Colin Hay at The City Winery - Nashville, 3/17/17by Pat and George Betzhold on 04/26/17
"Man at Work" comes to Nashville
When “Men at Work” first came on the world music scene with their song “Down Under,” it became a hit in the US and the UK. The name Colin Hay may not ring a bell but it was he who co-founded the band in 1978 and was the lead vocalist. The group won a Grammy as Best New Artists in 1983. This was the apex of the band’s career. The original members broke up in 1984 after internal disagreements over creativity and management. Colin went on to perform as a solo artist until 1996 when Men at Work reformed with original member Greg Ham. After that he had sporadic forays into acting, voiceovers, and charity work. In 2015, the documentary "Colin Hay: Waiting for my Real Life" debuted at the Melbourne International Film Festival. This reignited his touring career leading him to this solo gig in Nashville.
As he took the stage it was apparent this would not be an ordinary rock concert. He spent the first ten minutes regaling us with stories that offered us a glimpse into his early friendships, career, family, and the challenges of balancing success with destructive addictive behaviors. His graphic description of his mate, Rodney, foraging in the dark for the “down under” version of Twinkies in order to satiate a drug induced hunger was hilarious. Just before the kitchen was lit, Rodney remarked that the cakes “tasted a bit funny.” When Colin illuminated the scene with a flashlight, Rodney’s face was covered with ants.
By the time he sang his first song, “Come Tumblin’ Down,” he had us in the palm of his hand. At the end of this initial offering, we all were reminded why we came here. The incredible guitar work, the power and range of his voice kindled pleasant memories and had all of us singing along.
He then spun more stories that exposed the deep influence his father had on him. From his old jokes to the dapper wool jacket and vest he was wearing, reflecting how deeply he misses his David Niven-like father.
But that’s not the only thing his misses. His next song, “I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You”, is an ode to the alcohol that he gave up over 25 years ago. Sobriety has done well for him.
As he continued the show, he peppered the lulls between songs with more stories. His parent’s music store in his childhood home of Saltcoats, Scotland introduced him to music and guitars. His father played the first Beatle record he ever heard. The world of music is a far better place because of it. As he continued, Sting (of The Police) and The Edge (of U2) provided targets for his good humored banter.
As he proceeded into his Men at Work material, he prefaced the songs with stories that provided insight into his assimilation into Australian culture and how the songs evolved. The stories were interesting but it was the music we were here for.
He then launched in the signature “Down Under.” Slowly building in volume and tempo, it concluded with an electronically enhanced reverb that echoed throughout the Winery. It was enough to make you look around for the rest of the band that had to be hidden away out of sight.
“Who Can It Be?” was next followed by “Looking for Jack,” his anecdotal story about his encounter with Jack Nicholson at the Greek Theater in LA. He continued for the rest of the show enhancing his singing and playing with more stories. As the show drew to an end, he reflected on how his career had begun to stagnate. He then gave credit to documentary filmmakers Aaron Faulls and Nate Gowtham for prodding him into cooperating in the aforementioned film. He then launched into a great rendition of “Waiting for My Real Life to Begin,” the song we had all been waiting for. His concluding song, “Next Year People,” was a forward looking statement looking at the brighter side of getting older.
After seeing this show, it was obvious he had shown us the artistic talent that we remembered from the heydays of “Down Under.”