Live Review: Peter Garrett in conversation | Byron Theatre, 28.10.15


So tonight I got to see, hear and meet one of my, um, “idols”. I’m just a bit star-struck and a little bit gob-smacked but mostly I feel privileged, proud and inspired to be in the presence of PETER GARRETT.

Dumbly I blurt out, “Hi Peter. It’s an honour to meet you Mister Garrett.” It’s Peter, he says as he holds my hand and looks into my eyes. Yes. He definitely has that X Factor. (Oh god, I’ve mentioned Idol and X Factor). He is so engaging, intelligent, charismatic, honest to the core. Legendary.

He’s at the Byron Theatre as a guest of the Byron Bay Writers Festival to promote his autobiography Big Blue Sky.   But it’s not just self-promotion. This guy, man, is passionate about this country. You can feel it, breath it, sense it with all your being. Integrity. A man of absolute conviction.

I felt it, what, 30 whatever years ago?

For all that he, and I, and the country have been through in all those years, he’s maintained his, yes, power and the passion.

I loved the Q&A regarding past, and present Prime Ministers. I didn’t think I was all that politically minded but I’m totally immersed. Gough of course was a massive man for change. A visionary for the future. Here, here. Malcom Fraser, ultimately a waste of space. Keating, a good man of vision also. Howard a good man at heart but living in the past. Yesterday’s men in grey (that’s my take). Abbott, don’t get him, or me started. Gillard, a good PM in difficult times treated disgustingly, especially by the one person that he, Garrett, totally despises, Kevin Rudd.

“He completely imploded the Labour Party from within and without.”

An absolute controller, self-absorbed, psychopathic. Swan. Sigh. We’re all holding our breathe on that one.

And Peter Garrett for Prime Minister? A shrug and those hands in the air.

WTF? How did I get on to this? I hate politics. It’s all about the music. So I’m cranking up my favourite Midnight Oil song, Blue Sky Mine and doing some funny dancing. ‘Cause I’m all fired up and impassioned.

Peter Garrett’s private life has always been kept pretty private but he opens up, in his book and in person.

His father, Peter Maxwell Garrett grew up in Papua New Guinea. A returned service-man he was gifted some land on the island of New Britain. A cricket aficionado and a Liberal supporter. He didn’t know him as well as he knew and loved his mother, Betty, who leaned towards Labor.

I’m absolutely shocked when he shares his most devastating tragedy. When he was 23, his mother burnt to death in a house-fire. I am horrified. He was immersed and lost in grief for years, forever. It was a physical as well as emotion loss. Expecting to turn ’round and see her.

She was out-going and loved life and that’s how he survived. He took these positives from her. And the acknowledgment that part of living life, is experiencing death and losing people close to you.

Also why on stage he adopted a “devil may care” attitude and gave it his all, ’cause you just don’t know, in the blink of an eye how it can all change.

Peter first started singing as a choir boy at his Anglican Church in Pemble.

“The wrong side of Pemble,” he says. “Some of those hymns and writers were like the Hendrixs’ and Beatles of their days.”

Though not a practicing Christian it gave him a spiritual base which he could identify with amongst indigenous people.

Which came first? The music or the message? The singer or the activist? Or the politician masquerading as a singer?

Good question.

Now excuse me I’ve got a book to read.

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