David Fricke's Year in Rock 2017

Tom Petty's final tour, Phish's Bakers Dozen, the rebirth of the Dream Syndicate and other musical highlights from the year that was

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Midnight Oil
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Scott Barbour/Getty Images4/12

Midnight Oil

Webster Hall, New York City, May 13th and 14th

When singer Peter Garrett walked away from Australian politics, after more than a decade in that suit-and-tie dogfight, I was not expecting him to go back to rock & roll's bully pulpit. But the Oils' timing was exquisite. Garrett, drummer Rob Hirst, bassist Bones Hillman, and guitarists Jim Moginie and Martin Rotsey hit the road for their first world tour in 15 years just as the polarization and paralysis in American and European capitals rendered every fireball they had thrown in the Eighties and Nineties newly relevant and alarming. Garrett was fighting a viral infection when the Oils pulled into New York on the first U.S. leg, but there was no visible dilution in his fury, the band's attack or their commitment to the long view in their catalog. The Oils drew from as far back as the 1980 EP, Bird Noises, and 1981's Place Without a Postcard; revived the haunting last-chance urgency of "Now or Never Land" from 1993's Earth and Sun and Moon; and recalled their 1990 hit-and-run gig in front of the Exxon offices on 6th Avenue, revisiting the John Lennon cover from that lunchtime set, "Instant Karma." Garrett couldn't help pointing out that our current Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is a former Exxon CEO. "How do those people sleep at night, and how can they not remember John Lennon?" Garrett asked at Webster Hall – still exasperated, back to calling those in power to account as if nothing has changed and everything must.

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