With no opening act, it was a primary school orchestra’s rendition of Down Under that welcomed Men At Work frontman Colin Hay onto the Regal Theatre stage on Saturday night. He casually plucked one of three guitars that sat in a neat semi-circle towards the back of the stage, and proceeded to faintly pick away and begin his set with a humble tale of his beginnings. The Scottish-born eclectic songwriter grew up in Melbourne and ran away to California in ’89, so he had plenty of wisdom, humor and stories to impart.
After a few minutes of talking, he flicked a switch that transformed him from storyteller to musician, and his distinctive vocals filled out the heritage-listed venue as he dived into 1990’s Wayfaring Sons. It wasn’t long before a Men At Work classic, 1982’s Who Can It Be Now, surfaced, and while he jokingly admitted he hasn’t been interested in playing those songs since 1984, he also pointed out that he’s “not fucking stupid” and knew that a large portion of the audience purchased tickets for a trip down memory lane.
Even the uninitiated would have found themselves deeply intrigued with each song, as the stories leading into them provided such detail insight into his mindset at the time of writing them. Thirty minutes into his set and he had only played three songs, the other 20 minutes was filled with engaging stories that were three parts humor, one part philosophical wisdom. He could probably do away with the guitar and tour a stand-up routine with success.
Younger audience members cheered when I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You, a tune featuring on the platinum-selling Garden State soundtrack, made an appearance. Undoubtedly, the first track that comes to mind when a Hay single is mentioned is Down Under – a song that has been in litigation for the past three years after a judge ruled the flute solo contained enough of the Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree melody that it breached copyright. While the court took away some royalties from the band, Hay pointed out that they could never touch euphorically moments between himself and the audience when he played it live.
In the blink of an eye, he had taken the audience on a two-hour journey. There are musicians, and then there are performers – Colin Hay is inarguably the latter, and is no doubt becoming more refined with age.
Written by Daniel Cribb