Photo by Angel Simon

Colin Hay Academy of Music, Northampton, MA October 15, 2017 Videos by Sue Paquet  

I have long wanted to see Colin Hay so I was super excited that this worked out, a great date night with my wife down in Northampton, MA.  This was also the first time I’ve seen a show at the Academy of Music in Northampton, MA. It is a very nice small theater offering up a venue space that is larger than the Pearl Street Ballroom but not as large as the Calvin, a perfect spot to see and hear a show.

I had heard mixed things before but our show experience was easy and wonderful, impeccable sound, great seats and sight line, and an easy entrance and show experience.  (Many thanks to Dan Smalls Presents for the show.) Hay came out to a relatively bare stage: a coat rack, 3 guitars on stands, and a stool for water and guitar stuff, and a microphone stand. 

He took the stage without much fanfare in casual attire, greeted the audience and fired into two straight hours of songs and stories.  I was surprised by his brogue accent as all I know about his heritage is that he is Australian, but apparently he grew up some time in Scotland; who knew?

He meandered through probably twenty songs that spanned his career from his time in the international pop band Men At Work, to his significant solo career.  His voice as resonant, sonorous, and rich, and his guitar playing was another surprise.  He is more than a functional guitar player, his finger picking and innovative approach to his material on guitar was a real treat.

Of course ninety percent of the show was originals, with two significant covers thrown in there.  After a story about growing up and absorbing music he played a contemplative take on Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” 

Later in the set he picked up a very small twelve-string guitar that looked like a mandolin but played like a guitar for a few songs.  At that point it did not feel like a surprise that he covered the George Harrison/Beatles classic “Here Comes the Sun.” But it was his own material that was the spotlight of the show.

I was struck that while Hay recognized that there were songs that may be more important to the audience than others, he seemed to treat his whole catalog the same- each with some reverence and care as a song he created and really liked to share with people.  He knew that Men at Work songs or certain songs of later in his career were important to the audience, but he didn’t really so much as showcase them as just shared them within the entirety of a program he created for his delivery and edification.

The audience did get every song you might expect to hear including classics like Down Under, and Who Can it be Now? right in the middle of the show.  The latter was given a totally different treatment that changed how I viewed the song.  I had always classified it as a dated 80s piece, quirky in the way that Madness or Cyndi Lauper are.  But the reworked version showcased the song as a study in fear and paranoia (duh!) more like Self Destroyer by the Kinks or Every Breath You Take by the Police.  It just changed the way I hear the song, perhaps forever. Other songs you might expect to hear were included like Beautiful World, Waiting for My Real Life to Begin, and his most famous solo song, Overkill.  That wasn’t the final song as you may have expected, but there was more including the show closer Next Year People.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable show and definitely satisfied my curiosity and desire to see this great song writer in action, comfortable, intelligent, funny and vibrant.  While we lose so many great talents from rock n roll seemingly every week, it’s great to take the time to enjoy those who are still with us, and understand their particular genius and catalog.  Colin Hay proved why he sold all of those records and while he is still around writing, recording and performing.  

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