Colin Hay has been on my radar for practically my whole life. Early hits from his band, Men at Work, have been on the radio since before I was born. The lyrics to “Land Down Under” fed my early fascination with Australia, and as a teenager Pop-Up Video finally confirmed what it was to chunder. Then came Garden State. Hay’s “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You” was a standout on a stellar soundtrack. Continuing his partnership with Zach Braff, Hay popped up on Scrubs both as background music and in person. On May 20, 2010, at the Majestic Theater in Madison, WI, I was lucky to experience a sixteen-song set by Colin Hay, replete with stories and a healthy dose of humor.
Walking out to a ridiculously laudatory introduction (“multi-multi-multi-platinum”), Hay spent the first fifteen minutes or so of his set dancing and making jokes about going to discos and not giving a hoot about where he played the night before. While remotely teasing those from Milwaukee, his guitar strap failed, and Hay quipped, “That was God. God is from Milwaukee.” After a bit more chatter, Hay strummed a few notes and then proclaimed, “Oh fuck, it’d better be good,” before immediately launching into another story (and quickly giving it up to play instead).
The rest of the night was similarly humor-filled, as Hay is a natural ham. He dressed down hecklers, posed and winked for a woman who wandered in front of the stage to take pictures with her phone, and jested with asides like, “We won a Grammy 28 years ago. I can’t wait to see what happens…” All of Hay’s joking aside, the highlight of the night was his superb song-writing and talent for performing.
Hay’s voice is as good as it ever was, and his high notes scratch an itch you didn’t know you had. His guitar-playing is nimble and the chords have presence, but it’s in his songs of ill fate (“I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You”, “Maggie”, “I Came Into Your Store”) where he gets you in the gut. Tender and real, his lyrics hit a glaring truth without losing the lingering sense of what was once good and what could have been.
Said Hay, “It’s all about the details, the smaller, the better.”
SET LIST: Wayfaring Sons / Who Can It Be Now? / Conversation / Into the Cornfields / Oh California / No Time / I Came Into Your Store / Land Down Under / Going Somewhere / There’s Water Over You / Maggie / Prison Time / I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You / Beautiful World / Overkill / Waiting For My Real Life to Begin