Midnight Oil rocks Sydney with a little help from their friends
The hardest part of Midnight Oil's triumphant "warm-up" gig was sitting down.
The easiest part was joining with the band to celebrate the life of their departed brother Bones Hillman, the will for the constitutional recognition of First Nation peoples and the return of live music after a year-long pandemic shutdown.
Commanding the stage in front of a sold-out crowd in the stunningly renovated Enmore Theatre in Sydney, the revered rockers performed a two-hour set with Indigenous collaborators from their No. 1 record The Makarrata Project.
The Oils opened the Makarrata Live tour preview with Lucky Country, which turns 40 this year, with frontman Peter Garrett saying later in the show that touring in Australia at this point of our COVID recovery indeed felt lucky.
The audience agreed.
A gig in 2021, even from the incendiary live beast that is the Oils, required Garrett to constrain his propulsive and wholly idiosyncratic dancing, in the beginning. Garrett vogueing in his unique style alongside his bandmates was a first.
In keeping with the tour's theme of amplifying the Uluru Statement From The Heart, the show's opening set drew from their catalogue of songs about indigenous rights and social injustice including Truganini, Dreamworld and Jimmy Sharman's Boxers.
Garrett spoke about the loss of longtime bassist Bones Hillman who died last year, urging fans to welcome Adam Ventoura - who happens to be the brother of actor Zoe Ventoura - into the Oils family. Which they did, unanimously.
The Makarrata Project album collaborators, including Leah Flanagan, Troy Cassar-Daley, Dan Sultan, Tasman Keith and Alice Skye, were not only given the spotlight - and a hug from Garrett - but each struck their own indelible and resounding chord with the audience with their special talents.
It wasn't just about what they sang and how they did it with the Oils, but why. And the meaning was all too clear to an audience in agreement that something must be done by the federal government to accept and act on the Uluru Statement From The Heart.
If they need motivation to swing into action, they should check out the video posts of Sultan howling Gadigal Land, Skye cracking open hearts with Terror Australia or Cassar-Daley inviting the entire country to Come On Down and sit around a metaphorical campfire.
The ride home in the concert's final chapter took every fibre of every being there not to jump up and rush the stage in a moshing frenzy. But they did resist the temptation, so well done for observing the spirit of the COVIDSafe requirements at gigs in this brave-ish new world of live music.
Somehow the sold-out crowd managed to stay in their seats as the Oils brought it home with Best of Both Worlds, One Country, The Dead Heart and the anthemic Beds Are Burning.
Garrett referred to the band as "rebels with a cause" when returning to the stage for the slightly elongated encore, and that remains true about their musical mission more than four decades since they struck a chord with the world.
The fact they can still do so with their big rock heart still beating with such indefatigable
conviction and musical muscle is a miracle.
The Makarrata Live national tour kicks off at WOMADelaide on Sunday. For all show tickets and details, head to midnightoil.com
Originally published as Midnight Oil rocks Sydney with a little help from their friends