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MIDNIGHT OIL MAKARRATA PROJECT featuring Troy Cassar-Daley, Dan Sultan, Alice Skye, Leah Flanagan,  Tasman Keith, Liz Stringer – Mt Duneed, Victoria. Saturday March 20, 2021

Report: Greg Phillips. Photos: Jason Rosewarne

This final show of Midnight Oil’s Makarrata Project tour at Mt Duneed Estate, Victoria was always going to be something very special, not only for being the last gig of the run but for the gravity of the moments that had recently gone before. Less than a year and a half ago our worst bushfires in history had razed large parts of Australia. Merely a few months later Covid-19 closed the world and our beloved live music scene was shut down instantly. In America the George Floyd tragedy led to protests worldwide, propelled by the Black Lives Matter movement, also bringing attention to the injustices of our own First Nations peoples. In sync with the global feeling, Midnight Oil released their Makarrata album, a project which seeks to elevate The Uluru Statement From The Heart, which calls for a Makarrata or truth-telling to account for theft of lands and displacement of First Nations people. It’s a story that the band wanted to emphasise more than anything else on this tour and in that spirit, directed media photographers to only shoot the Makarrata section of the show, forcing the spotlight on the featured guest indigenous artists and the message, rather than the hit-laden top and tail of the shows.

Then there were the personal stories. Longtime Midnight Oil bass player Bones Hillman passed away in November last year, leaving a huge hole in the hearts of the band family and finally, there was the Gudinski factor. This was a Frontier Touring gig and everyone involved was affected by the loss of the Australian music icon just a few short weeks ago.

Wergaia woman Alice Skye opened the show with her band, who she proudly grew up with in the township of Horsham, just a few hours northwest of Mt Duneed. Alice has been building an ever-increasing fanbase since 2018 when she released her acclaimed debut album Friends with Feelings. Clearly overjoyed at being on tour with Midnight Oil, Alice impressed the crowd with her emotive, heartfelt ballads including the title track from her soon to be released new album I Feel Better But I Don’t Feel Good.

Dan Sultan and band are a powerful force, especially feeding off the energy of 13,000 lockdown-weary Victorian punters who hadn’t experienced live music on this scale for a year or more. His ballad Tarred and Featured, dedicated to the loss of two friends was a poignant moment in his set.

Given the significance of this gig, the crowd were well and truly with the band before they even hit the stage. Opening with a rockin’ Oil’s fave, NoTime For Games from their fabulous Bird Noises EP, a scorching hot energy level was hit early and never receded for the rest of the night. Don’t Wanna Be The One cranked it up yet another notch. Truganini followed and it became obvious that the band had come to blow this venue apart. The production was superb, the sound pristine, the band was on fire and reminded us all that this is one of the greatest live bands in the world, always have been.

The Makarrata Project section of the evening was indeed a beautiful experience. Beginning with a video presentation of Uluru Statement From The Heart, prominent indigenous celebrities such as Stan Grant, Adam Goodes and many others laid out the Makarrata story and goals, preceding The Oils’ call to Come On Down to the stomping ground, with Troy Cassar-Daley joining them on stage. Gadigal Land spotlighted Dan Sultan, Leah Flanagan and Liz Stringer. First Nation showcased Tasman Keith and his rapid-fire rapping prowess.  In one of the most haunting moments of the show, Alice Skye delivered a mesmerising version of Terror Australia. Cassar-Daley returned to the stage to join Garrett in sharing the chorus to the stark ballad Desert Man, Desert Woman.

Redneck Wonderland signalled a return to party time, followed by a rousing No Reaction from perhaps the band’s edgiest album Head Injuries, with Garrett stopping mid song to announce “Scomo, it’s time to go”. Kosciusko is eternally a crowd fave and Jim Moginie’s dramatic synth outro seemed to carry even more emotional weight tonight with the audience needing no enticement whatsoever to join the chorus. Blue Sky Mining unsurprisingly sent the throng into overdrive. Garrett then took a moment to pay tribute to Michael Gudinski and his immense contribution to Australia’s music culture, calling him a pioneer and champion of local music and although he toured many international acts, reminded us that “here we enjoy the Best of Both Worlds.” The song also reminded us of just how brutal the dual guitar assault of Moginie and Rotsey can be and highlighted how seamlessly bass player Adam Ventoura had fit into the band. The familiar, playful Hirst drum intro to Power and the Passion prepared us for the night’s loudest singalong. The band left the stage briefly for a short breather before returning to announce to the crowd that ‘somehow we had a feeling you weren’t going anywhere!’ From The Bush was dedicated to their fallen brother Bones Hillman, The Warumpi Band and Neil Murray. The Dead Heart and Beds Are Burning were just the icing on the cake of a huge celebration of the band’s career and the important First Nations causes that they tirelessly fight for. It was also a chance for everyone to let off some steam after a tough couple of years and pay respects to those who are no longer with us. Plus, as I said earlier it was yet another opportunity to witness one of the world’s greatest live bands in action.

Show your support to The Uluru Statement. Read about it and show your support here:




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