Concert Review: Midnight Oil Burns Bright in Portland

Midnight Oil at Revolution Hall in Portland, OR

Finally. The Oils are back.

One band you thought lost in the annals of 1980s rock history, Australian rockers Midnight Oil made a triumphant return to Portland on Monday playing a blistering two-hour set to an ecstatic sold-out Memorial Day crowd at Revolution Hall.

It’s been a while since these guys performed on stage. Well, at least, before the current Great Circle 2017 World Tour which started in April. Lead singer Peter Garrett took some time off to put his money where his mouth is so-to-speak getting elected to the Australian House of Representatives so the band went on hiatus. It’s been 15 years since their last studio album and nearly as long since any semblance of a tour but for the fans these are not the forgotten years. Nor have Midnight Oil lost their ability to play.

Every song – every song – bested the original studio versions.

Monday’s show defined a rock concert performance. The Oils played 23 songs covering all the favorite radio staples that put them on the charts in the United States, a number of deep album cuts and perhaps a few only the Powderworkers probably appreciate.

Midnight Oil started the night with the rocking “Redneck Wonderland” off the 2002 album of the same name followed by “Best of Both Worlds” and the moving, but so very fitting, “Armistice Day” the only cut off 1981’s Place Without a Postcard with Garrett changing one section of lyrics to “Memorial Day.”

The contemplative “Antarctica” the final track off their smash Blue Sky Mining was oh so good, and they mixed it up on “The Dead Heart” with an acoustic opening that led into the traditional version which started a string of their most popular fare – “Beds are Burning” featured some cool guitar effects, “Blue Sky Mining,” and stellar guitar interplay from guitarists Martin Rotsey and Jim Moginie on the great “The Forgotten Years” which closed out the opening set.

Midnight Oil returned for two encores the first featured three songs ending with the awesome “Dreamworld” off 1997’s Diesel & Dust and finally closing the show with “Tin Legs and Tin Mines” and “King of the Mountain.” The setlist touched every album (thankfully the totally under appreciated “Golden Age” off their “latest” album Capricornia made it) except their eponymous debut from 1978.

Leave it to the Australians to decide whether Garrett was a force to reckon with while in office, but who could disagree that he’s certainly one on stage. Nominate him for the hardest working man in music, please, because even at 64 he put on his own show as only a leading frontman can do. Gregarious, animated and sometimes over the top wild gestures, he looks a bit like a towering Michael Stipe with the antics of OMD‘s Andy McCluskey. Garrett’s vocals stood up the entire evening and with such a strong cast of musicians around him it was one of those shows that started with a bang and never had an ounce of whimper.

Rotsey and Moginie traded on solos while Moginie also took to the piano playing beautifully on “Short Memory,” but so special was the two playing, often the same chords and notes together tightly, perfectly synced – totally killed it on “Truganini” – giving all the songs so much balance and life. Don’t think bassist Bones Hillman was a background shadow offering set-up beats either and drummer Ron Hirst was sometimes nearly as fun to watch as Garrett. Midway through the set starting with “When the Generals Talk” Rotsey and Moginie traded in the electrics for acoustics while Hirst effectively used a simple snare/cymbal set-up as the five-some and Jack Howard, who piped in the occasional horn, worked the stage upfront and slowed the pace a bit.

OK, Midnight Oil doesn’t shy away from speaking about politics or other world affairs. It’s pretty much how they got started. And how they rose to fame. But thankfully Garrett doesn’t preach, because well you know we attend for entertainment purposes of hearing a great rock concert. Instead he gives mostly respectable quick bites in between songs. He doesn’t like jet skis. And wonders about a world with less for military budgets and more for those helping with peace efforts.

Alas, no surprise, he doesn’t like President Donald Trump though he seemed surprised at the number of professing supporters at a recent show in New York after calling for a show of hands. He sort of, kind of, asked for a show of hands in Portland but seemed to recuse himself and got on with the show.

Yes, Midnight Oil practically exemplifies politics and social justice and the environment and all that but it just seems inappropriate when a band hailing from another country attacks the sitting president of the country they’re touring freely and making money and entertaining and all that. Seriously, what good could come from the Foo Fighters verbally attacking Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull while on tour Down Under? NOTHING. A last minute jab at Jared Kushner (huh?) “and the creeps in the White House” near the end of the show was uncalled for and hardly left an impression.

