crowd at First Avenue last night, I was not the only one.
Some bands play it safe with the opener and pick a band that will get the crowd going but does not challenge the headliner. By picking Aussie trio The Living End, Midnight Oil showed all the caution of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. The trio hit the stage with all the subtleness of a human wave attack, having fans roar back “Solution” the chorus of their opening song just a few minutes into their set. Bass player Scott Owen sported an upright double bass that he climbed on from time to time and singer Chris Cheney joined him on it at one point.
But drummer Andy Strachan stole my heart by wearing a t-shirt of one of my favorite German bands Die Toten Hosen (the dead pants). Musically their sound is a mix of rockabilly and punk delivered in a fast, very engaging way. Their 30 minute set made everyone at First Avenue forget it was Tuesday and in a weekend mood.
Set List: Second Solution / Roll / End Of The / How Do We Know?? / Prisoner / E-Boogie / West End Riot
Any concerns I had about my expectations for Midnight Oil being unrealistic were blown to dust within the first few seconds. The focus of their live show has always been singer Peter Garrett’s magnetism and to me he hasn’t lost a step in the 15 years since I saw him last. At 6’3 he commands attention but it’s not just the lofty height of his bald head. It’s his hands, his voice and the intensity of his movements that keep your eyes peeled on him.
The sound was all that I remembered classic Midnight Oil, and the crowd was eating it up. “Tone Poem” started slowly but a couple of fans in front from rocking as hard as they could to it. Garrett addressed the audience frequently. Being a former minister in the Australian government, he’s not one to keep his opinions to himself, and that almost as much as the music is the core or Midnight Oil’s essence. Their songs and their actions have always drawn attention to causes their support whether it’s the planet (Beds are Burning), exploitation (Blue Sky) or the fate of Australia’s aboriginal people (The Dead Heart) and if there ever was a time for a band to point their finger at issues facing us, it’s now. “From the Bush” was an homage to Australian aboriginal band Warumpi.
I frequently found myself singing along, and by the sound of it, was far from the only one at First Avenue. The years have not robbed their songs of any power. If anything absence has made the heart grow fonder. Last night was the last of their North American tour and hopefully we won’t have to wait another 15 years to see them again. A feeling I am surely sharing with the Twin Cities musicians at the show – I personally saw Har Mar Superstar and Brian Setzer and heard of several others that did not cross my path.
Set List: Progress / Tone Poem / Under the Overpass / Somebody’s Trying to Tell Me Something / Shakers and Movers / From the Bush (Warumpi cover) / Only the Strong / Maralinga / Truganini / My Country / When the Generals Talk / Luritja Way / Tin Legs and Tin Mines / Kosciusko / Feeding Frenzy / Whoah / Power and the Passion / The Dead Heart / Beds Are Burning / Forgotten Years Encore: Blue Sky Mine / Best of Both Worlds