There are two things to know about Colin Hay.
First, his voice sounds just as it did all those years ago on those Men at Work albums you listened to to death in the early 1980s.
Second, the guy is a natural storyteller, and if that’s not apparent in the song lyrics he’s crafted over the decades, it’s clear from the anecdotes he sprinkles throughout his live performances.
Like the story he told at Northern Quest on Saturday night about playing a Men at Work reunion show with his former bandmate Greg Ham in Atlantic City. As he was riding in the elevator with a man, the guy asked who he played with. “Men at Work,” Hay replied. No, the man insisted, they’re broken up. Hay replies, well we’re back together for a few shows. Hay deadpanned the man’s response: Nah, the lead singer is dead.
The lead singer, of course, was far from dead. After Men at Work fell apart, Hay soldiered on, releasing 13 solo albums.
“I keep making records because I’m very optimistic,” Hay said with his Aussie-by-way-of-Scotland burr, noting that his first two albums, “Business as Usual” and “Cargo” sold millions of copies. After that? “Then nothing,” he said, to laughter from the crowd.
Hay fronted loaded his setlist Saturday night with songs from his solo albums, a tactic that in lesser hands could easily backfire. In the hands of a pro like Hay, even the concert-goers only there to hear “Down Under” and “Who Can It Be Now?” find much to like in Hay’s well-crafted and engaging solo output.