But, Garrett also led a minute of silence for those slain in Portland on Friday trying to protect two women (one a Muslim) from harassment by a deranged, white supremacist, fanatical Bernie Sanders supporter with sympathies to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party and hatred towards Christians and Muslims. Despite a packed house, you could hear yourself breathing. It was a moving, rather emotional and something to experience. Thanks, Mr. Garrett.

Fortunately, the Oils seem rejuvenated with no plans to disappear again. Supposedly a new album is in the works. And based on this success of this tour, expect Midnight Oil to return but probably not in the small, intimate, grand venue that is Revolution Hall.

Midnight Oil Great Circle Tour Setlist in Portland:

1. Redneck Wonderland
2. Best of Both Worlds
3. Armistice Day
4. Say Your Prayers
5. Stand In Line
6. Put Down That Weapon
7. Golden Age
8. Sins of Omission
9. Truganini
10. When the Generals Talk
11. Short memory
12. Luritja Way
13. Kosciusko
14. Antarctica
15. The Dead Heart
16. Beds Are Burning
17. Blue Sky Mine
18. Forgotten Years
19. Mountains of Burma
20. Don’t Wanna Be The One
21. Dreamworld
22. Tin Legs and Tin Mines
23. King of the Mountain

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: U2 Plays and Peddles to 55,000 in Seattle at First US Date for The Joshua Tree Tour 2017

It could have been so much more.

But U2 went big, got a bit distracted yet ultimately pulled off a solid show in front of 55,000 on Sunday for the Joshua Tree Tour 2017 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

U2 put the usual boisterous theatrics on hold this time instead opting for a large, rather striking background screen concaved in the middle that offered the accompanying visuals and video for the setlist. No tornado of lights engulfing the band like on the 360 tour or the gigantic screen allowing singer Bono to walk down memory lane as he did last time out. It was honest and unimposing allowing the band to focus on the music while the music focused on the band.

However, the show got lost at times in the bowels of the massive NFL stadium and simply begged for a smaller, homely arena setting that offers an added touch of magic that worked so well on Innocence+Experience. Indeed, U2 still commands a vast audience and considering the current tour’s modest length it certainly makes sense to open the doors as wide as possible verses a long string of multiple dates in every major city in venue’s a third the size but by doing so they forfeited immense potential on a celebratory journey through time.

U2 opened their 23 song two hour set with “Sunday Bloody Sunday” as drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. first appeared on the main stage, walked along a cat walk to a secondary stage (shaped like the Joshua Tree symbol) in the middle of the general admission crowd to his drum set, The Edge followed and started into the song’s guitar opening, then Bono and bassist Adam Clayton.

The foursome remained on the smaller stage firing off hit after hit with “New Year’s Day” next and three off 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire –“A Sort of Homecoming,” “Bad” and the iconic “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Then the back screen to the main stage turned bright red, outlining the Joshua Tree and it was time for the album that turned this Irish band into bonafide rock stars. Straight through from that most memorable “Where the Streets Have No Name” opening riff to “Mothers of the Disappeared.”

It was evident from the start a bit of charm and much warmth was missing. The wind blowing in from the Puget Sound interfered with the music quite a bit and the stadium’s large cavity offered little-to-none in terms of acoustics. Clayton’s bass sometimes overpowered, while The Edge’s guitar cut in and out like a car speaker with a bad connection that needs a couple of fists in its side to work correctly.

A stadium setting also produces an echo which is not only distracting but causes the band to sound out of sync at times. Plus, you’ve got the unintended consequence of a massive spread-out audience singing the lyrics ultimately competing with Bono’s voice. U2 carries a stage presence like no other but at times even these music titans looked small (yes, visually too) and had a hard time commanding the stage.

The end of The Joshua Tree marked the end of the main set as U2 exited for a quick encore and returned with “Beautiful Day” hampered by the acoustics but a rousing “Elevate” continuing the trend of playing a few songs from an album before moving on to another album as they did with Achtung Baby playing the deep album cut “Ultra Violet” and finally “One.”

