LIVE REVIEW: Midnight Oil at Camden Roundhouse, London

LIVE REVIEW: Midnight Oil at Camden Roundhouse, London

Midnight Oil go back a long way, with a career spanning just shy of five decades. The Australian rock band played many London venues that are no more, including ZIG Zag Club, which closed its doors in 1983. The band released their 15th and final studio album, Resist, in February 2022 and, for the first time since 2019, returned to London for their only UK live show.

Following support from fellow Australian and fellow environmentalist William Crighton, Midnight Oil came on stage and played the sanguine yet galvanising "We Resist" from their latest album. Despite frontman Peter Garrett having served as a member of the Australian Parliament for nine years between 2004 – 2013 and receiving the Order of Australia, an honour that recognises Australian citizens and other persons for outstanding achievement and service, the politically charged lyrics show that Midnight Oil are still on the side of the people rather than the establishment. Midnight Oil proceeded to play two politically charged, upbeat and rocky songs from Resist called "Nobody's Child" and "The Barka-Darling River".

The first of the classic Midnight Oil songs played from the over two hours set, which Garrett introduced by saying "Charles isn't gonna cut it," was "Truganini". It's about a woman who lived in the nineteenth century who was considered by European colonists to have been the last full blood Aboriginal Tasmanian. This harmonica led rock song's ebullience lies in its no holds barred lyrics like, "I hear much support for the monarchy, I hear the Union Jack's to remain, I see Namatjira in custody, I see Truganini's in chains". "Knife's Edge", which hasn't been played outside of Australia since 1984, followed, which Garrett dedicated "to the farewell to the British Prime Minister" after Boris Johnson's recent resignation.

From the inclusion of the harmonica came powerful and political rock songs introducing the saxophone, beginning with "The Dead Heart". As well as the galvanising musical cacophony and Garrett's stage presence with hypnotic arm and hand movements, whether people agree with the opinions put forward in the lyrics, the band's message cannot be misunderstood or incorrectly applied. Few would find it difficult to misinterpret "The Dead Heart's" lyrics: "We don't serve your country. Don't serve your king. Know your custom don't speak your tongue. White man came took everyone".

From singing classic songs about Australian history and politics came the timeless "Short Memory" from Midnight Oil's 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 LP, which delved into international politics citing amongst others "The Belgians in the Congo", "The Silence of Hiroshima" and "The Destruction of Cambodia" which blended quiescent piano jazz interludes with rock crescendos. "Power And The Passion", from the same album as "Short Memory", as well as delivering passionate extended drum solos, offered poignant messages which are still relevant to people amidst the current cost of living crisis, including "It's better to die on your feet than to live on your knees" and "Sometimes you've got to take the hardest line".

With 2022's Resist being Midnight Oil's final album, and with the possibility looming that this would at least be one of the last of Midnight Oil's tours outside of Australia, one might have expected them to have saved key mainstream hits such as "Beds Are Burning" to be played as the finale or the last song before the encore. They didn't, and while the audience sang back every word back to "Beds Are Burning" as loudly and as out of tune as they could, the Roundhouse respected Midnight Oil for the timing of this song on the night's setlist. The final song before the encore was the infectious "Forgotten Years" from the 1990 Blue Sky Mining, and the final track was "Hercules" from the 1985 Species Deceases EP.

While the end of Midnight Oil as a band concerning new material and possibly international touring goes, their politically punk-charged energy and direct, sincere and intelligent message will live forever and be a guide globally for musicians, writers, poets and activists across all genres.

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