Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Midnight Oil: October 15, 1988 & September 17, 1990

I saw Midnight Oil in concert twice within two years. These tours were in support of the best-known of the Australian band's albums (at least in the U.S.): 1987's Diesel and Dust (featuring "Beds Are Burning," "The Dead Heart," and "Dreamworld") and 1990's Blue Sky Mining. I still admire the band's melding of socially conscious lyrics with unabashed pop hooks. They had a lengthy career, but never made much of an impact on the American charts after their 1987-90 heyday.

At the 1988 Masonic Temple show in Detroit, the opening act was Graffiti Man, a.k.a. John Trudell. Trudell has an impressive history as a Native American activist, so in that regard his pairing with the politically involved Midnight Oil makes sense. However, the crowd was not receptive to his blend of poetry and traditional instrumentation, and at one point, Trudell tried to calm then down by saying "peace, man" while holding his fingers in that famous hippie V.

Peter Garrett is a very tall, thin fellow with a shaved head, so he definitely makes an impression onstage. He wore something like coveralls and danced in herky-jerky motions. Although he has a somewhat intimidating look, his stage presence was very sweet and cheerful. Midnight Oil was a very good live band, so it's a shame they very rarely perform anymore. Rather, Garrett has served as a Member of Australia's House of Representatives for several years, working on environmental, education, and arts issues.

Although I haven't seen Midnight Oil since 1990, I did see Peter Garrett once in the early 2000s, before Midnight Oil stopped touring. He was eating alone in a diner I frequented during my lunch breaks when I first moved to Chicago; the band had played a couple doors down at House of Blues the previous night. Of course I recognized him (you can't miss that guy) but I left him to eat in peace.

1 comment:

  1. If I would have seen him in a local Chicago establishment, I would have politely interrupted him and said, "Mr. Garret, sir, (and I would definitely have said sir) the time has come, to say fair's fair, to pay my rent, to pay my share... So how about picking up my tab?"

    And then it true (stereotypical) Chicago fashion, I would gently add, "Because it's hard to sleep while your bed is burning."