On Sunday, music was back at Sirromet in its purest, most visceral and traditional format – live and loud.
First Nations artist Leah Flanagan from Darwin opened the show, entitled Makarratta Live, reminding the audience to stay hydrated and conserve energy as there was an Oils set coming up. Her melodic acoustic strumming and beautiful lyrical tones kept the audience chilled on the last day of a warm Queensland Summer.
Troy Cassar Daley and his band were next on the bill opening with ‘Take a Walk In My Country’, joking with the audience that they would be playing a few country songs and hoped that didn’t scare them too much.
Cassar-Daley spoke about how privileged they are as a band to tour around and get to see parts of our beautiful country as they played ‘Sing About This Country’. Of course, it would not be a country performance without a tip of the Akubra to Slim Dusty and a fitting tribute to Charlie Perkins on the title track to his tenth studio album ‘Freedom Ride’. Cassar Daley cares a lot about country and its people, this is reflected in his song writing, tributes to friends suffering drought in New South Wales and a cousin battling with the final stages of cancer.
An all-round great guy he finished up his set with an RM Williams boot-tapping oldie ‘Dream Out Loud’ and thanked the Oil’s crew for treating them like royalty “it doesn’t often happen when you’re the support act” he observed.
The concept of Makarrata Live is to elevate the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and elevated it was, as the curtain opened to a red backdrop of the written statement. Jake and Shae from North Stradbroke Island, representatives of the Quandamooka people, performed the Welcome to Country ceremony and cheered Midnight Oil onto the stage as they kicked off the set with ‘No Time For Games’ from their 1980 album ‘Bird Noises’ (yes, I saw the holy grail of band tshirts bearing this album cover among many).
Garrett has lost little of his youthful energy with his iconic moves around stage resembling a bionic man on full throttle.
The songs performed were all little encouragements to take the audience all the way to signing the petition to support the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Many guest performers were on hand to join the Oils in several powerful and memorable performances; Troy Cassar-Daley completing the last sentence of the Uluru statement as he joined the stage for Come on Down and Dan Sultans potent presence on Gadigal Land.
Tasman Keith, who features on the album track ‘First Nation’, bounced onstage to accompany the Oils’ live version. Keith’s rapping, an effortless flow of passion laced with a sense of urgency was a revelation – a future superstar right here. Adam Ventura stepped into the big shoes of much loved and deeply grieved bass guitarist Bones Hillman who they paid tribute to on many occasions during the gig.
Alice Skye captivated Sirromet on the album track ‘Terror In Australia’. Alone, under three red lights her naturally sweet and hopeful vocals silenced the Oils’ audience – an almost impossible feat.
Leah Flanagan and Liz Stringer on backing vocals and guitar breathed added feeling and authenticity into everything. Andy Bickers joined the band onstage in a solid performance of ‘Jimmy Sharman’s Boxers’. Dan Sultan returned for ‘Change the Date’ which was enhanced by a video of beautiful, affectionate white cockatoos silhouetted in flight and hugging in trees – a fitting tribute to Gurrumul.
Garrett recalled fondly during Bones Hillman’s last days his words to the band: “Keep playing as long as you can stand up, keep playing”. Honouring his words, they rocked the stage with Oils classics ‘Redneck Wonderland’, ‘Only the Strong’, ‘Diesel and Dust’, ‘Kosciusko’, ‘Power and the Passion’ and ‘Blue Sky Mining’.
Bones appeared an angelic vision on screen for the encore of ‘Country One’ as the crowd shouted, “we want more” (COVID-19 safely) for a blistering full stage of Oils and guest’s rendition of ‘Beds are Burning’. The Oils left no doubt about their relevance in Australian Rock – they still do it with force, leaving the audience savouring every bit of a live music performance they have so missed and longed for.
IMAGES (C) Mitch Lowe