If someone had told me in 1989 that I would lose my sacred long locks and sport a coiffure like singer Peter Garrett, I would have balked at the idea. But this was the predicament I (and others in the crowd) faced watching one of Australia’s most iconic bands on their The Great Circle Tour.
Held in the same esteem as classic acts Cold Chisel, Aussie Crawl or Hunters & Collectors, the band’s political and social injustice oozed from their songs, as Garrett’s imposing figure dominated the stage with his trademark algospasmic dance moves, perfecting the art of ‘cool’.
The band wasted no time jumping into Redneck Wonderland, Read About It, Put Down That Weapon & the timeless Truganini. “Kiaora Everybody” he motioned from the stage, he had the Kiwi vernacular down pat, saying they had always known they “Would be back” while noting being back after such a long time “Does have something special about it”.
Running the gamut of songs from their albums spanning four decades, the show peppered with Garretts self-deprecating humour, including his fear of “Playing on cruise ships,” and an anecdote offering a Trump voter his You’re Fired Trump tee shirt asking “Would you wear this tee shirt with pride?” adding, “Usually they would change sides straight away.”
Midnight Oil’s love affair with Aotearoa continued as Shipyards of New Zealand and Hercules, a song dedicated to “The people of New Zealand, and those who were on the Rainbow Warrior”, rang out across Auckland’s Spark Arena.
Rob Hirst kicked off their acoustic set, the sleeveless drummer showing his talent singing lead on When the Generals Talk, a fusillade of rhythm. Kiwi Bones Hillman strutted his acoustic bass guitar, while guitarists Martin Rotsey and Jim Moginie duelled away to “soar & swing” as Hunters & Collectors’ Jack Howard replied with tasty brass bits.
The band back after last playing here in the early nineties at Mountain Rock Festival was the call up for fans after their notable absence. References to “Aotearoa” and our ‘hongi’, even rattling off place names such as Gisborne, Hamilton & New Plymouth, seemed ex Labour MP Garret had more of a feel for this country than our own politicians.
The magic of the 80s was relived as one lone Australian flag flew in the Arena, the audience had to wait briefly to hear the classic radio hits of yesteryear, as the as the crowd bandied for a sing song including The Dead Heart, Power and the Passion, Blue Sky Mining & Forgotten Years, then Garrett parted with “Until we rub noses again”.
The band couldn’t help themselves as they replied to the crowd’s chants of “encore” with a passable Counting the Beat, by The Swingers, a subtle River Runs Red, and ending with Dream World and Best of Both Worlds. It was an excellent end to a fantastic night highlighting the band’s longevity from their humble beginnings in Narrabeen, Sydney in the early 70s.
If Peter Garrett was third option for preferred prime minister for this country, he’d get my vote – even with his anti-Trumpism and pro Greenie leanings, he’d win hands down. Now, about that citizenship Pete?