It’s been said that live bands are an endangered species. This one is alive and well, and fronted by Colin Hay, a singer/songwriter and storyteller. He made musical history with Grammy-winning Men at Work in the 80s. With the sheen of renewal, Colin and his band, who hail from Philadelphia, Peru and Cuba, will take you on a journey. From the bracing shore of Saltcoats and far off Down Under, across the Pacific to the City of Angels. You will throw your head back and laugh, you may even become misty eyed.
At the start of his show, Colin Hay says that he has no survival skills. After over thirty years in the music industry, I would say that’s highly debatable. During the course of his eighty-odd minute show, Hay proves that not only he is not only a troubadour but a raconteur. He is good company, witty, self-effacing and has a hugely winning smile. I don’t know much about keeping goats – who may or may not appear and then fade away – but I now know that stoned ones don’t like quiz shows. All thanks to this very funny Scotsman, who blew in to Topanga via Australia, for sharing that.
Of course, I hadn’t gone to the show to hear tales of goats, sharks, the life of an immigrant, although I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect, but to hear the man himself play his songs. Like most people, I know him initially from his Men at Work days, having bought both of their albums Business as Usual and Cargo in the early Eighties much to my brother’s amusement. He never listened to them and so lost out on such great songs as Down by the Sea, which allegedly was originally a four hours and forty minute epic due the inhalation of some particularly good weed. Having listened to it again this morning, I can see how that could have gone.
Hay is supported by a hugely talented band in the form of San Miguel Perez (tres and guitare), Yosmel Montejo (the slimmest double bass I’ve ever seen), Charlie Paxson (drums) and Cecilia Noel (vocals, dancing accompaniment and a smile that lights up the stage). Hay is generous to all of his band, giving them a chance to shine and feature their own work, which is well worth listening to. Noel took centre stage to prove she can take on another Scottish Australian classic, while Perez performed Un Poquito de Amor Everyday (Everybody Needs Some Love). Both of these turns were worth the ticket price but it is how they work together that proved Hay has assembled a great band who obviously enjoy their time on stage and in each others’ company.
The show covers Hay’s time in Men at Work, previous solo albums and the always dreaded new material, which I look forward to owning when the new album comes out. After years of going to gigs I’ve trained myself to silently mouth along with the lyrics as nobody has come to hear me strangle a song. However, Hay and his band actively encourage their audience to join in and that’s exactly what the folk in the Teviot Debating Hall did last night. Needless to say, Down Under was saved until last in true theatrical tradition. Obviously, it is hard to replace Greg Ham for the flute solo, but Hay is ably assisted by Noel, who pulls off the best bit of air flute playing you will ever come across. Aye, that’s right, I said air flute. Not only does Noel produce a wonderful sound, she does so while in full Ian Anderson mode, although he never looked anywhere near that good when he played.
All in all, this was a great night and I am so glad I chose forty-five minutes before the start to make it my last show of this year’s Fringe. I look forward to the next time Colin Hay comes home and I hope he brings the same band with him.