The Great Circle Tour marks the re-ignition of politically-active Australian rockers Midnight Oil. The run began in April on home turf in Sydney and ends there in November, spending the intervening seven months ringing the globe. Thursday’s show at the Vic Theatre sold out almost instantly. It will be the quintet’s first Chicago date since headlining 2002’s Taste of Chicago, and 29 years since its ceiling-splintering Metro stop on 1988’s Diesel and Dust tour.
In 2002, Midnight Oil released “Capricornia.” The album shifted from the muscular rock of 1998’s “Redneck Wonderland” and echoed the sound of worldwide hits including 1987’s “Diesel and Dust” and 1990’s “Blue Sky Mining.” A successful tour promoted new singles like the chiming “Golden Age” and jangling “Luritja Way.” Naturally, the band added fiery anthems supporting indigenous rights like “Beds are Burning” and “Truganini.” Other trademarks included nods to environmental concerns like “Blue Sky Mine” and the anti-imperialist views of the pointed “Short Memory.”
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After the “Capricornia” tour, outspoken frontman Peter Garrett departed the band to focus on a career in politics. From 2004 to 2013, Garrett served in the Australian House of Representatives speaking on issues related to the environment, Australian heritage, the arts and education. After retiring from the bench, Garrett released his first solo album in 2016. “A Version of Now” featured participation by Midnight Oil guitarist Martin Rotsey.
Known among fans simply as the Oils, the band is revered for fusing the punk fury of the Clash with inventive guitars a la Gang of Four and the raw power of The Who. Drummer Rob Hirst and multi-instrumentalist Jim Moginie contribute heavily to the band’s songwriting, all supporting the radical focal point of Garrett as spokesperson. Bones Hillman has been the band’s linchpin on bass and harmony vocals since the Diesel and Dust tour.
Although no plans for a new album have been announced, recent interviews have hinted at the possibility of new songs and recording dates during touring gaps. In the meantime, the band will release vinyl and CD box sets, and an Overflow Tank containing 14 hours of rarities.
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.