The 80’s rock icon is on tour promoting two new albums
Colin Hay is still At Work. The singer-songwriter and former frontman of 80’s hit factory Men at Work took the stage Saturday night (April 2nd) at DC’s Lincoln Theatre.
Hay opened his acoustic set with “I Just Don’t Know What to do With Myself,” the title track of his 2021 album of cover songs. The song set the tone for a night filled equally with new songs, classic Colin tracks, and Men at Work favorites.
Throughout the two hour, 17-song set, Hay told stories and showed off a dry wit to rival any comedian. In fact, the crowd reacted just as well to his humor and self-effacing nature as they did his music. “If you’ve come for the old songs, don’t feckin’ panic,” he deadpanned early on in his Scotch-Aussie lilt.
And it is that unique blend of cultural exposure–Hay’s parents emigrated from Scotland to Australia when he was a teenager–that lends itself to Hay’s one-of-a-kind vocals. His is a voice that can be full of pain and sorrow, express desire, and offer tepid hope–sometimes in the same song. And no matter the tempo, Hay’s songs are always pensive in a way that makes you think about your own life and what you want from it.
That range was on display during crowd favorite, “Maggie,” a story that quickly evolves from young love into a tale of loss. Another song on which Hay demonstrates emotional dexterity is “The Sea of Always,” a song about how the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Hay released a new album of original material just two weeks ago. That project, Now and the Evermore, took center stage with Colin performing nearly half of the tracks in the 10-song EP during his set. The quality of writing, thoughtfulness of lyric, and composition on this record match–and at times even exceed–anything Hay has put out in the past. Hay told me before the show that strings were recorded in Nashville, which gives the album a country music patina around the edges.
Despite sweeping his own catalog, Hay kept room in his set for the three biggest Men at Work songs. Much like Roger Hodgson cannot go it alone without singing some Supertramp, and Darius Rucker needs to throw in some Hootie or his audience will Blow (see what I did there?) Hay acknowledges he cannot get off the stage without those three numbers.
First up was “Who Can it Be Now?” which was preceded by a two minute long comedy bit about the song’s iconic saxophone riff. Hay demonstrated how the riff sounds like Forensic Files stinger music when played on guitar. “Overkill” received arguably the biggest ovation of the night, and “Down Under,” rounded out the night.
Before “Down Under,” Hay offered a tongue-in-cheek take on the highs and lows of fame. He said it’s quite a surreal experience to be in a CVS and hear his Grammy-winning platinum music, but the folks in line don’t recognize him. Surely, that has to be an exaggeration. Because for as long as Colin Hay will stay at work, his legions of cross-generational devotees (some who even learned about him from his appearance on the hit TV show Scrubs) will always turn up.
Colin Hay will be our guest on an upcoming episode of The Music Universe Podcast. Stay tuned here for more.