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Midnight Oil display power and passion at blistering NYC show

The legendary Australian quintet, on their first US tour in over 15 years, played two sold-out shows at Webster Hall in New York City on the weekend of May 13th and 14th.
 Midnight Oil, on their first US tour in over 15 years, are showing that they are still at the top of their game. (Photo by Oliver Eclipse)

Midnight Oil, on their first US tour in over 15 years, are showing that they are still at the top of their game. (Photo by Oliver Eclipse)

By John Curley

Fans at Midnight Oil’s second of two sold-out shows at New York City’s Webster Hall on Sunday, May 14th seemed ecstatic to welcome the Australian quintet back to the Big Apple for the band’s first shows there in over 15 years. The audience’s endless enthusiasm made for an incredible atmosphere for the show.

The evening’s activities began with a great 30-minute, eight-song set by the Brooklyn-based all-female trio BOYTOY. The band is comprised of Saara Untracht-Oakner (vocals, guitar), Glenn Michael Van Dyke (guitar, vocals), and Chase Noelle (drums). Their material straddles the line between power pop and heavy-duty rock. Noelle is a sensational drummer, playing like a female Keith Moon. She is a show unto herself. BOYTOY received a really good reception from the crowd.

In addition to doing this tour, which is being billed as “The Great Circle 2017,” Midnight Oil will also be releasing several box sets later this month. While they don't have a massive fan base in America, the fans that Midnight Oil does have in the States are both very loyal and quite ardent. So, there is a good bit of excitement among fans regarding the tour and the impending release of the box sets.

Midnight Oil’s lineup on this tour is Peter Garrett (lead vocals, harmonica), Rob Hirst (drums, vocals), Jim Mognie (guitars, keyboards), Martin Rotsey (guitars), and Bones Hillman (bass, vocals). Jack Howard from the Australian band Hunters & Collectors is performing with the band on this tour on keyboards, percussion, trumpet, and flugelhorn.

The anticipation of Midnight Oil’s set exploded into cheers as the members of the band strode onto the stage of the packed, hot, and sweaty Webster Hall as purple-colored lights flashed and bass-heavy synth music roared out of the speakers. As the band exploded into the searing set opener “Progress,” fans were pumping their fists into the air and singing along with every word at the top of their voices. Garrett was doing his robot-like dancing around the stage during the song as the fans cheered him on. They followed this with an absolutely incendiary version of “Redneck Wonderland” that drove the crowd into a frenzy.

Garrett then spoke to the crowd, thanking them for their loyalty to the band over the years. The performance that followed of “Tone Poem” seemed to calm the crowd down a bit, which was needed following the rip-roaring explosiveness of the first two songs. Mognie’s guitar work during “Tone Poem” was fantastic.

Garrett took out his harmonica for the first time for the performance of “Truganini,” and he received a big hand from the crowd during the harmonica break in the middle of the song. When the song finished, Garrett, who was at one time a politician in Australia with a keen interest in environmental issues and the nation’s aboriginal people, talked politics with the crowd. A few songs later, Garrett took off the long-sleeved shirt that he was wearing to reveal a black T-shirt with white lettering that quoted the American author and poet Edna Wheeler Wilcox: “TO SIN BY SILENCE WHEN WE SHOULD PROTEST MAKES COWARDS OUT OF MEN.”

The show was packed with highlights. For “My Country,” a small drum kit was set up for Hirst at the front of the stage. The band did a fantastic version of the song that many in the crowd sang along to. After the performance of “My Country,” Garrett spoke to the crowd about the importance of being on the right side of history.

Hirst remained on the small kit for the performances of “US Forces,” which featured great guitar work by Mognie, and “Kosciusko,” on which Hirst shared the lead vocal with Garrett.

As the main set neared its end, the band pulled out the songs that were its biggest hits in America. The crowd was going bonkers during a very frenetic performance of “King Of The Mountain.” Mognie and Rotsey both provided fantastic guitar work and Garrett stomped around the stage as the crowd cheered him on. They followed this with a wonderful version of “The Dead Heart” that featured Mognie and Rotsey on acoustic guitars. During the instrumental intro to the song, the crowd took it upon themselves to provide the “do do do / do do do / doo do do” backing vocal. The smiles on the band members faces when this was happening revealed how much they were enjoying themselves.

Not surprisingly, the loudest cheers of the night went to the incendiary version of Midnight Oil’s biggest hit, “Beds Are Burning,” that was anchored by Hillman’s pounding bass. Garrett dedicated the song to the Native Americans that are fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Then, the band nearly the blew the roof off the place with storming versions of “Blue Sky Mine” and “Dreamworld” to close out the main set. During “Blue Sky Mine,” the crowd sang along with a roar and Garrett wailed on harmonica. And during “Dreamworld,” the crowd was screaming the lyrics as Garrett stormed around the stage and spat out his vocals at a staccato pace as the band thrashed away.

Having just delivered a jaw-dropping main set, one would think that the band, particularly given their ages, would take a bit of a break before returning for the encore. But they returned to the stage not even a minute after ending the main set. The encore started with “Whoah,” a slower song featuring Mognie on keyboards that received a nice hand from the crowd. They followed this with the bass-heavy “Say Your Prayers.” And the first encore closed with a frenetic version of “Forgotten Years” that had the crowd cheering, bopping along to the music, and giving shouts of “OILS!!!”

Following another brief break, the band returned to the stage once more to close out the show with a version of “Hercules” that featured heavy guitars, thrashing drums, and Garrett’s manic dancing. The crowd cheered their approval as the band completed the song, bid goodbye, and left the stage to conclude their fantastic and quite memorable two-hour performance.

Midnight Oil’s current North American tour ends on June 2nd in Vancouver, BC. They go to Europe later in June for both headline dates and festival appearances that last through July 21st. They return to North America in August for a handful of dates that start August 19th in Los Angeles. Theirs is definitely a show worth attending if you can get tickets. You will not be disappointed.

The band will be releasing the box sets “The Full Tank,” which features all of its CDs and music videos, and “The Overflow Tank,” which includes over 14 hours of previously unreleased and rare material, on May 26th in the US and Canada. That will be followed by the release on June 9th in the US and Canada of “The Vinyl Collection,” which has all of the band’s LPs and EPs.

BOYTOY's setlist at Webster Hall on Sunday, May 14th was as follows:
Your Girl
Shape Up
Poison Breeder
To The Line
Burning In Orange

Midnight Oil’s setlist at Webster Hall on Sunday, May 14th was as follows:
Redneck Wonderland
Tone Poem
No Time For Games
Shakers And Movers
Only The Strong
River Runs Red
In The Valley
Read About It
My Country
US Forces
Put Down That Weapon
King Of The Mountain
The Dead Heart
Beds Are Burning
Blue Sky Mine

Encore 1:
Say Your Prayers
Forgotten Years

Encore 2: