Midnight Oil Doesn’t play Love Songs.
It was a whole different crowd at Place des Arts this time around. The suits and cocktail dresses had been replaced by blue jeans and fedoras. The kind of crowd you would more likely see at a pub as apposed to a classical music setting. People mobbed the merch table trying to get their hands on “The Great Circle” world tour t-shirts. The staff worked double time to trying to meet the demand. They sold A LOT of t-shirts.
The wonderful promoters of the event had provided me with a 5th row ticket so I was in an excellent seat to view the spectacle. Not that the seat was used very much.
The night began with Vancouver legend Matthew Good – One of Canada’s most successful independent artists. Mr. Good got off to a bit of a sloppy start. The band seemed to be on stage before the house lights went out and everyone was a bit confused as to what was going on. The confusion was short lived and the fans came to life with cheers, rising to their feet for a few moments.
Opening with the song “Giant” Matthew Good and the band needed a few bars to find their groove, but once they found it the music poured out smooth and tight. The second offering was the big shiny tunes cut “Hello Time Bomb”
“The Devil’s on roller-skates Down at the roller rink Picking up chicks for me “Mr. Good chanted as the crowd sang along to the opening bars.
The Matthew Good Band in many ways defined that ’90’s Alt rock sound’. That Much Music “CanContent” sound . Thick Guitar ballads with lots of pounding bass drum. Like many of the great 90’s ballads, Mr. Good often finished off with some falsetto vocals and a drum roll. Mr. Good’s sound walked that delicate line between being cheesy and having emotional impact, always landing on the latter.
After the first two songs Matthew decided to attempt to address the crowd in french and gave up quickly. He then resorted to the time honoured tradition of complimenting our hockey team. He explained how much he loved the Montreal Canadians despite growing up in Vancouver. “Hey, who would have wanted to be a Canucks fan back in the 80’s?” he asked.
He then went on to talk about the “NO GO ZONE”, an area of the concert hall that was open for wheelchair access. He threatened to go down to the “NO GO ZONE” at some point. It was heart warming when later on he made good on that threat and went down into the audience to serenade a quadriplegic fan who had come to see his hero.
Some of the later songs by Good sounded a bit like “Poppy Cowboy Rock” and I couldn’t help but think to myself about the juxtaposition of the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier and the sounds of Indie Canadian Pop. It just didn’t fit but still came off charming.
Half way through his set Matthew took a sip of his water and asked “Hey, Where is my Bourbon?”
The question was followed by his slower “Strange Days”
“We’re done lying for a living, The strange days have come and you’re gone, you’re gone. Either dead or dying. Dead or trying to go” Good Crooned.”
The stage hand brought forth the requested Bourbon. Only it was not Bourbon, it was Patron.
At this point Mr. Good shared his drinking advice with the crowd. “You shouldn’t do shots of tequila, everyone gets that wrong.” he joked. “Everyone is always shooting tequila, but you are not supposed to… ” he continued “Hey, maybe we can get Donald Trump to wear a Tequila shirt, and someone can shoot him.” The clearly liberal crowd responded with applause and laughter. “No. No. No. Violence is never the answer” he sighed “Except in THIS ONE CASE” he finished.
Matthew Good went on to play a bunch more of his hits and lesser known songs and received much praise from the adoring crowd.
Midnight Oil’s music is deeply emerged in the social and political issues of the past and present. Music that makes us reflect upon the changing tides of power and freedom. Important music that is much needed in these times of political unrest. The concert felt like a rally for Liberal-minded citizens who know the world can do better. A chance for the people to raise arms and sing “Songs of Freedom” together. To know that we are not alone. To empower the people to make that change. They also ROCK; more on that later.
I was so excited when I found out Montreal Rocks had been invited to review Australian rock legends Midnight Oil. Like many other Canadians, I was first introduced to the band in the early 90’s through their break through hit “Beds are Burning” and quickly went out to buy their now classic album “Diesel and Dust” on CD. This was only one of 3 CDs I owned (it was a brand new format) so it got spun over and over for weeks. The 15 year old me responded to the energy of the music and the uniqueness of the vocals and lyrics. I didn’t fully understand the meanings and importance to this music until years later.
