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Midnight Oil’s music with a message ignites crowd in NYC

The environmentally friendly Australian rock veterans played a memorable show on Sunday, June 19th at Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom as part of their farewell tour.
Peter Garrett (foreground) and Jim Moginie are pictured onstage at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom on Sunday, June 19th. (Photo by Ian Laidlaw)

Peter Garrett (foreground) and Jim Moginie are pictured onstage at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom on Sunday, June 19th. (Photo by Ian Laidlaw)

By John Curley

There are those truly wonderful concerts that you get to attend every now and then during which there is such a synergy between the band and the audience that there is seemingly no barrier between them. And the excited crowd seems to drive the band to keep pushing the level of their performance. Midnight Oil’s stellar concert on Sunday night, June 19th, at Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom was one of those shows. What an amazing night of music! Everyone that had the good fortune to be at the show will surely agree.

The veteran Australian band are on tour both to promote their latest album, Resist, which was released in February of this year, and to say goodbye to their fans. This is their farewell tour. The band undertaking the current tour is comprised of longtime members Peter Garrett (lead vocals, harmonica), Rob Hirst (drums), Jim Moginie (guitar, keyboards) and Martin Rotsey (guitar) as well as touring members Adam Ventoura (bass), Andy Bickers (saxophone), Leah Flanagan (backing vocals) and Liz Stringer (backing vocals, acoustic guitar).

Flanagan and Stringer have been trading off on opening-act duties on this tour. At the Hammerstein Ballroom show, Flanagan began the evening’s festivities with a nice 30-minute set that was very well received by the crowd. Flanagan performed solo, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. Between songs, Flanagan spoke of how America is the country of the Lenape people, how she had met some of them during the tour, and that they are still very present and part of the culture. Flanagan ended her set with a terrific cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” that received a great reaction from the audience.

The crowd shows appreciation for Midnight Oil at the June 19th Hammerstein Ballroom performance. (Photo by Ian Laidlaw)

The crowd shows appreciation for Midnight Oil at the June 19th Hammerstein Ballroom performance. (Photo by Ian Laidlaw)

Following an interval of about 25 minutes, Midnight Oil hit the stage. The crowd went wild and remained very active for the remainder of the show. The band began their set with the heavy and propulsive song “Nobody’s Child” from the Resist album. They were off and running with energetic drumming by Hirst, great guitar work by Moginie and Rotsey as well as Garrett’s powerful vocal.

Garrett spoke the crowd often between songs. He is a very political person, as fans of the band surely know. Part of Australia’s Labor Party, Garrett was of a member of Australia’s Parliament from 2004 to 2013, during the period that Midnight Oil were on hiatus. Following the performance of “Nobody’s Child,” Garrett spoke about how much he and the band were enjoying their time in New York City and that the multiculturalism on display in the Big Apple revealed the divisive rhetoric of Trump to be a lie.

The packed floor in front of the stage at Hammerstein Ballroom is shown here. (Photo by Ian Laidlaw)

The packed floor in front of the stage at Hammerstein Ballroom is shown here. (Photo by Ian Laidlaw)

Another song from Resist, “At the Time of Writing,” was up next. The band gave a rock-solid performance of the song, with some standout saxophone playing by Bickers. The ending of the song was quite intense, and Garrett was bopping around the stage while singing, much to the delight of the crowd.

Hirst’s great drumming drove the performance of “Truganini” that also featured Ventoura’s thundering basslines and some nice harmonica work by Garrett. The intense “Progress” began with rumbling bass and guitars and included more impressive drumming by Hirst. Garrett’s vocal on the song was terrific. Garrett then introduced Ventoura, Flanagan and Stringer to the crowd.

The full-on “Undercover,” another song from Resist, featured nice keyboard playing by Moginie as well excellent work by the rhythm section of Hirst and Ventoura and a strong vocal by Garrett. The crowd was bouncing up and down throughout the performance of “Redneck Wonderland.” The song shifted from heavy rock to softer bits featuring Moginie’s keyboards. Garrett was doing his herky-jerky dance moves onstage while singing bits of the song, to which the crowd gave quite a reaction.

Peter Garrett is pictured in the foreground with Adam Ventoura (left) and Martin Rotsey in the background at Hammerstein Ballroom. (Photo by Ian Laidlaw)

Peter Garrett is pictured in the foreground with Adam Ventoura (left) and Martin Rotsey in the background at Hammerstein Ballroom. (Photo by Ian Laidlaw)

Prior to the outstanding and rocking performance of “Gadigal Land,” Garrett spoke to the crowd about the importance of showing respect for indigenous peoples around the world. “Gadigal Land,” which was the lead single of the Oils’ excellent 2020 mini LP The Makarrata Project, is a song written in support of Australia’s First Nations people. The songs on The Makarrata Project all concerned First Nations people, and Australian First Nations artists participated in the recording. For the live performance of “Gadigal Land,” Garrett shared the lead vocal with Stringer for part of the song. Hirst provided outstanding drumming. The verse of “Gadigal Land” by the Gadigal poet Joel Davison was played as a recording during the performance of the song. Garrett and Stringer also shared lead-vocal duties on the song “First Nation,” which is also from The Makarrata Project. The rap during the song was played as a recording.