Yes, Bono’s political activism was on full display. You didn’t expect to attend a U2 concert to forget about whatever is happening in your life for a while or America’s rapid fall from Grace, did you? U2 boasts an unusual preoccupation with the United States as the video screen displayed both very patriotic themes – a woman painting in elapsed time an American flag while the band played “Trip Through Your Wires,” Bono crediting the United States and the American tax payer for funding much of the $18 million tab towards AIDS research – and what felt like a bit of lecturing.

He attacked President Donald Trump with a bizarre and rather clumsy video that ended with two fists one bearing a “Love” tattoo, the other featuring “Hate” to introduce “Exit” and the video for “Miss Sarajevo” (A Passengers side project song with the late Luciano Pavarotti) featured a supposed Syrian refugee commenting on how she wants to come to America, where it’s civil, along with images of the war torn Middle East country. The Joshua Tree 2017 Tour started in Vancouver, BC so perhaps similar theatrical arrangements were made for citizens of Canada and hopefully Bono is working with the elected officials in his native country of Ireland to house refugees there. Otherwise…

He took a centrist approach commenting on the party of Lincoln and the party of Kennedy after “Pride” and an originalist approach when he said “government should fear it’s citizens not the other way around” which considering he pals around with a former president of this country widely feared by many (rightly or wrongly) makes you wonder who he is referring to but the commentary was mostly to push his One campaign that he claims boasts 8 million members worldwide. Take a grain of salt if this figure is reached based on the emails collected by the advocates from those waiting in line to enter the venue.

Overall, despite some of the sound issues, mostly minor but often and on-going, “Where the Streets Have No Name” was very cool but the turbulence of the sound system served to enhance “Bullet the Blue Sky” with that exceptional chaotic guitar solo. “Running to Stand Still” bested the album version (with Bono on the harmonica) and “One Tree Hill” also excelled except for the popping in the speaker during the last half of the song. Unfortunately, the beloved “With Or Without You” fared with little luster and Bono well off-key. And yes, The Joshua Tree is a legendary 80s album but it’s a good bet the final two songs were heard for the first time by many last night and devotees probably heard them again, for the first time.

Bono went off on an outlandish “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” rant (seriously, what the hell?) in the middle of “Exit” and even Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder helping out on “Mothers of the Disappeared” couldn’t save this boring wreck.

“Elevate” which has some natural distortion was awesome and U2 featured a new song “The Little Things That Give You Away” which evidently needed some kinks to work out from the first performance on Friday. It was OK, a bit meandering at first but picked up midway through. U2 closed the evening with a tight performance of “I Will Follow” the only cut off the band’s first album, Boy from 1980.

Expect a new politically charged album sometime this year likely titled Songs of Experience as a follow-up to the now three-year old  Songs of Innocence.

U2 Seattle Setlist for The Joshua Tree Tour 2017

  1. Sunday Bloody Sunday
  2. New Year’s Day
  3. A Sort of Homecoming
  4. Bad
  5. Pride (In the Name of Love)
  6. Where the Streets Have No name
  7. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
  8. With or Without You
  9. Bullet the Blue Sky
  10. Running to Stand Still
  11. Red Hill Mining Town
  12. In God’s Country
  13. Trip Through Your Wires
  14. One Tree Hill
  15. Exit
  16. Mothers of the Disappeared
  17. Beautiful Day
  18. Elevate
  19. Ultra Violet
  20. One
  21. Miss Sarajevo
  22. The Little Things That Give You Away
  23. I Will Follow

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Not a Wonderful Opening Night for Everclear as So Much for the Afterglow 20th Anniversary Tour Starts in Portland

Ever clear?

More like mostly muddy.

Everclear (the band) started off their So Much for the Afterglow: 20th Anniversary Tour celebrating their multi-platinum record from 1997 at the Crystal Ballroom on Thursday in Portland and, um, so much for that.

You know that sound of a raging party when you’re in a nearby adjacent room? The booming bass, an occasional melody filters through, the vocals barely discernible but a boisterous crowd living it up. That was the entire evening! Unfortunately that’s also what it sounded like inside the raging party.

No doubt the fans were ready to party like it was 1997 but Everclear must have brought in their 20 year old sound system, as well. Too bad. Hopefully that was the problem and a fix exists otherwise they’ve got some work cut out for them.

