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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Colin Hay: In Concert

There are only a few directions pop stars from the 1980s can go.

If you’re like Sting, you can maintain the same commercial approach, albeit with a few twists, and carry your success forward twenty years. On the opposite end, if you’re like David Lee Roth, you can fade into obscurity—with only an occasional foray into another career, like talk radio, to remind the world you’re still around.

But there is a happy middle ground somewhere between continuous pop stardom and insignificance. Artists on this path replace their youthful I-want-it-all-and-I-want-it-now vibe for something mellower and play from the heart.

Seeing Colin Hay perform live this week in a small theater, it’s clear that the former Men At Work frontman is a contender for king of this third group.

You probably remember him only because of the band’s two most catchy—and campy—tunes from the 80s, “Down Under” and “Who Can It be Now,” at least one of which makes an obligatory appearance on nearly every Best of the Decade compilations.

Or maybe you just remember him as the kind of creepy, bug-eyed lead singer.

But don’t let that background fool you. Armed with only his guitar, striking voice, and witty stories, Hay offered the crowd more than a few 80s flashbacks. For much of the show, he seemed more a stand-up comedian than a musician. And it worked; his long tales only rarely SEEMED long.

The crowd learned about Hay’s encounter with Jack Nicholson that inspired his solo song “Looking for Jack.” We heard how Scrubs star Zach Braff asked Hay for permission to include the touching “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You” on the Garden State soundtrack, introducing the singer to a whole new generation of fans.

He also admitted that he wrote most of Men At Work’s hits under the influence of a certain weed. As if we didn’t already suspect it.

Hay showcased not only his songwriting talents but also his amazing vocal control with post-Men At Work songs like “Beautiful World” and “Waiting for My Real Life To Begin.” My lack of familiarity with most of these tunes didn’t keep me from tapping my foot and enjoying them immensely.

But, knowing what many in the crowd wanted to hear, Hay also belted out impressive versions of those two certain Men At Work standards. And another old band song provided one of the highlights of the show: an impressive rendering of “Overkill,” which he admitted is his favorite from the “old days.”

All in all, the quality of the man’s voice was a pleasant surprise; in fact, it alone would drive me to see him again, even though I had debated attending this show in the first place.

But the biggest shock of the night was my realization that although I’d heard Colin Hay’s voice hundreds of times during the past twenty years, I had never before appreciated just how talented he was.

Let’s hope this former 80s star doesn’t change direction anytime soon.

25 Comments:

At April 27, 2006 9:36 PM, Anonymous Bruce replied to my musings ...

Who knew that Mr. Hay was such the storyteller?

 
At April 27, 2006 10:02 PM, Blogger The Phoenix replied to my musings ...

Man...he did have those huge bug eyes. I just remember watching that video for "Who Can It Be Now" and thinking he had strange eyes.

But he had a fantastic voice...very different, and those songs he sang with Men at Work are NOT easy to sing.

Now I have a craving for a vegemite sandwich.

 
At April 28, 2006 6:58 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

I guess i had always been distracted by his image and the silly pop nature of the songs and never focused on his voice. My loss.

Thankfully, he didn't bring any vegemite.

-- david

 
At April 28, 2006 8:58 AM, Blogger jay lassiter replied to my musings ...

oh david,
you made it through the whole post with out the word vegemite...only to blow it in the comment section.
and yeah overkill is the best of that era. I loved that song. it makes me wanna put on a headback and ankh and dance!

 
At April 28, 2006 9:59 AM, Blogger fatty ~ replied to my musings ...

i come from a land down under...
where women glow and men shunder

yeh! woot!

 
At April 28, 2006 11:07 AM, Blogger LocuTus of Borg replied to my musings ...

What?!? Man no vegemite sandwichs? Dang! LOL There are lots of talented musicians (and artists) that are lurking somewhere on the radar. I always enjoy listening to great music.

 
At April 28, 2006 11:11 AM, Blogger Blonde Vigilante replied to my musings ...

Live music is just so much better than anything you hear on the radio, see on tv or listen to on your stereo. I love live music!

 
At April 28, 2006 11:39 AM, Blogger Perplexio replied to my musings ...

I've got a handful of Hay's solo material-- It's really good stuff. I've noticed that the new ABC show, What About Brian? has used Waiting for My Real Life to Begin and one of his other solo songs for closing montage scenes that show what's going on with all the various characters on the show.

There's an awesome version of Down Under on his Man at Work CD that features Cecilia Noel and the Wild Clams backing him up. It's got an intense calypso/reggae vibe going on. I find it to be better than the original.

Oh and Overkill is my favorite Men At Work song... It's absolutely brilliant!

 
At April 28, 2006 11:41 AM, Blogger Meagan replied to my musings ...

