Live Review: Midnight Oil, Wembley Arena, 1990


Midnight Oil are the antithesis of the stereotypical image of Australians. They're not the Crocodile Dundee types or beer-gutted FOSTER-swilling 'blokes.' Singer Peter Garrett is known for his political convictions/ involvement and environmental concerns, which extend well beyond the realms of the band.

Blue Sky Mining the current album, received a lukewarm response from the British press. Maybe, but, whilst not containing anything as stunning as Beds Are Burning (from the 1987 platter Diesel and Dust), it displays even greater depth and variety than its predecessor.

The crowd, literally crawling with healthy-looking Aussies and Kiwis couldn't give a XXXX about how the Brits perceive the Oilers - they just wanna see a bloody good gig, mate!

It's hard to ignore Peter Garrett. He bounds onto the stage, shiny bald dome and a large gangling frame n' all, bristling with manic energy. He also comes across far more humorously than the serious po-faced individual he's occasionally portrayed as: "Good evening fellow Aussies and Kiwis...and the Poms at the back!" Garrett explains that the BBC are recording the concert, thereby lending their "environmental concerns" respectability. Surely this could not be a jibe aimed at 'Dear Old Aunty Beeb'?

This serves to introduce the exultant Dream World with its busy drumming and spiralling guitar. Garrett skillfully takes the sting out of possible accusations of pomposity/ political preaching:

"We can't supply the political comment, so we'll leave it to you."

In a purely musical sense, Midnight Oil write ambitious, anthemic rock songs. The rousing Blue Sky Mining (title track of the current album) is in that vein, injected with a robust twin guitar sound and evocative outback imagery.

Purple mist and light bathes Garrett during River Runs Red. Soulful and sobering, it paints a bleak picture of the world pollution problem. You can sense the anguish in Garrett's voice. Poignant One Nation is vaguely countryish with a nod towards REM and a call for OZ unity in dealing with the abuse of the environment.

It's encore time. Bedlam Bridge swells with aching melody and an intense sense of purpose. Despite its serious lyrics Forgotten Years is immediately catchy and exuberant. A hectic version of Elvis Costello's Peace, Love, and Understanding brings it all to a climax. This acts as a spur for Garrett to leap into the crowd like some giant, bald PRAYING MANTIS!!

Any criticism? Well, some of the weaker songs fell a bit flat, but Garrett's offbeat charisma and energy kept up my attention level. Garrett and his cohorts could be seen as being self-righteous. So what? Righteous and right on!

Mark Liddell
Riff Raff
July, 1990
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