It would be fair to say that March of 2022 didn’t quite go as Midnight Oil would have expected. While that’s pretty much par for the course these days, it’s also exactly what makes the live music experience so special, as fans at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena discovered on Sunday night.
In a perfect world, Midnight Oil would have been performing in Melbourne close to three weeks ago, with their final RESIST tour seeing them scheduled to perform at Rod Laver Arena back on March 9th.
Unfortunately, drummer Rob Hirst’s brush with COVID saw the group forced to not only cancel a one-off show would’ve seen them performing their 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 album in its entirety to raise money for environmental groups, but to also postpone their Victorian performances in both Melbourne and Rutherglen.
Though a disappointing bit of news for fans, what’s a triumphant exit from the touring circuit without a little bit of turbulence to remember it by? And of course, with the group’s Melbourne performance taking place in the midst of their final tour, it was clear that their slightly-delayed appearance was on track to be one that fans would remember forever.
Thus, as countless supporters of the band (some having clearly been there since the early days, and others experiencing Midnight Oil on stage for the first time) made their way into Rod Laver Arena for a show that was to stand tall in terms of its importance for the Australian music scene, it became obvious we were in for something special.
Taking to the stage first up was none other than the mighty Amyl and The Sniffers, who proved their worth as one of the most immense and powerful acts in Australia today. Kicking things off with the likes of “Guided By Angels” and “Gacked on Anger”, it didn’t take long for the group to find their feet (figuratively and literally), with vocalist Amy Taylor soon roaming the stage with her trademark ferocious energy.
Appearing before a slowly-growing crowd turning out early to witness the magic, Amyl still performed like a group appearing before a crowd of thousands. A fervent group of followers amongst the barrier were the most appreciative though, loudly singing along to the likes of “Maggot” and “I Got You” as they rang out across the arena.
Leaning heavily on their 2021 album, Comfort to Me, tracks like “Security” and “Knifey” sat effortlessly alongside classics such as the immense “Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled)” or “Balaclava Lover Boogie” (the latter of which featured a temporary sound outage, though the band powered through with pure professionalism).
Rounding out their set with the infectious “Hertz”, Amyl and The Sniffers undoubtedly wrapped up proceedings clearly having gained a few new fans, or having converted a few naysayers. In fact, anyone who doubts the immense prowess of Amyl need only take a cursory look at a set like this to have their world-beating status confirmed.
Sure, every member of the band might look like they were recruited from four distinctly separate bands, but together, Amyl and The Sniffers are arguably one of the tightest and most intense bands on the Australian scene today.
As the venue slowly filled up to what appeared to be capacity, excitement for the coming set reached fever pitch. As the lights dimmed and footage of protests and environmental injustices filled the screen, so too did Midnight Oil appear before us, with the voice of Peter Garrett welcoming us via the slow-burning “We Resist”. As music and message combined in expert fashion, it was apparent that we weren’t just witnessing another day at the office for Midnight Oil; we were witnessing something incredibly special.
Kicking off with a trio of tracks from their final album, RESIST, it wasn’t long before classic tracks soon became intertwined with more contemporary numbers to give a vast cross-section of the group’s iconic discography.
Of course, pleasing anyone is a difficult task, especially when it comes to a band who have been around for numerous decades. Thus, the impressive song selection – borrowing from the vast majority of their catalogue – was commendable, with the likes of “Back on The Borderline” taking us back to the group’s late ’70s output, while “Dreamworld” and “Don’t Wanna Be the One” gave a solid view of the ’80s.
While newer material was indeed ventured into at times, such is the power of Midnight Oil’s legacy and combined talents that it slotted into their set without the slightest fear of it feeling out of place. 2021 single “Rising Seas” felt just as powerful as anything the group recorded at their commercial peak, while “First Nation” (featuring pre-recorded vocals from Tasman Keith and live vocals from Leah Flanagan) was an unexpected highlight of the set.
However, it’s obvious that for a band as well-travelled as Midnight Oil, it’s the fan-favourites and classic radio hits that were the ones to get the audience most excited. While cuts like “The Dead Heart”, “US Forces”, and
“Kosciusko” were crowd favourites, it was on “Only the Strong” that Garrett exercised his status as a mesmerisingly powerful frontman. This, of course, was complemented by his capacity for compassion, with a fan throwing a “I Stand With Ukraine” shirt onto the stage seconds later, and Garrett making plans for the shirt to be signed and sold in order to raise funds for the crisis in Ukraine.
Similarly, Garrett’s outspoken nature saw him stop between songs to occasionally speak on topics of great importance, be it the environment, government inaction, or even the aforementioned Ukraine crisis. However, both Garrett and the greater Midnight Oil should be commended for the accessibility of the message they present.
While countless artists or commentators will describe the situations as they are, leaving us feeling as if there’s no hope, Midnight Oil are champions of treating crisis as an opportunity. Rather than giving us a feeling of hopelessness, their music and message combine in such a way that you’re left feeling as though there is something you can do. Perhaps this is the key to their integral nature as purveyors of politically-influenced rock music in Australia?
As the set tended to its end, the group paid tribute to the late Taylor Hawkins by dedicating the drum-heavy “Power and The Passion” in his memory, though it was a powerful run of classics (“Blue Sky Mine”, “Beds Are Burning”, and “Forgotten Years”) that closed out the main set, leaving fans to wonder if this indeed was the last we’d ever see of the group.
Moments later, that question was answered as the band returned to kick off a three-song opener with the great “Put Down That Weapon”. Though “Redneck Wonderland” followed (despite the fact it serves as a near-perfect set opener), it was the fitting “Hercules” that closed out proceedings for the night. After all, as Garrett’s voice belted out the line “This is something I will remember“, it turned out he was simply reciting the collective thoughts of all of us in attendance.
As the group again bade us farewell and wandered off side of stage, the question could be asked as to whether they’re aware of the impact they had on the lives of thousands of music fans this evening? Whether it was yet another Midnight Oil gig for some, or the first time for others, everyone in attendance at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena were lucky enough to have witnessed an historic occasion. No, not historic in the sense of seeing something headline-worthy take place on stage, but in the sense that we all witnessed a truly iconic band come together to give their all, affecting numerous lives in the process, and cementing their place in history.
No matter who you are, simply witnessing Midnight Oil make history so casually, yet so powerfully, will stick with us all forever. It feels like a shame to see this final tour take place when the country’s most important band are still at the top of their game, but truly, we – and they – wouldn’t have it any other way.
Midnight Oil @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne 27/03/21 Setlist
“At the Time of Writing”
“The Barka-Darling River”
“Back on The Borderline”
“Don’t Wanna Be the One”
“The Dead Heart”
“In the Valley”
“Only the Strong”
“Best of Both Worlds”
“Power and The Passion”
“Blue Sky Mine”
“Beds Are Burning”
“Put Down That Weapon”
Midnight Oil: Resist – The Final Tour
Wednesday, March 30th
Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide, SA
Saturday, April 2nd
Darwin Amphitheatre, Darwin, NT
Wednesday, April 6th
Convention Centre Arena, Cairns, QLD
Saturday, April 9th
Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast, QLD
Wednesday, April 13th (Sold Out)
Riverstage, Brisbane, QLD
Tuesday, April 19th
Stage 88 Canberra, ACT
Thursday, April 21st
Qudos Bank Arena Sydney, NSW
Sunday, April 24th (New Date)
All Saints Estate, Rutherglen, VIC
Sunday, September 25th (New Date)
Nikola Estate, Swan Valley, WA
Tickets available via Frontier Touring