Midnight Oil’s “tree-hugging asshole” kicks ass for Clayoquot Sound

Oils56_0

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 22, 1993

By Steve Newton

It didn’t take long for Midnight Oil singer/environmental activist Peter Garrett to bring up the contentious issue of logging in Clayoquot Sound during Saturday’s (July 17) Another Roadside Attraction rock festival at Seabird Island in Agassiz. Right after the band’s introductory tune, the Greenpeace director began berating MacMillan Bloedel and the government that agreed to let the logging giant devour pristine areas of the old-growth forest. “Go back to Australia, you tree-hugging asshole,” screamed a pro-logging loud-mouth. As if in response to that, Garrett turned his politically motivated anger on the rowdy goofballs who were causing trouble up front.

“The Brian Mulroney of the under-16s is over here,” he snarled sarcastically, pointing to one troublemaker he wanted security to eject. “I will stay here for five minutes till these assholes are gone,” Garrett announced. “I do not want written on my epitaph that some girl got killed at a Midnight Oil/Tragically Hip/Hothouse Flowers concert.”

Fortunately, nobody got squished to death, although Midnight Oil’s exhilarating tunes certainly brought the beast out in many of the 25,000 attendees. For all its political and environmental correctness, the Oil is first and foremost a kick-ass rock ’n’ roll band that—like most bands that came out of the Aussie pub circuit—thrives in a live setting.

Of course, the group’s constant ability to excite is strengthened by the unique physical antics of lanky chrome-dome Garrett, who comes across like an outta-control Frankenstein’s monster. Whether churning forth compelling anti-war, pro-environment, or pro-Aboriginal-rights tunes (“Forgotten Years”, “Dreamworld”, “The Dead Heart”, respectively), Midnight Oil remained a notch above the other five bands on the bill, but there really wasn’t a loser in the bunch.

On a massive stage bordered by Lynda Barry–style cartoons by an artist named Mini, Toronto’s Crash Vegas kicked off the show. Looking sharp in a shiny gold-lamé top, frontwoman Michelle McAdorey led the quartet in multi-textured pop tunes that ranged from savage to tender. McAdorey’s dramatic vocals were given full support by a great concert sound, which would last right through the day. Kudos to the clever folks at the soundboard.

Pere Ubu was up next, certainly the quirkiest and most musically adventurous of all the assembled bands. “Spot the Troggs,” teased singer David Thomas in the introduction to “Sleep Walk”, a new tune that obviously owes something to the riff from “Wild Thing”. Thomas was something of a paunchy, balding wild thing himself, and his crack band garnered brownie points for its funky female bassist, for using a zany kind of homemade bass fiddle, and for featuring a couple of members who looked as old as my dad.

“I see you’re all eating your vegetables here and getting all your minerals,” said World Party’s Karl Wallinger, observing the first of the body surfers do their thing in front of the stage. His light and breezy pop tunes, such as “Ship of Fools” and the recent “Is It Like Today?”, didn’t really suit the sight of flailing bodies being shuffled over the crowd, but Wallinger’s ear-to-ear smile showed that it was okay with him. His band ended its set with a dusty track by one of his biggest influences—Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”.

By the time Ireland’s Hothouse Flowers hooked into a simmering, sax-filled folk-rock jam, burly security guys were lifting bodies over the stage-front barricades left and right. Time after time, the rowdy liftees were escorted away, pulled to the ground, and handcuffed by busy RCMP officers. In the meantime, charismatic lead singer/keyboardist Liam O’Maonlai dedicated Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” to “all the brothers and sisters of the land and the future gathering that seems to be in order”.

Because the Tragically Hip is one of the few bands capable of following an incendiary performance by Midnight Oil, the boys from Kingston, Ont., were a good choice to end the night—the only better choice would have been the Oils themselves. Lead singer Gordon Downie backed up everything Peter Garrett said about the situation in Clayoquot Sound, but he kept his tirade quite short, letting his band’s groove-oriented, wall-of-guitars sound win the audience over instead.

As usually happens at Hip shows, the opening strains of “Blow at High Dough” were a sign for the crowd to go completely bonkers, with Downie himself following suit. When the whole thing was over, I couldn’t decide who should have received the award for wackiest on-stage moves, Downie or Garrett, but rumour has it they’re going to start up their own Lead Singer’s School of Spastic Dance.

Great music sure makes people do funny things.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s