So much potential fun was lost in a largely incomprehensible show featuring totally washed out guitars and vocals often smothered by the bass guitar and drums. Technical glitches throughout the evening only added to this frustrating amateur hour from a veteran band with a solid resume of material whose professionalism should have dug deeper than the dapper tuxedos sported on stage.

Everclear started the evening with the album’s title track and followed in order the track listing through “One Hit Wonder” before playing “Heroin Girl” off 1995’s Sparkle And Fade. Band founder, singer and guitarist Art Alexakis encountered his first guitar issue (or perhaps first time addressing it) after “Normal Like You” and the band briefly left the stage after “One Hit Wonder” as tech hands attended to whatever problem kept cropping up.

More glitches ensued after a horrible “Amphetamine” and following “Sunflowers” Alexakis said “First show of the tour and something’s got to f*** up.” I guess. How about getting it right from the beginning, though? This wasn’t a free show. It’s unfortunate because “White Men in Black Suits” wasn’t even close to the charming version on the album. Guitarist Davey French looked like he was ripping a solo on “Father of Mine” but just a few notes came through the overwhelmed speakers.

Not all was lost though. Oh, who am I kidding? It was pretty rough and outright brutal at times. OK, in a bit of irony the instrumental “El Distorto De Melodica” provided the best shot at redemption. No vocals at least and somehow the guitars worked their way through the blaring bass mess. It wasn’t bad, but far from crisp, and not to last. As Everclear setup for the next song the reverb sounded like they had light sabers on stage. Cool effects but not what we came to hear. Their smash hits “Wonderful” and “Santa Monica” closed the evening, offering a glimpse of what could have been, but by then it was enough already.

A rough 90 minute start to the tour, to say the least. The signature tone that is Everclear was thoroughly lost and once it became apparent things were off-kilter for the duration, it was an exercise in futility. Certainly this was not the Everclear on-hand for their induction into the 2012 Oregon Music Hall of Fame when their performance totally salvaged a ho-hum ceremony.

Everclear played 18 songs and was supposed to play So Much For The Afterglow in its entirety but after announcing “California King” would be the final song played off the album, where was “Hating You for Christmas,” the final track off the album? Maybe they just forgot to play it. Or perhaps they did play it. Was it the mostly unintelligible eighth song played that night? That makes no sense considering the album was played front to back.

Actually, not much made sense on Thursday. Even supporting act Vertical Horizon struggled through sound issues and mechanical flaws, at one point in their hour long set the band left the stage for about 10 minutes after the vocal mics went out.

Nada Melodica, Solamente El Distorto.

Everclear Portland (Crystal Ballroom) Setlist:

1.       So Much for the Afterglow
2.       Everything to Everyone
3.       Normal Like You
4.       I Will Buy You a New Life
5.       Father of Mine
6.       One Hit Wonder
7.       Heroin Girl
8.       ?
9.       The Man Who Broke His Own Heart
10.   El Distorto De Melodica
11.   Amphetamine
12.   Whie Men in Black Suits
13.   Sunflowers
14.   Why I Donn’t Believe in God
15.   California King
16.   Local God
17.   Wonderful
18.   Santa Monica

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Kiefer Sutherland Fully Transparent in Portland Debut

The two-sport athlete who successfully pursues both crafts is certainly an exception, but perhaps even less common is the performing artist who flawlessly jumps from one stage to the next.

Best known as Jack Bauer, among a number of other famous characters he’s brought to life for the last 30 years, actor Kiefer Sutherland has a new gig and if the whole acting thing doesn’t work out, well, he’s got a pretty good back-up plan. Sutherland, in his first visit to Portland, OR since filming “Stand By Me” brought his band on Saturday to the Mississippi Studios as part of his Not Enough Whiskey 2017 Tour and the sold-out house loved every minute of it.

It’s quite evident that playing music isn’t just a hobby he is securing tickets for because he’s a Hollywood A-lister. Sutherland is really good. Of course he probably did sell out because of who he is but if you’ve listened to Down In A Hole it’s not a stretch to believe a growing fan base for this up-and-coming music star.

Sutherland wrote what’s a very personal album with his friend Jude Cole and described the process as cathartic and one of the most enjoyable experiences in his life. He definitely enjoys the stage and looked like he was having fun as he kicked off the evening with six songs from the album – “Can’t Stay Away,” “I’ll Do Anything” “Truth in Your Eyes,” “Not Enough Whiskey,” Going Home” and “Shirley Jean” before tackling a few covers.

