Colin Hay at Charleston Music Hall
Colin Hay is best known as lead singer/songwriter and founding member of the ’80s Aussie band Men at Work, whose three chart-topping albums put them on the same playing field as the Police, Rod Stewart and other megastars of that era.
Hay's Men, however, turned in their valedictory album in 1985. Theirs was a skyrocketing success story. They'd won a Grammy, sold 30 million albums, and perhaps most significantly for Australian musicians, just about singlehandedly broken down the door to the U.S. music market for new talent from down under.
Given these impressive achievements and the subsequent decade and a half — Hay passed in what he ruefully calls "relative obscurity" — he might be forgiven for indulging in a little nostalgia. When he pulls a guitar from among the row of them behind him and says "I used to have a guy just to hand me fully tuned guitars," he adds the kicker with a wink, "Those are the first to go." The line gets a good laugh from the crowd. Nostalgia may be self-indulgent. Matter of fact, self-deprecating commentary is storytelling gold.
Colin Hay, storyteller
And storytelling took up a good deal of Hay's show. "I promise I'll sing more than four songs," he reassured his audience. Still, every story, every joke in some way fitted in, creating a live performance annotated edition of his songwriting works and providing glimpses into his future.
"Who Can It Be Now" may have been among the show's opening numbers, but it was songs like "Waiting for My Real Life to Begin" from Hay's post-Men at Work solo career that illuminated both the stage and the man himself. Hay's voice remains resonant as ever. Beautifully evocative guitar arrangements support lyrics that serve up heartfelt, deeply observational angles cut mitre box clean. The man knows his business.
Now comfortably settled into working movie projects with the likes of director Zach Braff, along with television series collaborations and indie music releases, what Hay demonstrated Tuesday night is that nostalgia really doesn't work for him. In fact, his best work may still be ahead.