Event review: An Evening With Colin Hay at Tanks Arts Centre
It's always such a buzz when you discover a new talent. You like to think you're the first to have seen them live, or get the first album, or just know about someone before they hit the big time.
On Friday night at the Tanks, I felt that very tingle. Trouble was, this “new talent” has been around for decades. Just in a form I had never imagined.
I knew him as the lead singer of Men At Work, a band, which, in its heyday, I never personally got serious about, but admired for its success. I wished the band well, but it wasn’t my thing. I also remember thinking Colin Hay’s voice was particularly good and, dare I say, wasted with such light pop.
Many, many years later I am sitting at the Tanks not sure what to expect.
Out strolls an older, scruffier, lazy-eyed Colin, still with the broad grin that takes over his face, still with the deep roguish Scot’s accent. His only companions on stage are four guitars, lined up like a backing band behind him.
And who knew? Certainly not me, that I would be watching one of the funniest men on stage?
He is a wonderful raconteur. He takes his time before playing anything. Just chatting, telling jokes and anecdotes which are later to come full circle at shows’ end. For example, he talks so fondly of his dad, and hanging in his guitar shop as a lad in Scotland. They had discussed the Beatles, among other things. Then later in the performance we learn of Paul McCartney’s admiration for Colin’s solo career in LA. So much so he invites himself (and Heather Mills) to dinner at Colin’s house. He even did the dishes. Colin’s delivery is hilarious, humble, and very human.
He speaks of his early years in Melbourne, the crazy alcohol and drug-fuelled days (he abstains from both now) in group houses, of eating ant-covered lamingtons, of having a goat as a pet to keep the lawn down, only it preferred living in the lounge room.
He talks of his career highs and lows, which would jump from crowds of 100s of thousands, to pub gigs with an audience of 100 or so.
Oh, and in between he sings and plays guitar.
And again, who knew? He is a brilliant guitarist. His playing moved from fantastic (and in my opinion, better) versions of “his hits” (especially Overkill), to 12-string guitar solos that mesmerised.
His new songs were as seamlessly lovely as the more familiar tunes.
And his singing.
He would go from talking in a rough burr, occasionally clearing his throat of the gravel, sometimes throwing to a perfect Australian accent to have a laugh. Then it would come, this strong, smooth, velvet voice, hitting each note with perfection.
Even when his final song brought the expected encore shouts he joked. He never left the stage and just stood still for a moment. As he says, it’s no fun going into the back room these days if you don’t drink, or… he grinned.
When he did leave the stage to a standing ovation, the Tanks announcer exclaimed it was the best thing the venue had ever hosted. We all agreed.
Perhaps a final anecdote which brought a collective shiver through the audience was his moment when he performed Down Under to 100,000 or so people in Brazil (he is strangely huge in Brazil, he adds).
Indigenous dancers were performing on stage, the crowd was going crazy and it was a spectacle he would never forget.
He stood away from the microphone waiting until he would sing the final chorus. At the moment he returned, all thoughts of the awful (and in my opinion absolutely outrageous) legal battle over the song, the heartache, the judge’s decision on copyright, came rushing in.
He paused, the dancers stopped and all turned to him, the crowd stilled in anticipation, and he realised “they could never take this away”.
Colin Hay, through words and song, has a wonderful life story to tell.
And I shall never get tired of listening to it.
Review by Andree Stephens. Colin Hay was at Tanks Arts Centre on August 17, supported by Leanne Tennant.
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Raconteur Colin Hay takes a moment to relax at the new Cairns Botanic Gardens Visitors Centre on Friday, before playing Tanks.