Midnight Oil go ahead with shows after tragic death
Midnight Oil will forge ahead with their planned shows celebrating their No. 1 record The Makarrata Project, in memory of their late bassist Bones Hillman.
Hillman was told the band's record hit the top of the charts just hours before he died of cancer in November. He had previously told his musical brothers to continue with the concerts.
The Oils had scheduled Makarrata Live shows mid year, including at the Splendour In Grass festival, but these were shelved because of the pandemic shutdown of live music.
They will now perform a clutch of outdoor shows kicking off at Sirromet Wines, Mount Cotton, Queensland on February 28, then onto WOMADelaide on March 6 and 8, Hope Estate, Hunter Valley on March 13, Stage 88, Canberra on March 17 and Mt Duneed Estate, Geelong on March 20.
Frontman Peter Garrett, Jim Moginie, Martin Rotsey and Rob Hirst will invite some of the record's First Nation co-stars to sing at these shows, with Jessica Mauboy, Dan Sultan, Kev Carmody and Tasman Keith believed to be keen to join the line-up.
And there will be a new bass player, who is yet to be confirmed.
Garrett said while Hillman had kept the extent of his illness under wraps, he had told his bandmates "you've got to find someone to do the playing" because he wanted the band to take the Makarrata Projects songs on the road.
"We're at peace with that, although we're going to miss him terribly," the frontman said.
"You can never replace someone like Bones, not in character, not in temperament, not in singing, not in playing, so whoever it is obviously will bring something different to the band.
"The thing about Bones was he was sort of the sparkly light to our slightly more intense shade."
Midnight Oil sought to reassure any fans who disappointingly miss out on tickets for these shows, limited by COVIDSafe logistics challenges, the band plan on staging a bigger tour later in 2021.
The Oils wanted to go ahead with the smaller in early 2021 as a celebration of Hillman's life as live music makes it slow and steady return.
And they didn't want to lose the momentum building around the Uluru Statement From The Heart.
It's not lost on Garrett and his bandmates more than three decades after Beds Are Burning hit the top 10, the Oils are still raging on and off stage for Indigenous rights.
The Makarrata Live concerts will not only showcase the songs from the record, which also featured Alice Skye and Troy Cassar-Daley, but a raft of similarly themed anthems including Jimmy Sharman's Boxers, The Dead Heart and Truganini.
Garrett pointed to the performance of the national anthem in Indigenous language by Olivia Fox and the Wallabies ahead of their match last weekend as signalling positive steps in the conversations around the Uluru Statement From The Heart.
"This time around, it was even more important to keep talking about these things until the country could come together and set things to right," he said. "But also to bring in other voices of First Nations collaborators."
Depending on the COVIDSafe protocols on numbers allowed at outdoor concerts, the Oils shows will be among the biggest to be staged almost a year after the live industry was shut down.
Garrett is excited about getting in front of an audience of "free spirits" again.
"The live setting is our natural home, and it has been ever since the band started trying to bend the walls of pubs in various towns. I think Midnight Oil makes sense when you see the band live," he said.
"It makes sense to me when I'm on stage and this is a really important record for us … and we need to play it, we need to get out there and play it to people.
"Having songs that express something that really go to the heart of what Australia is all about and what our thoughts are, it has to be done."
Originally published as Midnight Oil go ahead with shows after tragic death