Archive for March, 2009

I pray that sense and reason brings us in
Who’s gonna save me?
– Midnight Oil, 1990

We did not hear US Forces.
We did not hear Short Memory.

We DID hear Beds Are Burning, Best of Both Worlds, and Dream World, all with the BRASS SECTION.

Let me be clear about what I went for and what I did not go for when I saw Midnight Oil at the Canberra Entertainment Centre tonight.

I didn’t go to contemplate Peter Garrett’s political career. Others can and do freely accuse him of being a traitor to his class, his art, his audience, his causes. Others can and do freely defend his choices. I’m sure you have your own deeply held conviction in this area… or else you don’t give a toss.

There were five blokes on stage this evening, four of whom are still making music for a living, and five of whom were performing with passion and clearly having a bloody great time.

I went this evening for the music.

oils1smlThe last Oils gig I saw was at the University of New England. I must have been pushing 30 at the time and was therefore still relatively full of beans, not to mention still appropriately aged for a loud gig. This evening, a great many years later, as I pulled on the old Blundstones I confess I felt old. But standing in the foyer of the Entertainment Centre, it became evident I was at the younger end of the demographic. Bald Man, Caro, Ricky and I tried to spot someone under 25. There was one girl, accompanying an older boyfriend, who could have qualified. And then there were about half a dozen kids roughly 11 years old, attending with either dad, or mum, or both. Oh dear. Bald Man spotted Glen A. Baker (looking quite svelte, but still bearded and wearing a silly hat) lining up at the box office to collect his ticket.

This gig was not as rowdy as that UNE gig either; at that one I lost a couple of handfuls of hair but gained one of Rob Hirst’s drumsticks (he threw them into the crowd and I took a lucky catch). This time around the ageing Gen Xers and pretty decrepit younger baby boomers posed no kind of physical threat, though perhaps being more concerned with real estate they were much better at hanging onto their gig floor turf; very few drunken upstarts got through to the mosh pit. Of the 3000, about a third hung about in the standing room, while two thirds opted for the seating. Wusses.

oils2smlThe band opened with Redneck Wonderland, and it took them about 3 songs to find the magic. When they did, it was all go. They played a host of great classics, including When The Generals Talk, One Country, The Dead Heart, Blue Sky Mine, Truganini, Best of Both Worlds, Power And The Passion, Read About It… in fact, with two encores the gig went a good two hours. The sets were structured so that groups of more energetic songs were paced with slower tempo ones – not just for the middle-aged audience, I’m sure, but also for the middle-aged band. The one decoration on the stage was a small, old corrugated iron water tank, on which Hirsty stood up and played a percussion solo. The brass section was an unexpected treat, and received a huge roar from the crowd. (That really shows up the recent Saints reunion gigs, which did not feature a brass section and so the band didn’t play Know Your Product, a disappointment to quite a few I hear.)

Only Peter Garrett spoke in between songs, and mostly he talked about how good it was to be doing something they all loved to help raise money for the bushfire-affected; he also welcomed old friends and new, including visitors from interstate, overseas and Parliament. There was a curious moment during the second encore though when he said a few words about not always being able to win, but having to hang in there just the same. I’m sure those were not his exact words, but that was the sentiment as I heard it. Then the band moved into Sometimes – an interesting segue – and then that was the end, my friends.

oilsgigsml1I only got one stitch from jumping about too much, and didn’t lose any hair this time. Ah well. It was still a good gig. Clearly the gathered audience have missed the Oils a great deal, and were glad to welcome them back if only for a short time. It’s been a long time between gigs, but those years have not been forgotten years.


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These days turned out nothing like I had planned.
– Powderfinger, 2000

What a strange couple of weeks it’s been. Work took me to Victoria to help with bushfire coverage; though I stayed office-bound, the hours were long and weird, colleagues worn out and worn down, and smoke permeated even the Southbank studios. Outside visibility was low and everyone looked serious. (Readers of The Hobart Chronicles may remember that the smell of bushfire makes me twitchy. I left Melbourne with a full-blown coffee dependancy re-established, my caffeine free weeks a distant memory.)

Then just days later, attending to the outlaws took me to northeastern NSW where flooodwaters were receding; at the Bald Man’s mother’s property she’d had 25 inches in 10 days, exceeding all known records for the area, and a low-lying bridge was temporarily impassable. It was hot and swampy.

And here in The Berra? Dry, dry, dry. The gardens that started January so lush are now desiccated. Trees look like they’re turning early for autumn, but in fact the leaves are just dying. Miss Penny, visiting from Tamworse last weekend, was a bit taken aback by the dry landscape, but I’m pleased to say she enjoyed her stay having found The Berra very much to her liking. Sunday also happened to be my birthday. With each passing birthday, I seem to care about my age less, which is good; but I also seem to care about everything else a little less, too. Perhaps it’s smart not to look at the detail of one’s life too closely at times like these.

Anyway, The Berra offers many fine distractions, and we sampled a few on the weekend. Sunday was the annual open day for Government House at Yarralumla, and so early on we dropped in. I had a look at the work OB, and the Marketing guru snuck off and quietly organised for us to jump the queue of people waiting to walk through the grand old residence. Somehow this morphed into a personal tour by one of the senior staff for Miss Penny, the Bald Man and me through some of the open and not-so-open areas, like the kitchen and flower-arranging room (yes there is one of these). Built in the 1830s, it’s remarkable how the House relates to all the contemporary landmarks, including Lake Burley Griffin and the Telstra tower, none of which existed when the drawing rooms with the fine bay windows were installed. Now in its 18th decade, the house has a gentle, genteel atmosphere even when filled with hundreds of curious Berrans peering over the red ropes at the furniture.

Our guide, having served under several G-Gs, remembered some fascinating moments, a boon for the Bald Man who is in turn fascinated by the Dismissal. Here was where Whitlam walked in. There was where Fraser stood. Kerr was sitting behind this desk. And so on. We rounded a corner and nearly ran into an older gentleman coming down a flight of stairs. “Oh,” cried our guide, “Hello Mr Bryce!”

We left, awestruck, and discussed the tour while stuffing ourselves at yum cha for lunch. Then about two hours later, having clearly not eaten enough at lunch, we went out for afternoon tea.

Not just any old afternoon tea, but High Tea at the Hyatt, The Berra’s only 5-star establishment. It was very grand indeed. I’m told it’s something of an institution in The Berra, and I can see why. Luxurious surrounds and exquisite petits fours, and you can sit around for hours enjoying first-class people-watching. A group of forty-something women held what looked like a baby shower for one of their number; two dapper young fellows ordered elaborate pink-and-green cocktails. But what was going on at the next table, where a couple of dozen women of varying ages and flash frocks sat adorned with nametags, drinking champagne? We ran through some options: a business meeting; a briefing for Tupperware sales ladies; a church group outing. It finally emerged as some kind of bridal shower, complete with quizzes, little speeches, a sharply pretty Bridezilla and her cut-glass mother. It was a world away from our humble little trio. I thought people only had shoes made to match their dresses for the actual wedding, and then only people for whom the styling of the day may actually be more important than the happily-ever-after. But then, what would I know? It was a joy to watch it all.

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