Live Reviews

Who Can Resist Midnight Oil?

Live Review: Midnight Oil with Leah Flanagan at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, 6/19/22

Midnight Oil singer Peter Garrett is a conundrum. Flying the banner of rock ‘n’ roll for over 40 years, he is not your typical egocentric artist. Garrett and the Oils have been waving the flag for human rights, anti-war, and pro-environment issues throughout the entire tenure of the band. On the latest album RESIST, they have stuck to their issues of social change, with a laser focus on the need for environmental protections.

Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, 6/19/22 (Photo by Ian Laidlaw)

The Resist Tour – slated to be the band’s last – has only eight stops in the U.S., and this night in New York City was a special one. One year after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, the Oils played in protest outside the Exxon Oil headquarters just a mile down the road. The Big Apple is mentioned in the powerful “Rising Seas,” the first track on the new album. And on the solemn “We Resist,” Garrett sings, “Free market and labor rights / Women’s vote and hunger strikes / War is over in Times Square / Please don’t say that nobody cares.” The band’s connection with New York City is undeniable, and he told the crowd as much.

When the Hammerstein Ballroom lights came up, fans saw the 69-year-old, six-foot-four, Garrett standing in the center of the stage, snapping his fingers to the upbeat opening of “Nobody’s Child” from the new album. The words he sang seemed to encapsulate the modus operandi of Midnight Oil’s entire career: “Yeah, beauty, love, and compassion / Look around the world / ‘Cause nothing less will do.” By night’s end, the crowd would hear half of the excellent new RESIST, including “At The Time Of Writing” and the dark sarcasm of “Reef,” a terrifying account of what’s at stake if we turn our backs on the environment. “We’ve got the green light / We’re gonna dynamite / A world heritage site.” Furthermore, “The sky is a mirror / The sea and the breeze / The sky is a mirror / Of self-interest and greed.” The Oils are a firebrand with a heart-thumping drumbeat feeding the inferno.

Besides the worthy collection of new recordings were the decades of hits – and hit they did. “The Dead Heart,” “Blue Sky Mine,” “Forgotten Years,” and the breakthrough hit “Beds Are Burning.” Two songs from the 1985 Species Deceases EP were also well-received. Along with Garrett, the longstanding members are guitarist/keyboardist Jim Moginie, guitarist Martin Rotsey, and firebrand drummer Rob Hirst. Sadly, longtime bassist Bones Hillman succumbed to cancer in 2020. His replacement is Adam Ventoura. Andy Bickers took on saxophone duties, while background singers Leah Flanagan and Liz Stringer rounded out the assemblage. Flanagan and Stringer are trading opening act duties, as well. On this night, Flanagan treated the audience to quite a nice performance, wrapping her half hour with a stirring cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying.”

Garrett, the former Australian Minister for the Environment, Heritage, and the Arts (2007-2010) and Minister for School Education, Early Childhood, and Youth (2010-2013) sang about a social conscience he has acted upon throughout his entire adult life. His life’s mantra could be summed up as, “It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees,” as he sang in “Power and the Passion” from 1982’s 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. His intense “dancing” contains some of the most unique movements of any frontman out there…in the history of forever. It is crystal clear Garrett is feeling the music straight from his soul as he seemingly enters an alternate state of consciousness on stage. From wherever this inspiration originates, it tends to inspire fans in a big way. Garrett is uninhibited and leaves everything onstage.

Midnight Oil: “Dreamworld” live at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, 6/19/22

For the encore, the band returned with “We Resist” followed by the explosive fan favorite, “Dreamworld,” a tune about greedy developers and their destructive effects on the people of Australia. For the closer, “Hercules” was performed, a call-to-reduction-of-arms: “Keep us radioactive free / Strike a bell in Hiroshima park / You know that we can’t see in the dark / We try and we try and we try.” During the song, Garrett queried the audience, “Does Sir Paul have a birthday today? Yes he does!” (Paul McCartney turned 80 on that day). He then spoke/sang snippets of “Love Me Do,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” and “Michelle.”

As this is purported to be the Oils’ final tour, they haven’t ruled out making more music together. And as we’ve witnessed numerous times with bands throughout the rock ‘n’ roll era: never say never. Oils fans do not want their dreamworld to end. For tour and merch information, visit the Midnight Oil website.

#SupportMusicians #SaveThePlanet #RESIST

Categories: Live Reviews

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