March 13, 2009 / 6:13 AM / 10 years ago

Aussie politician proves he's still a rock star

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australian politician Peter Garrett proved he was still a rock star under the suit when he reunited with his band Midnight Oil, and some commentators on Friday said he showed more passion on stage than in parliament.

Peter Garrett, lead singer of Midnight Oil and Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment, Heritage and the Arts, speaks onstage at the Live Earth Concert held in Australia at Aussie Stadium in Sydney, July 7, 2007. REUTERS/Patrick Riviere

Any notion that the former activist singer, and now Australia’s Environment Minister, would avoid politically charged songs was blown away as his band performed one of two warm-up gigs ahead of a weekend benefit concert for bushfire victims.

In front of a sold-out crowd of 3,000, Midnight Oil kicked off with “Redneck Wonderland” and went on to perform the anti-mining “Blue Sky Mine” and anti-war and anti-establishment songs “When the Generals Talk” and “Read About It.”

“Amazingly we find ourselves on this stage together again,” said Garrett, 55, who was the lead singer of the band for 26 years until quitting in 2002 to pursue a career in politics.

“The only person who has to go to work in the morning is me.”

As frontman of Midnight Oil, the lanky, bald Garrett swayed the hearts and minds of a generation as he railed against U.S. foreign policies, corporate greed and for indigenous rights.

Alongside his rock career he was always political, co-founding the Nuclear Disarmament Party in 1984 and holding roles in Greenpeace and the Australian Conservation Foundation before winning a seat in the national parliament in 2004.

But his decision to join the center-left Australian Labor Party rather than the Australian Greens angered some supporters, who accused him of selling out as he towed party lines.

Midnight Oil last reunited in 2005 for Wave Aid, a concert to help the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people, but agreed to reunite for the bushfire benefit concert.

About 210 people died and 10,000 were left homeless in the bushfires in Victoria last month which were Australia’s worst natural disaster in more than a century.

Midnight Oil is performing two warm-ups gigs in Canberra before playing to a crowd of about 79,000 in Melbourne on Saturday — Australia’s largest ever paid concert. A concert for about 40,000 will be held simultaneously in Sydney.

Concertgoers and reviewers who attended Midnight Oil’s first warm-up gig were full of praise for the show.

“Here were the Oils of old, still at their best. Those 25 years together... had clearly welded these men, all in their 50s now, into a unit so tight they couldn’t lose it,” wrote the Age newspaper’s Tony Wright.

Political writers also praised Garrett’s performance.

“Peter Garrett showed more passion in two hours last night than he has displayed in almost half a decade in politics,” wrote Sydney Morning Herald political correspondent Phil Coorey.

Fans raved on various online sites about the concert.

“The Oils have not lost it. I reckon they sounded the same as 10 years ago. One of the best live Australian rock bands of all time,” wrote a blogger.

The lineup for the Melbourne concert also includes pop star Kylie Minogue as master of ceremonies, U.S. singer Jack Johnson, Paul Kelly, a reunited Split Enz, and Wolfmother.

The Sydney concert will feature Coldplay, The Presets, Josh Pyke, Eskimo Joe, The Hoodoo Gurus, Jet, Icehouse and Little Birdy and close with Barry Gibb from the Bee Gees.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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