22 March 2021 | James Porteous | Clipper Media

While much of the discussion in ‘the west’ continues to centre on never-ending lockdowns, synthetic jabs and whether or not ‘we’ will ever shake hands again (After Covid, will we ever shake hands again?) a couple billion people on planet earth are getting on with life. Including Midnight Oil. Their recent Makarrate Live shows inluded a sold out concert at Mt Duneed Estate in front of 13,000 fans.

22 March 2021 | PAUL CASHMERE | Noise11

Midnight Oil are the greatest live band in the world. It is that simple. 43 years after their first album, Peter Garrett just weeks off turning 68 and Rob Hirst, Jim Moginie and Martin Rotsey all now in their mid-60s, this is a band with more energy than the artists half their age. It is also a band that has always been true to a message Australia needs to hear.

The Oils have always been about racial unity. That message was concentrated into the 2020 album ‘The Makarrata Project’ and that album is the centrepiece of this current tour.

Makarrata is a Yolngu word describing a process of conflict resolution, peacemaking and justice. It was about how Australian cannot move forward unless it heals the past. Joining Midnight Oil for Makarrata live were Alice Skye, Troy Cassar-Daly, Dan Sultan and Tasman Keith.

With the passing in 2020 of bass player Bones Hillman, new member Adam Ventura slotted right in to create the rhythm section with powerhouse drummer and co-founder Rob Hirst. The Oils paid tribute to Bones as well as to Mushroom/Frontier Touring founder Michel Gudinski. Peter Garrett called Gudinski “passionate and persuasive” noting that they didn’t always see eye to eye but in the end Gudinski became their promoter and his company Frontier Touring was behind Makarrata Live.

This was an old school rock concert, like before Covid, with 13,000+ punters ready for the biggest show they had seen in over a year.

The Oils opened with the power packed ‘No Time For Games’, a 41 year song from their 1980 ‘Bird Noises’ EP followed by 40 year old ‘Don’t Wanna Be The One’. The setlist was full of deep cuts for Oils fans but nicely balanced with more well-known hits. Each show gave the audience something unique. A 1990’s b-side ‘Ships of Freedom’ was played for the first time on this tour at Mt Duneed.

Apart from the ‘Makarrata Project’ the band dove most heavily into the 1984 ‘Red Sails In The Sunset’ album, their only album to not have any singles.

‘The Makaratta Project’ came 18 years after Midnight Oil’s previous album ‘Capricornia’. Just prior to Covid the Oils had a productive time in the studio. A second yet to be released album was also completed in 2019. ‘The Makarrata Project’ was a collaboration with Indigenous artists. The next album will be 100% Oils. With that on the way we can expect for touring possibly even later this year.

Midnight Oil setlist at Mt Duneed, 20 March 2021

No Time for Games (from Bird Noises, 1980)
Don’t Wanna Be the One (from Place Without A Postcard, 1981)
Truganini (from Earth and Sun and Moon, 1993)
Jimmy Sharman’s Boxers (from Red Sails In The Sunset, 1984)

From The Makarrata Project, 2020
Uluru Statement From The Heart / Come On Down
Gadigal Land
First Nation
Change the Date
Terror Australia
Desert Man, Desert Woman
Wind in My Head

Redneck Wonderland (from Redneck Wonderland, 1998)
No Reaction (from Head Injuries, 1979)
Ships of Freedom (b-side of Outbreak of Love, 1993)
Short Memory (from 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1, 1982)
Kosciusko (from Red Sails In The Sunset, 1984)
Blue Sky Mine (from Blue Sky Mining, 1990)
Best of Both Worlds (from Red Sails In The Sunset, 1984)
Power and the Passion (from 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1, 1982)

Encore:
From the Bush (Warumpi Band cover)
One Country (from Blue Sky Mining, 1990)
The Dead Heart (from Diesel and Dust, 1987)
Beds Are Burning (from Diesel and Dust, 1987)

MIDNIGHT OIL
Makarrata Live ★★★★½
Mt Duneed Estate, March 20

Early on it felt like dreaming. The sixth and final concert celebrating Midnight Oil’s latest album The Makarrata Project, shared with 13,000 live music fans in previously locked down Victoria.

Welcomed to the stage with a brilliant sunset, and the words of the Uluru Statement From the Heart ever present as a backdrop, the Oils’ frontman Peter Garrett took every opportunity to remind fans “walking together is the future” and reconciliation with First Nations people is about actions and not just words.

Opening salvo No Time For Games felt just as gutsy as when Rob Hirst was no doubt smiling and snapping into his snare drum four decades ago. Don’t Wanna Be the One, too, bristled with the band’s earlier punk rock energy.

Guest singers Alice Skye and Dan Sultan were welcome additions on stage, reproducing their recent recorded contributions to the album and more. Sultan even provided the main vocals on Beds Are Burning to close the show, highlighting the song’s still hugely evocative message about the forced removal of Indigenous people from their homeland

The first half of this two-hour show featured new songs, including Skye’s breathtaking performance of Terror Australia, accompanied only by Jim Moginie on keys and Martin Rotsey’s sparse strings. Troy Cassar-Daley relished being on stage, particularly his starring role with guitar on Desert Man, Desert Woman. Elsewhere, hip-hop artist Tasman Keith earned his stripes and backing vocalists Leah Flanagan and Liz Stringer shone brightly throughout the night.

A short video tribute to the late Michael Gudinski, who Garrett called “passionate, persuasive … and a pioneer” was followed by a rousing version of Best of Both Worlds, while Jimmy Sharman’s Boxers was another strong contender for song of the night, as the horn section pushed deep into overdrive.

Another heartfelt moment came with a tribute to the band’s late bass player, Bones Hillman, who died in November. On this night, Hillman would have been proud of the way Adam Ventura filled his spot, sharing the Oils’ ongoing and powerful message of reconciliation, of justice and rock ‘n’ roll.

Martin Boulton
Martin Boulton

Martin Boulton is EG Editor at The Age and Shortlist Editor at the Sydney Morning Herald