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Live Review: Midnight Oil, The Jezabels, Adalita

8 November 2017 | 2:42 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

"The crowd belts out, 'This is something I will remEEEember!' — the line perfectly sums up this gig experience and Garrett beams appreciatively."

Pics by Jaz Meadows.

Pics by Jaz Meadows.

More Midnight Oil More Midnight Oil

As we take our seats in the Bowl, Adalita is up and running and she always brings it, totally embodying the essence of rock'n'roll up there in all black everything and with her trademark heavy black eye make-up. Adalita's guitar chops are undeniable and she admits, ahead of the set closer, that she "can't fucking wait" to see tonight's headliners.

The Jezabels open without their lead singer Hayley Mary until she casually wanders on and launches into Mace Spray. Straight-up, Nik Kaloper's urgent, on-point drumming evokes Mick Fleetwood. Endless Summer follows, laughing in the face of our freezing, jacketed bodies. It seems The Oils fans don't see the need to take their seats until just before the main attraction and those present actually turn their backs to the stage, taking photos to prove they've got good seats before posting to boast to their mates and then religiously checking their phones to see how many likes they're racking up. A few front-stalls enthusiasts point skyward and sing along to Got Velvet, though.

Listening to The Jezabels will always take us back to our happy Dance Academy place since one of their songs was used in a pivotal scene. Of Midnight Oil, Mary shares it's "kinda depressing that the best band in the world is still them". The lack of audience participation doesn't lessen The Jezabels' performance and Mary shows off all her energetic dance moves, but it must be difficult performing to these chatting masses who barely nod their heads along to the beat.

It's a total brofest down in the front section as heaps of stoked-on-life dudes wander around wearing shit-eating grins anticipating this lifetime highlight. Oils lyrics flash up on the venue's giant screens to set the scene: "By the time the kidney bone cities are crumbling to dust/And the empires and all of the emirates burn..." Red lights filter through smoke onstage. We spy Rob Hirst's trademark water tank beside his drum kit and excitement reaches fever pitch. The band enters, Peter Garrett with black hood firmly in place on top of his bald head. Hirst slams down on drums raising alternate sticks skyward and Midnight Oil launch head-first into Read About It. Deafening cheers fill the mid-song pause, Hirst hits the drums and then we're back into the song: "The rich get richer/The poor get the picture..."

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The fact that Midnight Oil mix up their sets every night on this The Great Circle 2017 tour is ambitious considering this band haven't played a show since Sound Relief in 2009, but it's The Oils so none doubt their ability to do anything and it's a treat for repeat offenders. Don't Wanna Be The One sees Garrett propelling across the stage, splaying out those giant hands and calling to mind Alice Cooper's humongous FrankenAlice monster. Garrett's harmonica playing signals Truganini. A punter in front of us holds up a sign that reads "King Of The Mountain" on one side and "Can I sing it with you?" on the other. That's a lot to read from the stage and she should have at least bordered the sign in fairy lights to attract Garrett's attention.  

"When was the last time we were in the Bowlo?" Garrett ponders. "I'll figure it out while we're on stage." Garrett sports a T-shirt that reads, "I Am Making Noise To End Violence Against Women". As Hercules closes out, the crowd belts out, "This is something I will remEEEember!" — the line perfectly sums up this gig experience and Garrett beams appreciatively. Section 5 (Bus To Bondi) is introduced by Garrett as one that'll "sort out the newcomers from the true believers" - it's from Midnight Oil's second album, Head Injuries (1979). No Time For Games gets us all rocking.

Midnight Oil then assemble at the front of the stage. Hirst moves to a simple kit and we notice he's wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with a map of Australia dissected by the word "Equality". In light of horrific recent events in the US, My Country ("My country going wrong/My country right or wrong") has added gravitas. Hirst smashes into the opening drum pattern for When The Generals Talk and we collectively lose our shit, the drummer taking lead vocals on this debilitating classic. The stuttering riff is arresting and extra drum beats are supplied by a stand-in on Hirst's kit. Short Memory is harrowing and Jim Moginie's warped keys section hypnotises. There are no slouches in this band, guitarist Martin Rotsey and bassist Bones Hillman locking in and truly shining during their parts.   

US Forces resonates even more in this day and age ("Bombs and trenches all in ro-ows!") and once again Garrett sports a Cheshire Cat-size smile when the audience takes over vocal duties as he pauses to soak up the sentiment. Garrett's movements interpret every musical nuance, those gigantic fingers shimmering to highlight specific sections as the music flows through him. The Kosciusko harmonies are flawless. Garrett brings on a cowbell, which he wacks with a fluoro yellow drumstick.

We flee down front hoping for an enhanced experience only to find such a decrease in volume that we can chat without even leaning in, which is disappointing, so we return to our seats. And the hits just keep on coming. Blue Sky Mine becomes an impassioned Beds Are Burning ("The time has come/To say fair's fair... It belongs to them/Let's give it baaaaaack") before Forgotten Years closes Midnight Oil's main set. The Horns Of Contempt (borrowed from Hunters & Collectors) blow our heads off.

Of course there's an encore (in fact, we score two) and Power And The Passion is another lung-busting singalong with Midnight Oil's lyrics sinking is as we sing them now that we're old enough for full comprehension. Hirst's drum solo sees us all standing motionless with gaping jaws. This song is fully enhanced thanks to The Horns Of Content and then Garrett lets off a flare, catapulting around the stage trailing theatrical red smoke. The band's second encore comprises Best Of Both Worlds - yep, we live in The Lucky Country.

Midnight Oil's combined brute force as a live act is undeniable - there can be no other! It's still truly powerful, incendiary stuff after all these years and we'll be back here next week for a repeat dose.