Davulet! You're back! (it just felt like an awfully long time without a new post. :-)

I vaguely remember Men at Work, but I know what you mean about not realizing singers in pop groups are actually capable of being, like, real musicians. It's a pleasant surprise to discover one with great talent and quality.

love meagan

 
At April 28, 2006 11:42 AM, Blogger Perplexio replied to my musings ...

PS: I actually wrote a Dr. Suess-esque poem about Vegemite once (using Green Eggs & Ham as the template) I'd be willing to share if there's enough interest.

 
At April 28, 2006 3:49 PM, Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen replied to my musings ...

I actually still have my "Men At Work" record (yes, I said "record").

Probably makes me an old hag admitting that, doesn't it??? ;)

 
At April 28, 2006 7:15 PM, Anonymous Bruce replied to my musings ...

Stacy, I still have about 175 vinyl albums, so no you're not an old hag.

 
At April 28, 2006 7:46 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Jay: Phoenix made me do it.

Fatty: Did you just say "woot?"

Locotus: I thought maybe the dinner theater venue would serve vegemite in his honor, but no luck.

BV: You probably would have liked this show. Not something I was dying to see, but he was really impressive live.

Meagan: I wasn't gone THAT long ... but thanks for missing me.

Perplexio: I've also heard that Colin Hay has made a guest appearance, or more than one, on Scrubs. I guess Zach Braff has a boy crush or something. And please share your song; I have to admit I'm curious!

Stacy/Bruce: Vinyl is still cool, even if I'm now annoyed by the lack of digital "perfection." Even I don't have any Men At Work records, though.

-- david

 
At April 28, 2006 9:09 PM, Blogger Perplexio replied to my musings ...

It's not a song this time (like Soccer Mom) just a poem. I posted it over on Wrandom Writings for your enjoyment.

 
At April 29, 2006 11:34 AM, Blogger Godwhacker replied to my musings ...

Nice review David,
Men at Work was one of my "not so guilty" pleasures of the 80's. He resently toured with Ringo Starr (within the past few years. You can get some of the set from itunes HERE.

 
At April 29, 2006 2:30 PM, Blogger Laurie replied to my musings ...

I started reading your post and thinking, "Colin who???" and then you mentioned "Men at Work", and I was like, "Oh yeah!!!"

Now I've got "Who Can it Be Now?" stuck in my head, LOL

 
At April 29, 2006 11:13 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Perplexio: I checked it out, it's quite am homage to Dr. Seuss.

Godwhacker: Thanks, I don't try the straightforward review often ... maybe I'll do more.

Laurie: Sorry about that. Would you rather I had put "Rock Me Amadeus" in your brain?!? Falco, something tells me, hasn't aged as well muscially as Mr. Hay.

-- david

 
At April 29, 2006 11:13 PM, Blogger dragonflyfilly replied to my musings ...

i luvvvv that song f.a.t.t.y

David; i think woot is like a cross between whoo hooo and hoot (??)...so what is it you're doing about those hairy palms,,,and how did they get that way? - just abnormally curious...

tell me something??...do you know if Heart first recorded as Butterfly...i have a really really old demo record, and all the songs i hear her sing are the same lyrics, voice, and instramentals as on my old vinyl (sp?)

cheers,
pj

 
At April 29, 2006 11:26 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

DF Filly: I had heard that Heart was originally called the Army back in the Sixties, back before the Wilson sisters joined the band, but I've never heard of the band recording as Butterfly back then. They did record one of their better albums, Dog and Butterfly, in the late 1970s. There used to be a Heart tribute band called "Dog N Butterfly," but I have no idea if they are still around. Sorry, that's all I've got ...

-- david

 
At April 30, 2006 12:55 AM, Blogger Jamie Dawn replied to my musings ...

I remember those two main hits that you mentioned.
He does have a distinctive voice, and a good one.
I'm glad he is still doing what he enjoys.
It's good when something is better than you expected it to be.

 
At April 30, 2006 12:56 AM, Blogger Jamie Dawn replied to my musings ...

Oh, you didn't mention any breast baring or panty throwing. I assume none of that went on. :)

 
At April 30, 2006 8:30 AM, Blogger OnMyWatch replied to my musings ...

what? no Be Good Johnny? :)

 
At April 30, 2006 8:37 AM, Blogger cube replied to my musings ...

I didn't know the name until you mentioned the eyes. I'm afraid that's all I remembered about the poor googly-eyed dude. I'm glad things are going good for him.

 
At April 30, 2006 8:55 PM, Blogger An80sNut replied to my musings ...

I'm happy to say that I saw Hay several years ago with Men At Work multi-instrumentalist Greg Ham. Great show. And yes, my favorite song of theirs was "Overkill." Complex and multifaceted. They sounded amazing and made me feel like time stood still.

 
At May 03, 2006 4:28 PM, Blogger WomanHonorThyself replied to my musings ...

Who can it beeeeeeeeeeeeee now..lolz...wow I dint even know Men at work were still um..working..lolz
btw..Sting has a duet out now onna top forty charts with Sheyrl Crow..heh

 

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