Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] Anahiem concert review

MoshD@aol.com MoshD@aol.com
Wed, 10 Oct 2001 12:15:20 EDT

Hi all:

Here is a concert review from the Orange County Register for the Anahiem 
House of Blues show on Monday night.


The Orange County Register 
At a time when much of what constitutes "edgy" music seems calculated for 
maximum nuisance and minimum meaning, it's easy to cling to something as 
primal as Midnight Oil - and to get swept up in the band's mopeless urgency 
to the point of overstatement.
So let's take at least one military stride backward before the fountain of 
praise gushes forth uncontrollably: As great as the Oils were Monday night at 
the sold-out House of Blues in Anaheim - so great, in fact, that their 
premature fall from popular acclaim is once again a vivid reminder how 
cruelly unjust the rock world can be - it seems unlikely that the Australians 
will regain solid footing in the mainstream. If anything, they're swimming in 
the wrong (which is actually the right) direction.
And much to their credit. Time has passed by the Oils - the kindest thing it 
could do, really, since more than a decade after their American breakthrough 
(and four since their last tour) it has left them with an impossibly vibrant, 
electrifying sound of no particular era and little forebearance. 
"Timelessness" is appropriate, sure, but there's something more unique than 
that at play. More than ever these guys come off like they've been teleported 
in from other realms.
There's a formula to their righteousness, of course. The bottom: almost 
always a propulsive, well-beyond-speed- limit driving rhythm, punctuated by 
Rob Hirst's crisp drumming. The top: one of two guitar textures, either 
furiously strummed acoustics, the sort that always shamed the Alarm, or 
chiming Rickenbackers, used in a manner that, post-Byrds, is second only to 
Tom Petty's fashion.
And then there's the glue: Peter Garrett, easily one of the most captivating 
presences to step on a stage in the past 25 years. A tower of earnestness, 
his sweaty bald pate helping to sculpt his Frankensteinesque visage, his 
lanky frame simultaneously marching and flailing, his spindly right hand 
constantly grabbing at invisible forces near his brow, then theatrically 
bringing them down like a gun-shaped gavel to smite the horrible - simply 
put, he is a sight everyone should encounter at least once.
Garrett is the conduit, the fire in the band's belly. Take the well-known 
"Beds Are Burning," for instance, which here was actually the least 
overwhelming of the evening's hits. In a slightly revamped setting, with the 
quintet amassed martially at the lip of the stage, the song lumbered at the 
start, stumbling around a beat, its spy-noir groove not smacking you in the 
gut the way it should.
Then came Garrett. "The time has come!" (Chugging groove locking in.) "To say 
fair's fair!" (Stronger, tighter.) "To pay the rent!" (Almost got it now.) 
"To pay our share!" (And now it's wicked.)
Should you have come looking for sloganeering, naturally these 90 minutes of 
riveting protest-rock gave you plenty to choose from. Statements for sobering 
stability: "If you read the history books, this sort of thing happens again 
and again and again and again." Warnings of rage, like the sinister 
proclamation "and the world won't stand still" from the undervalued 
"Truganini," here introduced with a wish for "a minimum loss for the innocent 
and a maximum loss for the guilty" involved in the infamous attacks of Sept. 
11. (Counter that with this one: "Hands have been clenched into fists for too 
long," from "Forgotten Years.")
Some lyrics took on meanings we couldn't hear before. "It's better to die on 
your feet than to live on your knees," for instance, followed by the clincher 
from "Power and the Passion": "Sometimes you've got to take the hardest 
line." (To temper the anger, that was followed by a roaring closer, "Read 
About It," with its helpless shrug, "There must be some solution, but I just 
don't know.")
This was the kickoff to the Oils' tour, and at times the absence showed - 
clumsy timekeeping, flubbed entrances, a leatheriness lacking in Garrett's 
voice that left him straining at some salvos. But it would be foolish to be 
harsh, particularly as the band hasn't lost a shred of potency. Consider how 
many political outfits have endured in the past quarter-century - sayonara 
Gang of Four, adios Rage Against the Machine, cheers to the Clash. Those that 
remain, even at their best, seem soft in comparison.
Can you imagine R.E.M. showing as much vitality today but for a song or two, 
or envision U2 recapturing that unforgettable original fire it brought to "I 
Will Follow"? Not a chance.
Yet Midnight Oil soldiers on, ageless. Galvanizing and pertinent. It's as if 
they never stopped fighting.