The crowd sang along with the backing vocal of “The Dead Heart” during the band’s outstanding performance of the song. Garrett’s vocal on the song was one of the standout moments of the show. And Bickers added some impressive saxophone playing to the mix. The audience gave the performance of the song a huge ovation at the end.

Hirst moved to the front of the stage to play on a smaller drum kit for the take on “US Forces.” Both Garrett’s lead vocal and the backing vocals by Flanagan and Stringer were great. That was followed by “Short Memory,” which featured Moginie’s keyboard in the opening before the band and Garrett’s vocal kicked in. The band gave it a solid performance. There was an instrumental bit in the song’s midsection, featuring some off-kilter keyboard work by Moginie.

The Oils’ devout environmentalism was on display during the performance of the rocking, up-tempo Resist song “Reef.” The song serves as a warning about how we all need to take better care of the environment with lyrics such as “The sky is a mirror / Of self-interest and greed.” When the performance of the song concluded, Garrett spoke to the crowd about how the greedy ways of the oil companies are so environmentally destructive. He then introduced Moginie, Hirst and Rotsey to the crowd.

Hirst had his lead-vocal spotlight moment at the start of the performance of “Kosciusko.” He did a good job. Garrett joined in on vocals about one minute into the song. As the song grew more intense, Hirst returned to the larger drum kit to finish out the performance as Garrett assumed the sole lead vocal. The crowd were bouncing up down during the full-on performance of the rocker “Only the Strong.” Garrett’s vocal on the song was particularly powerful, and the band were stellar.

Before the performance of “Rising Seas” from the Resist album, Garrett spoke to the crowd about those that are overwhelmed regarding the dire outlook for our environment and how they need to stay focused to fight for environmental justice. The take on “Rising Seas” featured organ by Moginie and another great vocal by Garrett.

The main set was entering the home stretch, and the remainder of it consisted of crowd favorites. The ecstatic crowd sang along throughout “Blue Sky Mine” at the top of their voices. Garrett urged the crowd to join in on vocals once again during “Power and the Passion,” and the audience complied. The performance of the song featured an impressive drum break by Hirst in the middle of the song as well as nice saxophone work by Bickers. The Oils were firing on all cylinders during the incendiary performance of “King of the Mountain,” during which the crowd grew even more active, bouncing up and down and almost drowning out the band with their singing. An extended version of “Beds Are Burning” was given a tight performance by the band as well as Garrett’s great vocal. It received a deafening ovation at the end. The main set closed out with an intense “Forgotten Years” that received a sustained ovation at the end as the band left the stage.

Midnight Oil bid farewell to the enthusiastic New York City audience. (Photo by Ian Laidlaw)

Midnight Oil bid farewell to the enthusiastic New York City audience. (Photo by Ian Laidlaw)

The Oils soon returned for the encore. “We Resist” from the Resist album began in a mellow way, and Hirst’s drumming grew heavier as the song progressed. The rocking and extended “Dreamworld” received a massive reaction from the crowd. The performance of the song slowed down a bit in the midsection and then started to build in intensity again. And the show drew to a close with a magnificent performance of “Hercules.”

Midnight Oil have played quite a few terrific shows in New York City over the years, including the May 1990 guerilla performance on the back of a flatbed truck parked in front of Exxon’s headquarters on Manhattan’s Sixth Avenue to protest the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska’s Prince William Sound that had taken place in March 1989. Their June 19th show at Hammerstein Ballroom joins that list of memorable performance in the Big Apple. If it was their final New York City concert, they are bowing out on a very high note.

Midnight Oil’s remaining tour dates in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand can be found at https://www.midnightoil.com/tour/.

Goldmine’s review of Midnight Oil’s Resist album can be read at https://www.goldminemag.com/reviews/midnight-oils-resist-is-earnest-environmental-protest-music-that-rocks.

Midnight Oil’s setlist at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom was as follows:
Nobody’s Child
At the Time of Writing
Truganini
Progress
Undercover
Redneck Wonderland
Gadigal Land
First Nation
The Dead Heart
US Forces
Short Memory
Reef
Kosciusko
Only the Strong
Rising Seas
Blue Sky Mine
Power and the Passion
King of the Mountain
Beds Are Burning
Forgotten Years

Encore:
We Resist
Dreamworld
Hercules

  

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