Event Reviews

Peter Garrett & the Alter Egos + Kev Carmody @ Taronga Zoo 27/01/17 (Live Review)

Written by Alec Smart

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Peter Garrett, erstwhile Australian Labour Party politician and former frontman with iconic political rockers Midnight Oil, performed in Sydney’s Taronga Zoo with his band, the Alter Egos, to launch the annual Twilight at Taronga outdoor concerts. Support came from Aboriginal singer-songwriter Kev Carmody – the first time the two have performed together live.


Peter Garrett and the Alter Egos

Peter Garrett and the Alter Egos Photo: Alec Smart


The Twilight At Taronga series of concerts take place in the zoo grounds every summer beneath the stars in a natural grass-covered amphitheatre facing that iconic coat-hanger bridge over Sydney Harbour.

This year’s program features a range of artists to cater to all tastes, including the popular ABBA comedy tribute, Björn Again; multi-instrumentalist jazz supremo James Morrison; Scottish alt-rockers Teenage Fanclub; country crooner Kasey Chambers; Canadian folk-rock singer Martha Wainwright; punkers The Living End; and well-known Australian bands recently reformed, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, The Sports, Jet, and Killing Heidi.


The 2017 twilight season was launched by a traditional Welcome To Country with an Aboriginal dance duo, followed by ARIA award-winning indigenous songwriter and renowned national treasure Kev Carmody, who, like Garrett, recently released a new solo album titled Recollections… Reflections.. (A Journey).

As the sun descended on the horizon, the 70-year-old Carmody entertained the picnicking crowd on the hillside with his amusing between-song banter and narrative-driven country-folk ballads from a career spanning four decades.


Kev Carmody

Kev Carmody. Photo: Alec Smart


These included tales from his youth droving on Queensland cattle stations; criticisms of Australia’s treatment of Aboriginals (as a 10-year-old, Kev and his seven-year-old brother were kidnapped by state authorities and forced to attend Catholic schooling as part of the national Stolen Generation policy of forcing ‘half-caste’ children into bondage in white society); and a song about meeting homeless people living in cardboard boxes in London’s swanky South Bank theatre district.


A highlight of Carmody’s set was Moonstruck, which featured in the 2001 award-winning musical film One Night The Moon. An emotionally-charge song, it’s based on the true story of a young girl in outback Australia in the 1930s who, entranced by the moon, left her bedroom one evening, walked out into the night and disappeared.

A respected black tracker, Alexander Riley, was brought in by police the following morning to follow the girl’s footsteps, but her racist father refused to allow a black man on his property. Instead, a large posse of white men were deployed to search for the missing girl, however, their feet trampling the ground destroyed all traces of her path and she was never seen alive again.


Carmody ran over his allotted performance time but was permitted to extend his set with his much-loved protest song, From Little Things Big Things Grow, co-written with fellow songwriter Paul Kelly, which, in becoming a hugely popular Aboriginal rights’ anthem, has surely developed a life of its own (not least because of its use on television to promote the Industry SuperFunds employees’ superannuation scheme).

The four-chord anthem is about the August 1966 Gurindji Strike, when 200 indigenous stock workers walked off their jobs over work and pay conditions.

The strike, on land owned by the Vesteys pastoral company, which were later found to have ruthlessly exploited their Aboriginal employees, launched a nine-year battle that precipitated a national movement for Aboriginal Land Rights.

The burning issue led to a referendum, a Royal Commission, Law Reforms, and the ceremonial act of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pouring sand into strike leader Vincent Lingiari’s hand, which became an iconic moment in Australian history.


Aboriginal Welcome To Country

Welcome to Country Photo :Alec Smart


Currently on a nationwide solo tour prior to much-anticipated concerts for a reformed Midnight Oil, Peter Garrett and his backing band, the Alter Egos, played a set dominated by his 2016 debut solo album, A Version Of Now.

With mid-tempo songs that would sit comfortably in Midnight Oil’s mid-career, jangle-rock albums Red Sails in the Sunset, Diesel and Dust and Blue Sky Mine, Garrett’s original material shows he can craft strong melodies outside of the Moginie-Hirst creative duo behind the Oils’ more celebrated compositions.

Midnight Oils’ stalwart guitarist Martin Rotsey’s red Rickenbacker accentuated the songs – think R.E.M. and The Beatles for that quintessential ringing chime. Rooster’s presence in the Alter Egos shows how important he is to the Oils’ ongoing dynamic – he also plays in other projects featuring ex-members of the band, including Angry Tradesmen, Ghostwriters, The Break and Jim Moginie’s solo work.


To his credit, Garrett has managed to assemble a pool of considerable talent in the Alter Egos, including acclaimed solo artist Abbe May on guitar, Paul Kelly’s drummer Peter Luscombe (who features on TV’s RocKwiz), Jet bassist Mark Wilson, keyboardist Rosa Morgan of Red Ghost, and his wife and two daughters on backing vocals.

After three songs from the new album, the energetic 63-year-old Garrett strutting about the stage in his signature, splayed-hand gawky dance style like a rooster dust-bathing, the band performed a hearty version of The Divinyls’ classic Back To The Wall.


Then the band launched into Midnight Oil’s durable 1979 crowd-pleaser Bus To Bondi. The hillside erupted as the audience hastily abandoned their picnic blanket spreads of wine and nibbles to rush down to the dance area, although their momentum was tempered somewhat as the indefatigable crowd-pleaser was followed by perhaps the Oils’ most tranquil song, Common Ground.

Further material from Garrett’s solo album ensued, covering themes of environmental and social responsibility before the breakout single Great White Shark, co-written with the aforementioned Martin Rotsey and Midnight Oil’s lead guitarist Jim Moginie. Many have interpreted this melodic anthem as a stepping-stone to Midnight Oil recording new material to presage and complement their imminent comeback.


Peter Garrett and the Alter Egos

Peter Garrett and the Alter Egos. Photo: Alec Smart


In between songs, all the while fiddling nervously with his sleeve cuffs, Garrett revealed amusing snippets of his nine-year tenancy in the Australian Labour Party, including five years as a minister serving in the respective cabinets of feuding Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd’s ruling parliaments.


The band played two encores – the first featured a cover of Aboriginal band Yothu Yindi’s collaboration with Crowded House songwriter Neil Finn, Dots On The Shells, complete with verses sung in the Yolngu language, followed by a Midnight Oil favourite from 1987’s Diesel And Dust album, The Dead Heart – then the night closed with the Oils’ 1981 Top 40 hit from their Place Without A Postcard album, Don’t Wanna Be The One with a very appreciative audience.


Connect with Kev Carmody:
Official WebsiteFacebookiTunes

Connect with Peter Garrett:
Official WebsiteFacebookTwitterYouTube Instagram

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AMNplify – JS



Alec Smart

February 4th, 2017

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Alec Smart

Photojournalist & Features Writer. From 1990-2012 I served 22 years hard labour in the UK, where I broke rocks as a journalist, photographer, features writer and editor, for occasional scraps. Currently based in Sydney, I specialise in live music ['world', punk, folk, ska], travel and reportage, but will undertake publicity and weddings at gunpoint.

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