It made complete sense that Colin Hay performed at Town Hall in New York City’s Times Square. Town Hall, an intimate theater between Sixth and Broadway, sits around 1,500 people comfortably in warm colors. It is not so much a concert venue, but rather a true theater that fits in with the several Broadway buildings it borders. So, appropriately Colin Hay fit right in with the setting, entertaining the crowd with anecdotes and sprinkled badinage between songs. And, the fact that he performed the show in honor of former Men at Work bandmate Greg Ham who passed away only 10 days ago, just made the night more special for those who had the privilege of seeing the Scottish/Australian acoustic crooner.
What is so striking about a Colin Hay concert is his effortless eloquence. He is a smooth talker and his Australian-influenced brogue gives his words extra power that on Friday resounded through the theater. Hay is the very definition of a troubador, telling his engaging life story through a set list mostly devoted to his chronological development. You felt at home with Hay, like he was one of your buddies and you were sitting around at a backyard barbecue. Strike up the grill, put on some portobello mushrooms (he is a vegetarian like myself), tell stories, and play tunes. It is a comfortable formula, and with it Hay made Town Hall feel like home.
Before Hay came on stage, the crowd was buttered up by acoustic singer/songwriter Ryan Montbleau, who kidded with the audience about his insecurities while diving into his short set of well-developed pieces. The music was creative and refreshing and I will not say more now because Montbleau will be featured on the Music Court within the coming weeks.
Then, with the sounds of “Down Under,” and the voice over by a passionate individual stating that Hay saved his life from washed-down pop music (after he heard Hay’s music on the Garden State soundtrack and the television show Scrubs), Hay walked on stage in a sharp coat and said hello to the audience, immediately engaging in a running dialogue (even though he couldn’t hear well with his ear plugs) that represented up his charm, intelligence, and humor.
Hay told several stories under the roof of the Town Hall in between songs, and some stories (most) worked to set up music. For example he described how he wrote “Beautiful World” while in California detoxing from his Australian-influenced alcoholic ways. He then described how he knew an individual who sang the song out in the Pacific and then was gnawed at by a shark who clearly enjoyed the piece. As Hay said during the show, the person kept singing the song and it was as if the shark said, ‘I may eat you, but, give me a few more verses of that song.”
The stories were well-timed and humorous, but the music was clearly why everyone came to watch Mr. Hay perform (even though his stories could have carried a separate performance in and of itself), and the tunes were wonderful.
Hay toggled between old Solo material, Men at Work music, and work off his newest album Gathering Mercury. The mix included “Who Can it Be Now,” “Send Somebody,” “Maggie,” etc. and then a 4-song conclusion that, like a molten chocolate cake, closed out the night with perfection. This included my favorite Hay piece, “Waiting for my Real Life to Begin” and an excellent, picked version of “Overkill.”
A performance from Maine in 2010. Hay finished off the show with a song he and Ham wrote and it, as anticipated, started a wonderful sing along. Here is “Be Good Johnny.”
Before I post this, I want to post one more story that Hay told that I thought was hilarious. He talked of how he became friends with Paul McCartney when he was performing his solo material in California. Growing up idolizing the Beatles, this was quite extraordinary for Hay. He tells the story of McCartney coming over for dinner and how he had two moments to himself during the night. The first was when McCartney arrived and Hay couldn’t believe Paul McCartney was in his driveway. The second was after dinner, when McCartney took the dishes into the kitchen and started running them under water, sparking the realization that Paul McCartney was doing his dishes.
– One more for good measure. Here is “Beautiful World”