Sutherland sings much like he talks, actually, of course with some added style. He boasts Mike Ness’ growl with Tom Petty’s tone and perhaps a very thin layer of Bruce Springsteen without the marbles in his mouth. He knocked out 17 songs in just under 90 minutes and has surrounded himself with an excellent supporting cast which includes Jess Calcaterra on drums, bassist Joseph DeLeo, a second rhythm guitarist in Austin Velleijo, and a great lead guitar in Michael Gurley who bathed some soul into all those delicious solos.

Sutherland played mostly the acoustic guitar but also helped out on electric at times and shared stories of how the songs came about for much of the evening offering a number of fun anecdotes. Fans of the album who don’t necessarily dive into the lyrics might also be a bit surprised to learn some of those songs mean something else like “Shirley Jean” which is about a death row inmate and Sutherland wrote “Truth in Your Eyes” about a close friend who died years ago.

Sutherland said he wrote about 20 to 25 songs initially and was surprised how many were about drinking but it did produce some great tracks like the boozy “Not Enough Whiskey” and the album’s best cut “Going Home.” And, yes he played a few new songs fans can expect on the second album like the emotionally reflective “Saskatchewan” featuring a great Gurley solo and the uptempo rock song “Rebel Wind” which started the encore. Also, the unreleased “Goodbye” offers a rather catchy rhythm which Sutherland enjoys playing live.

The band didn’t play every song off Down in a Hole, sadly “Gonna Die,” an absolute gem, was left off the setlist but Sutherland said he wanted to also play a few songs people would know instead of 13 they’d never heard before. So, perhaps amusingly, he played “Honey Bee” a deep album cut off Tom Petty’s Wildflowers which Sutherland and his band simply owned with those billowing guitars and “Ways to be Wicked” by Lone Justice a song co- written by Petty, a “badass” in Sutherland’s book.

Sutherland moved to Toronto, Canada after his parents divorced and said while living there you had to listen to two bands or risk getting your butt kicked. He won’t play Rush (probably a good thing) but did a great rendition of “Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot.

He dedicated “Bottle Let Me Down” to the original artist Merle Haggard whom Sutherland met three weeks before the legendary singer died, and the band closed the evening with Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” following an amusing story about Sutherland’s father Donald Sutherland driving Kiefer and his twin sister to pre-school in a 1950s Ferrari while Donald played an 8-track Bob Dylan over and over.

Sutherland and his band did Down in a Hole serious justice as they played tight and completely matched the spirit of the album along with the excellent melodies and thoughtful arrangements. With a deep infusion of country, heartland rock and even a touch of modern rock, Down in a Hole is a joy and based on what Sutherland played on Saturday don’t expect a sophomore slump.

If you’ve never attended a concert at Mississippi Studios it’s an intimate theater with sold-out meaning about 300 people. It shares a building with the Bar Bar restaurant and while most of the staff were nice it suffers a bit from a “whose on first routine” as no one really seemed to know exactly how to help or in some cases want to help when asked. So, given the chance, just dive in and go early if you want to find a seat, otherwise expect Standing Room Only.

By the way, if one of Sutherland’s roadies holds the door open for you and gives you a look as if to say “Well, you going in or what?” it’s a trap, don’t fall for it. After saying “thank you” I walked into the venue and immediately felt a heavy-handed paw on my shoulder fish-lining me backwards. It’s a good thing I don’t have Sutherland’s acting chops because not only could I have made an overly dramatic scene, Sutherland would have spent the after-show figuring out how to bail him out.

Kiefer Sutherland Portland Setlist (Mississippi Studios):

  1. Can’t Stay Away
  2. I’ll Do Anything
  3. Truth in Your Eyes
  4. Not Enough Whiskey
  5. Going Home
  6. Shirley Jean
  7. Bottle Let Me Down
  8. Ways to be Wicked
  9. Saskatchewan
  10. Calling Out Your Name
  11. Goodbye
  12. Honey Bee
  13. All She Wrote
  14. Down in a Hole
  15. Rebel Wind
  16. Sundown
  17. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Written By: AndrewT