In retrospect, Midnight Oil’s global 2017 Great Circle Tour could not have come at a more appropriate time. U.S president Donald Trump is fighting with the Australian and Mexican Presidents, the Russians and North Koreans are a looming threat, the United Kingdom has pulled out of the European Common Market (Brexit) and pending elections in Holland, Germany and France are threatening to send those countries to the right.
Amidst a background of global turmoil, this five-man Aussie outfit seem to have selected just the right time, (after a 15 year lay off), to hit the road again and to stir up the political pot. For a band who released ‘Diesel And Dust’ in 1987 as a protest against Australia’s 200th anniversary (which did not factor in the country’s indigenous Aboriginal population) and promoted their 1990 `Blue Sky Mining’ release by staging a concert outside Exxon’s New York headquarters in protest of the Exxon Valdez’ oil pollution disaster, Midnight Oil had gained a reputation of being prime musical antagonists.
“Yes there seems to be a bit of a happenstance about the timing of this tour,”laughed original drummer Rob Hirst, on the phone from Sydney to pre-promote their 58-date tour which takes the band to Brazil for five dates in April to be followed by 15 select dates in North America in May and June, 15 more UK/European dates in July/August before wrapping up the tour with two September dates in New Zealand and a final 21-date October/November romp around Australia. “I can’t say we pre-planned the tour to co-incide with current world events, it just seemed the right time to get back out there.”
With the issuing of a series of box sets of complete vinyl and CD libraries , The Full Tank and Overflow Tank, which features some 17 hours of unreleased music and video content, displayed in eye-catching Oil drum packaging, Oil members lead vocalist Peter Garrett, drummer Rob Hirst, guitarist/keyboardist Jim Moginie, guitarist Martin Rotsey and bassist Bones Hillman, are in the process of re-introducing themselves to their faithfull followers while forging a new audience fan base.
“When Pete went off to pursue his political career, we kind of thought we would eventually reunite at some point so we kept busy playing in other bands,” explained Hirst, who kept his chops sharp by playing in a series of bands; Ghostwriters, The Tradesmen and “a spaghetti/western surf band” called The Break. “But when Pete quit politics in 2013 we felt it was just a matter of time before he began playing with us again.”
Almost selected to the Australian Senate in 1984 as a member of the Nuclear Disarmament Party, Garrett’s penchant as an environmentalist activist, campaigner for indigenous rights and Anti Nucleaur supporter transcended his image as just an outspoken musician/songwriter.
His book, “Political Blues” was a manifesto of the ills plagueing Australia in the late 1980’s he was elected as an MP for the Australian Labour Party in 2003 and re-elected in 2007 serving Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard as both Minister of Environment, Heritage and Arts and Minister Of School Education before an internal bust-up between the two politicians caused Garrett to quit politics in protest in 2013.
Australia’s political loss is the Oils gain. After a couple of one-off dates played charity dates to raise funds for the bushfires which swept the State of Victoria(2005) and the tragic Asian Tsunami (2009) the Oils are back. Yet although their Great Circle 2017 is virtually sold out, the selecting of small, intimate venues have left fans scrambling for tickets.
“Our promoters were talking about big arena venues but we realize that it’s been 15 years since we last toured so we didn’t want to take anything for granted,” confessed Hirst. “We wanted to go back to the surfer bar locations that we started out with in 1972, we are pleasantly surprised that all of the gigs seem to have sold out.”
Hirst is quick to admit that the music industry has changed dramatically and although social media has allowed to get the word out on the tour with just the mention of a facebook notation, the spectre of ticket scalping has quickly reared its ugly head, with many venues selling out within seconds only for scalper tickets to be instantly posted at vastly inflated rates.
“It used to be that fans queued up for tickets and camped out in the rain and cold, and scalpers would have to camp out with them,” Hirst laughed. “But not anymore, scalping is so organized that most hardcore fans don’t stand a chance of getting a ticket at face value.”
Such was the ticket demand at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom that the venue was sold out immediately with scalper tickets quickly posted for over $500. The band countered this by moving the location to Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park June 2nd but many other venues are not so fortunate with demand far exceeding supply.
With two Canadian dates included on the band’s abbreviated tour (Toronto Danforth Theatre, May 29th and the aforementioned Vancouver date, Hirst noted the Oils have a strong affinity for Canada.
He mentioned the band’s 1993 `Another Roadside Attraction’ Canadian tour with The Tragically Hip which allowed the Oils’ a unique insight into meeting members of Canada’s indigenous population. “We recognized that indigenous people in Canada share the same problems that our indigenous people face. We have been watching developments in the Dakota Pipeline confrontation and Canada’s environmental challenges.”
Hirst is also sympathetic to Canada’s plight in being geograpically located next door to Donald Trump’s USA. “We are obviously removed from the situation in Australia but Canada does have our sympathy. We always heave a great sense of relief when we leave the U.S for Canada.”
The Oils will conclude the current tour with an extensive tour of their homeland which will include some of the isolated dates in the Aussie outback which spawned lyrical ideas for their smash Diesel And Dust release.
“Yes we promised to play dates in the desert and the Top End of Australia, places like Hanging Rock and Alice Springs. We know our appearances there before made such a cultural difference to those people who had never seen anything like it before. So we felt we owed it to them to include those setttlements on our tour.
November 17th at the Domain Theatre in Sydney is the final date of the Oils’ current tour. Then what?
“We’ve not made any future plans beyond this tour,” allowed Hirst. “Then we’ll take stock of things and see where we go from there. But we are all confident that something positive is going to come out of this tour. And for all you people who couldn’t get tickets for this tour, there is a good chance we’ll be back.”
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