Thirty years ago today--on April 22, 1988--Aussie rockers Midnight Oil played the Orpheum Theatre. They were at the height of their success, touring behind their sixth album, Diesel and Dust, which broke them in North America.
Here's my review:
At Midnight Oil’s press conference the day of their April 22 show the band’s drummer (and one of the major songwriters) Rob Hirst was asked about the group’s preoccupation with political themes. Hirst acknowledged the political side of the band, but also pointed out that politically inclined songs were not necessarily the band’s strongest feature.
“Some people just come to Midnight Oil concerts because it’s supposed to be a powerful rock ‘n’ roll experience,” he explained. Then baldheaded singer Peter Garrett piped in, “And it is! It will be tonight!”
Well, he wasn’t kidding. Politically correct or not, Midnight Oil is–when you get right down to it–one heckuva kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll band. Their show that night at the Orpheum was a blueprint for how live rock should be. With Garrett at the helm–looking like the demented mountain-man from The Hills Have Eyes–the five-man band delivered song after song of stirring guitar-rock that was so honest and right it choked me up. It was the same kind of emotional rush I got from the U2 show last year, the type that only hits on the rare occasion when you know you’re seeing a band that counts.
On a stage set up to resemble an impoverished outback village, Garrett and the boys pounded out their humanistic–anti-war, anti-poverty, anti-greed–tunes with a force that only the best live bands can muster. From the raucous opening number, “Bullroarer”, to the show-closing hit “Beds Are Burning”, there was no letting down.
Great as the band was, though, there was one tragic flaw in the show: the venue. The repressive atmosphere of the Orpheum–where you can’t even feel comfortable standing up–didn’t allow the audience to really let go. The sound was great, and it’s obviously a beautiful place, but you just can’t rock in the Orpheum. The band can, and Midnight Oil certainly did, but a looser atmosphere would have made the difference between a great concert and a truly unforgettable one.