Almanac Music: Midnight Oil – From the Astor to the Palais


Midnight Oil at the Palais Theatre, Sept 14 2022


In the end, they deservedly take their bows and wave briefly to the adoring, roaring crowd. After a two and a half hour show in which this mightiest of bands have played a selection of tracks covering the length and breadth of their storied career, they exit. And as the stage mist slowly rises to the ceiling of the grand old Palais Theatre in St Kilda, I hold tightly to this moment, knowing that I will never again witness Midnight Oil live. Because for me, tonight is much more than an epic 150-minute set, it is the culmination of a four-decade journey.




I first saw The Oils at the Astor Theatre in St Kilda, only a few blocks from the Palais, on a night when they were showcasing a bunch of songs from an album which was only just fresh from the printing press. The crowd was lively, vocal, and passionate. And the Astor’s seats were for standing and stomping on. At 17 years of age, and in the nascent period of my gig-going life, I realized even then that this was a formative show. My mates and I were unfamiliar with many of these new tracks, but the album 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 would eventually come to be regarded as one of the greatest in all of Australian music. I still chuckle at the thought of us not knowing the words to tracks such as Power and the Passion and Only the Strong. To witness Peter Garrett in 1982 was to marvel at a musical artist who poured every last ounce of emotion into his performance. Energetic, hectoring and belligerent, with sheer force he and the band picked you up and compelled you to come along for the ride.


In the forty years which followed, I was at too many Midnight Oil shows to count. Most provided me with a renewed version of the exaltation and exhaustion I felt that first time at the Astor. (Notable was a strangely subdued Regent Theatre performance, during which Garrett urged the audience to remain seated!) Parenthood, and life in general, took precedence, marking a period in which I was less enamoured with the band. But I was reawakened to their brilliance when they performed an awe-inspiring acoustic version of Short Memory on the tv show The Panel in 2000.


Good fortune allowed me to see them three times on the ‘Great Circle’ tour of 2017, including a wonderful gig in the beautiful setting of the Kuranda Amphitheatre (review here) Two shows at the Myer Music Bowl provided me with the opportunity to share the Oils experience with two of my sons, who were both suitably impressed by what they witnessed. During the 13-year hiatus, there had been no loss of power or passion, neither from the band nor me.




Almost forty years to the day from the Astor, I am here at the Palais tonight to give thanks. I was slightly taken aback by the greying hair and balding heads of the punters in Oils t-shirts while enjoying a pre-gig drink at The Espy. It was like gazing into a mirror for the first time in years, and being shocked at what had been enacted by the ravages of time. But we are here to pay homage, and to give our regards. To an incomparable live band with a back-catalogue full of stirring anthems and thought-provoking songs which remain as relevant now as when they were written. The beds are still burning. The rivers are still running red. On their latest album Resist, the band’s attention is focused squarely on environmental issues, with songs as urgent and vital as the full-throttle early tunes, but musically more intricate than almost anything they have produced.


Peter Garrett is now 70 years old, and understandably does not move as maniacally about the stage as he once did. But tonight, he is still a figure to be reckoned with and to whom my eyes are riveted. Jim Moginie (one of this country’s best songwriters), Martin Rotsey, and Rob Hirst all remain superb musicians; much older, but so much more experienced at their craft. These guys are going out at the top of their game.




I look down at the now vacant stage. All journeys must end. This cherished forty-year journey is one which I have been privileged to travel upon.


Thank you, Midnight Oil.



You can read more from Smokie HERE.

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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Smokie- Thanks for this. How great that you were at one of their last gigs? 10,9,8 was my introduction and it stood out in the early 1980’s against the soulless, Brit-synth nonsense of the day. My first gig was the Oils at Memorial Drive in 1984 and it made a mark. How could it not? . ‘Tin Legs and Tin Mines’ playing as I type this- as stirring a tune as they penned. PS- Did you buy e.r. a beer?

  2. I was at one of The Astor gig in 1982 and both Palais shows this week.They have lost none of their intensity in that forty year period. I’m so happy that I still have Canberra to go!

  3. Smokie- love it.
    Almost 40 years to the day!
    I recognise your gratitude.

    “This is something I will remember.”

  4. Smokie, such a great memories.

    Energy plus in their shows.

  5. Keiran Croker says

    Well said Smokie. Fabulous gigs … both Monday & Wednesday. And for me over recent years Alice Springs, Canberra, Adelaide, Hobart and back in Melbourne.

  6. Kevin Densley says

    Nice one, Smokie.

    My introduction to Midnight Oil was just a little earlier than yours, c.1980 during Deakin Uni’s ‘O Week’ celebrations. They did ‘O Week’ a few times in that era, and were always fabulous.

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Magnificent Smokie. I was unable to get to any of these final gigs but have been lucky enough to see them 5 times, most recently in 2019 at the Music Bowl. What a band, what a brilliant catalogue and enormous legacy they leave.

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