There’s something truly wonderful about an artist who can connect to their audience on a personal level. Colin Hay does just that. Though many people are familiar with his music from his band Men at Work, he has a solo career which has spanned a few decades.
His music comes straight from the heart- raw emotions, personal stories, and an honesty which is so very rare these days. Recently he performed a solo show at the Pollak Theater on the grounds of Monmouth University in New Jersey.
The show started quite promptly at 8pm with Colin taking the stage to the applause of the crowd. No opening act was needed to warm anyone up. A few moments into his spoken intro after playing a few notes Colin stopped to welcome some late stragglers who were being seated close to the stage. He stopped and looked at them and thanked them for showing up to the performance, putting them in an awkward setting but in a jovial fashion. Main point was- don’t be late for a seated show especially sitting so close to the stage.
Colin Hay’s songs wove a tapestry of heartache and joy tapping into the honest and pure emotions of everyone present Speaking of personal losses he had experienced with family and friends over the past few years seemed to really touch the audience a little more since I think it’s safe to say that loss is much more relatable these days.
At one point Colin spoke of how when he was younger he fell in love with an older woman…. she was 9, he was 8 1/2 at the time. At that point though much of the crowd had a bit of a laugh the intro chords to “Maggie” began to be strummed on stage. For those not familiar with the song, it’s a truly beautiful ballad about a young boy’s first love and how they still had a connection together many years later even as their lives had changed and ultimately ended. At the end of the song, the entire crowd just sat for a second and then roared into a thunderous applause. Apparently it is one of the most requested songs for Colin to play, as he told a story of how people seemed perturbed at a few previous shows through the years where “Maggie” was not played. I’m sure that the relatability of the song’s subject matter makes it just all the more likeable, which yet again is a real gift that Colin has.
A few songs later Colin told the story of his voyage to Australia from Scotland. As he was boarding the ship and looking back at the country of his birth a song was playing overhead, “Waterloo Sunset’ by the Kinks. Aside from having a wonderful guitar intro lick, the song itself is one of his favorites and so appropriate as well considering the subject matter of the song.
The setlist was a mixture of songs from Colin’s back catalog along with some tracks from his newest album “Now And The Evermore”. He spoke of the writing process for the song “Agatha Bell” and how he just found the name mysterious and wrote the song around that feature. There was talk about Zakk Braff and his friendship with Colin from his movie “Garden State” and tv show “Scrubs”. This lead-in introed the song “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You”, yet another slow, moody ballad about lost love and the pain which is left behind afterwards along with the haunting memories- both good and bad.
There were obligatory Men At Work songs played as well including “Overkill” and “Who Can It Be Now?” before a storied intro to “Waiting for My Real Life to Begin”, a song which has special meaning to me because at the time I heard it I felt very stuck in life, and I personally was waiting for something to happen. But, as the lyrics make you realize, life happens and doesn’t manifest itself upon your hopes- it manifests upon your doings. Colin also told the story of how many people had come up to him to tell him that this was their wedding song. At that point a nice chuckle came from much of the crowd along with Colin himself. He pondered how many of those people were still married and did they REALLY know what the song was about when they picked it?
At one point during the set an audience member yelled out “Freebird!”. Colin just stood there looking a little annoyed but laughing at the same time while tuning his guitar. He joked that he wondered why people do that- do they really think that someone will start playing “Freebird” at that point where he giggled along with the crowd. And after another moment himself started to strum the intro chords to Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir and the crowd sat in amazement, then Colin stopped and announced “Sorry folks… that’s all you’re getting of that song”. The audience appreciated Mr. Hay’s humor in the matter along with his musical prowess.
Funny stories were layered in between a few songs about standing in line at CVS and hearing his own song overhead and wishing he could use his “stardom” in order to skip the line while reminiscing about the height of Men At Work’s popularity in the 80’s and how he probably couldn’t do that now. And instead waited in line just like everyone else just to get his 6ft receipt, for one item. We can do so much to try to fix so many of the issues of the world, but we all apparently need a tree for a receipt at CVS.
Mr Hay will be part of the performing with Ringo Starr in Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band as well as Men At Work this summer alongside Rick Springfield and John Waite.
Review and photos by Bryan Bardes