PETER GARRETT never really quit politics – he just swapped parliament for the tour bus.
Taking to the stage with Midnight Oil at the RAC Arena on Sunday night, the dreary upper house debates had been replaced with power chords, the parliamentary speeches with trenchant lyrics, and the hoary backbenchers with Marshall stacks.
Halfway through the gig, Garrett’s political ire reached its zenith when the huge screen behind the band displayed the words “Woodside Ecocide”.
It coincided with him unveiling his “Woodside Climate Wreckers” t-shirt and a lengthy montage of images showing how Woodside was allegedly damaging the environment, accompanied by a Pink Floyd-style jam.
This was on top of several pointed speeches about climate change, the Ukraine conflict, the treatment of the First Nations people, and generally riling up the mining magnates in the corporate boxes.
All this could have been a preachy, sanctimonious party-political bore, if the music hadn’t been so good and the members of Midnight Oil still relevant and great live performers.
They might be getting on, but they can still belt out their unique brew of new wave, post-punk and rock with gusto for a good two hours plus.
At 69, Garrett still has all the spasmodic moves and erratic energy – rampaging about the stage like a giant bald robot that has blown a gasket.
His voice is in fine fettle with that trademark guttural growl and the ability to still hit the high notes on the ballads and quieter numbers.
The gig was good value with Stephen Pigram and Goanna supporting.
Pigram was accompanied by another guitarist and Fremantle favourite Lucky Oceans on lap steel guitar, with their intimate acoustic set benefiting from the excellent acoustics at the RAC Arena (it was built with gigs in mind).
Hot off stage from the AFL Grand Final half-time show, which received mixed reviews, Goanna served up their heady mix of flower power, folk and rock.
It wasn’t my cup of hemp tea, but they could still perform well and got the crowd going with a revamped version of their big 1982 hit Solid Rock.
But we were all here for Midnight Oil on their farewell tour. They put on a stunning show, playing all their old hits as well as some interesting new numbers from their latest 2022 album Resist, featuring drum loops and synthesisers.
Guitarist James Moginie was particular good, eschewing cliched solos and histrionics in favour of originality and sonic tangents.
It was good to see him strap on a Gibson Les Paul, which had a powerful meaty tone, after the support acts had mostly used the twangier Fender Telecaster or acoustics.
Drummer Rob Hirst was equally impressive – a perpetual ball of energy, windmilling around the kit, he even came to the front of the stage to sing lead vocals on a number.
The show was well-staged with a huge screen providing visuals to back up the earnest messages, and the drummer throwing his sticks into an old water tower throughout the night in a cute nod to the Australian outback.
As for Garrett, he must be incredibly fit – nearly 70 he put in a serious shift and by the end of the encore looked completely spent, propped up by fellow band members as they bade farewell with a group bow to the audience.
And this was him playing in WA – his political anathema – but maybe that fuelled his performance.
The gig was meant to be held at a winery in the Middle Swan, but after flooding it was moved to the RAC Arena, where it benefited from the excellent sound.
If this is to be Midnight Oil’s farewell tour, they are going out in typically partisan style.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK