O2 Apollo Manchester
“We had to play Too Much Sunshine because it’s the opposite of what you’ve got here and because we waited such a long time to come back and play to you”. So spoke Peter Garrett the imposing 6ft 4inch lead singer of Midnight Oil two songs into their set. He wasn’t wrong either, and on a grey Sunday evening the “Oils” were making their first visit to Manchester since ’93. Even allowing for the band being put on a lengthy hiatus whilst he pursued a career in politics it has been a long, long time. However, buoyed by the reaction to 2017’s The Great Circle tour they’re back for a rare visit with three shows in Manchester, Dublin and London before spending the next month playing festivals across Europe. So the faithful duly gathered, family’s with under 10’s sporting serious (and sensible) ear defenders rubbed shoulders with aging rockers wearing 80’s denim waistcoats adorned with Rose Tattoo patches. As the lights went down for the start of the show twenty-something’s rushed down the aisle to get as close to the front as they could whilst us slightly older ones stood our ground in front of our seats throughout the near two hours set.
The set list cut across the bands history with most albums contributing one or two tracks; Diesel and Dust unsurprisingly serves up more with three and 1982’s 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 five. With such a large back catalogue set lists will change nightly but US Forces got a strong reaction early in the set and its clear from the off that the band are a well honed unit. Yes there’s light and shade but they do make a wonderful noise with the guitars turned up. The lighting was effective, lots of deep reds, blues and the occasional green and the band were joined by saxophonist Andy Bickers for the first time during Jimmy Sharman’s Boxers.
My country sees drummer Rob Hirst come forward to share vocals and he stays at the front of the stage playing a cut down kit for an acoustic set which includes what I think was a new song Tarkine. What was evident throughout was the respect the crowd gave the band as there was near silence during quieter sections or whilst Peter made observations between songs. Yes the music comes with a message and yes UK politics in general, Boris Johnson specifically, environmental and social concerns all get a mention with time taken out to explain the meaning of the bands backdrop which contains the text of the Uluru Statement. The message though is always underpinned by the music.
Only the Strong sees the acoustic guitars put away and we enter the final third of the main set with the band obviously having fun and more powerful drumming. A vibrant Hercules leads us to The Dead Heart with the crowd singing the Da do do do do do do do refrain throughout. I must admit that this song has become a complete earworm to me over the years and hearing it live was an absolute treat. Blue Sky Mine the mighty Beds are Burning and Best of Both Worlds complete the main set and following a two song encore the night is over.
Walking out I overheard a couple talking about going to see the band again in London on Thursday, having waited so long I can understand them wanting to take every opportunity they can to see the band and am sure that they’ll see another great show. However, I do hope that it’s not another 23 years before Midnight Oil come back to Manchester again.
Finally thanks to Bargepole and PR Ben for making the necessary arrangements to allow this review to happen.
When Australia was mentioned it got a large cheer, as did Manchester but I heard enough accents to tell me that this was a gathering of the northern fan club. This was given further weight with a shout of when will you come back to Scotland at one point.
It made me think..
Music with a message will always have a place. Music with a message and a good tune even more so.