Midnight Oil, Auckland NZ, 2017

Midnight Oil
9th September 2017
Spark Arena, Auckland, New Zealand.

Review by Sarah Kidd. Photography by Matt Henry Mendonca.

Midnight Oil performing live in Auckland, New Zealand 2017. Image by Matt Henry Photography.

It has been over twenty years since the band affectionately known as ‘The Oils’ to their fans have graced the shores of our country as a complete unit, so it is of no surprise to look around and find the venue at almost full capacity. Kiwi and Aussie accents blend together in an interesting stew as the crowd chatters waiting for the band to appear; a guttural rumbling thunder rolling around the arena walls as the lights darken signalling the imminent arrival of the band and prompting a cacophony of cheers.

It may have been over two decades since Peter Garrett and the boys have played here but as they stomped straight into a roaring version of ‘Redneck Wonderland’ the title track from their 1998 album of the same name it was clear that they had not lost an inch of their commanding stage presence. Garrett dressed in black, his microphone stand resembling the high down angled style that Lemmy from Motörhead always favoured, sounds crystal clear as he belts out the opening lines; hands semaphoring patterns in between verses in that familiar style he has become synonymous for. The layout of the stage is plain and simple, a small replica corrugated iron water tank set beside the drum kit the only real adornment; however as the staggered lighting rig above the stage sends waves of light rippling across it immediately reminds you of the sun moving over the western desert and fading into the muted horizon. The five piece classic line-up are all here and while the majority of them are all in their sixties now they show no signs of slowing down yet, that post-punk edge still sharp as a blade. Rob Hirst in particular behind the drum kit, in a red shirt with cut off sleeves impressing with his energetic performance throughout the night.

“Kia Ora” Garrett greets the crowd “thanks for waiting such a very long time for us to come back, but we were always going to come back”. He smiles at the crowd before introducing one of their bigger hits ‘Put Down that Weapon’ by telling the audience that “the Kiwi’s got it right on this one”. We are only a few songs in, however looking around the room people are already out of their seats and dancing away to the music, many adopting the lead singer’s style of movement as their own. Garretts harmonica playing during the intro to ‘Truganini’ sets the crowd alight, and it is only as he moves into ‘Shipyards of New Zealand’ that his voice falters just ever so slightly, cracking on the higher octaves of the song, but it detracts nothing from the beauty of the performance.

Garrett points out to the audience that they may have noticed that the group is playing a New Zealand section of the show – this he explains being due to the fact that he believes that in these current times that the two countries should bond together. At which point he removes his long sleeved shirt to reveal a black tshirt with a picture of Trump and the words ‘You’re Fired’ emblazoned across it in red. Quitting the band in 2002 to pursue a career in politics, there was no way that Garrett could survive the entire show without mentioning the American president at least once; his opinion of the man he would later describe as a “racist and a bully” a quite obviously low one.

Stomping madly across the stage in animated fashion as only Garrett can he weaves in and out of his fellow band members drawing their sound in tighter; driving it home with each great flourish of his hands. This ladies and gentleman, is the personification of a truly cohesive band. At this point in the show, the group take it down a notch (a very small one) as Hirst comes out from behind the drum kit to join the rest of the band members lined up across the front of the stage, Garrett proving that he can still wail with the best of them during a stirring rendition of ‘Luritja Way’. Hirst later performing a duet with Garrett on ‘Tin Legs and Tin Mines’ Garrett describing his environmental dream (in which he speaks of how the only way the band will play on a cruise ship is if it is powered by wind and solar power and is cleaning plastic out of the ocean as it goes) “we could all be on renewable energy by 2050 if we got our act together” before the band delivers a beautiful acoustic version of ‘Kosciusko’ that morphs into a full blown, balls out rock song as Hirst jumps back behind the kit.

The stage bathed in red signals an adrenaline shot for Garrett as The Oils play ‘Only the Strong’, theatrically licking the tip of each index finger he once again moves around each of the members madly conducting them with flailing arms and hand gestures, often simulating air guitar moves as he mimics bassist Bones Hillman of Suburban Reptiles and The Swingers fame.

“Ok Kiwi’s, here’s your chance to sing and dance” Garrett bellows into the microphone as the bass rumbles like a restless giant throughout their version of ‘Now or Never Land’, Garrett appearing to antagonise the beast by circling the mic stand while beating on a cow bell with a singular drum stick. After a couple of slightly ‘quieter’ tracks we descend into the greatest hits section of the show; the audience by this point no longer containing themselves as they dance and threaten to drown out the band as they sing the words to all the familiar favourites; The Oils once again being joined on stage by the only trumpet player in the ‘Aria Rock n Roll hall of fame’, Jack Howard of Hunters and Collectors whose performance on ‘Power and the Passion’ was spine tingling. Not to be outdone Garrett shows everyone that he can still bring the house down with his harmonica playing, ‘Blue Sky Mine’ of course being naked without it. “Take care in this mad and crazy world where you do it better than most – until we rub noses again – goodnight” Garrett emotionally farewells the audience before delivering ‘Forgotten Years’.

Of course after twenty years, The Oils could not honestly leave without an encore and after a quick change of clothes they once again grace the stage – a nod to their kiwi band member delivered in the form of a cover of ‘Counting the Beat’ by The Swingers before they carry on with a three song encore ending with ‘Best of Both Worlds’ “We’ve got the best of both world’s here, we’ve got the best of both world’s” – indeed, for at least tonight it appears we do.

Were you there at Spark Arena for this awesome Australian rock performance? Or have you seen Midnight Oil perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below!

  1. Red Neck Wonderland
  2. Read About It
  3. Put Down That Weapon
  4. Don’t Wanna Be The One
  5. Truganini
  6. Shipyards Of New Zealand
  7. Hercules
  8. 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. Arctic World
  16. Warakurna
  17. Power And The Passion
  18. The Dead Heart
  19. Beds Are Burning
  20. Blue Sky Mine
  21. Forgotten Years
  22. Counting The Beat (cover – The Swingers) – encore
  23. River Runs Red – encore
  24. Dreamworld – encore
  25. Best Of Both Worlds – encore

The Full Tank [CD/DVD]

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