Opening with the hard hitting stomper “Red Neck Wonderland” the band owned the stage from the get go. The crowd was instantly brought to their feet (even in the “loges”) where most remained for the entire show. Far too often these days crowds at Place des Arts sit through entire concerts, rarely getting up to dance (ahem- Sting, ahem Paul Simon). This was a glorious exception. The music of Midnight Oil will NOT let you sit still.
The band’s second offering was the hard hitting classic “Read all about it”. “No one ever tells me what I like to know” belted out Peter Garret and he performed his iconic dance moves. Moves that are a combination of “playing all the instruments in the band at one time” and “receiving an electric shock”. The 63 year old lead singer was in fine form and displayed the energy of someone half his age.
After the second song Peter Garret addressed the crowd explaining how odd it felt to be playing such an “extravagantly luxurious classical musical Location”. He felt out of place and was concerned that ghosts of Violinists may haunt him for bringing his down-under rock into such a high “classy establishment”. He then launched into the haunting song “Dreamworld” as the crowd got even more revved up.
It was amazing to see this admittedly older crowd relive their more youthful years with the sounds of Midnight Oil. Fists were raised to the sky in defiance as the political anthems were blasted across the concert hall. On the far right of the stage stood a group of “50-Somethings” that danced directly underneath bassist Bones Hillman who strutted and bounced around like the rock god he is. The band inspired such passion in the crowd that it could be felt on many levels.
Next up was the powerful and political “Lucky Country”: A deeply meaningful commentary on the “The Haves” vs. “The Have Nots”. The words hit Garret like an electric current, jolting him stronger and stronger as the meaningful lyrics revealed themselves. Garret not only sings from the heart, but also from the soul. His passion can be felt and it is NOT the kind of thing that can be faked. To see him perform is an inspiration and a reminder of how delicate life on our planet can be.
Garret did not preach to the crowd, but he shared his thoughts in an intelligent and insightful way. After referring to our neighbours to the south as “The Beastly States” and calling our Prime Minster “Mr Youthful” he went on to talk about the importance of the impending “Nuclear Disarmament Treaty”. His tone was very serious and the crowd listened closely, as they considered the important choices the world is facing. Driving the point home with the song “”Put Down That Weapon” dedicated to the treaty. The lyrics gave me chills. I heard the meaning of this song in a way the 16 year old me never could. It was truly an intense moment….
The band continued to play both hits ands some unexpected “deep-cuts” from their 20+ year career. Songs that expressed the state of this crumbling world and songs of hope. Some stand out moments were the stripped down version of “My Country” where only the piano echoed out over Garrets vocals, and the military march style “When Generals Talk.” The whole crowd sang along as Garret chanted “the fat cats still want to push the thin cats around.”
Mr Garret congratulated Canada on how compassionate we had been in receiving the recent influx of Haitian asylum seekers, and as a special treat played the heartfelt anthem “Ships Of Freedom” in homage to our wonderful country. “Can you imagine the first taste of freedom for the refugees?” he asked through his Lyrics. He then changed into a black “You’re Fired” t-shirt with a caricature of Donald Trump. He sardonically chanted the lyrics to the haunting “Arctic World” as the band played on. This was followed by some commentary on President Trump. The consensus amongst the band was that he was an “EVIL MAN” and Garret expressed the importance of seeing him gone as soon as possible.
The big hits were saved for the very end leaving a strong finishing impression. The North American hit “Beds Are Burning” was dedicated to the suffering of the First Nations Tribes here in Canada as he paralleled their plight to that of the Aboriginals in his native Australia. The band finished their set with “Blue Sky Mine” as the crowd sang along to almost every word.
I was truly blessed to have attended this event, it was more than just a concert. It was for many an awakening.
Midnight oil reminded us of how vital it is to stay vigilant and fight the growing tide of oppression that engulfs the world more every day.
Review – Myles Beeby
Photos – Kieron Yates