Review: You never forget your first love – Men At Work live in Hannover, Germany, 7th July 2019
Helmut, Cecilia Noël, Colin Hay and Vincent
by Helmut Janisch
Around 1983 when I was a teenager I fell in love with Men At Work. Prior to that I wasn’t really focused on any artist or band and just liked most of what was in the charts. But the unique sound of Men At Work touched me deeply in the heart and that hasn’t changed at all in all those years. I fell in love with other bands and am even running a fanclub for another famous band since almost 30 years now. But I kept listening to Men At Work and Colin Hay ever since and always regretted that I missed to see them playing live on their last tour in Europe (in 1983, as far as I know). Since then I saw Colin Hay a few times whenever he toured in Germany with his accoustic shows. It always was great, but still not Men At Work.
When I saw that a European Men At Work tour was announced for 2019, it was as if a lifelong dream was about to come true. But would it meet my expectations? I knew it would basically be „only“ Colin Hay with a new band. The incredible Greg Ham sadly has passed away and Ron, John and Jerry surely never would play with Colin again. In the days before the show I checked the web for setlists and videos of the first shows of that tour and was absolutely relieved. The set was perfect and the band sounded great. So, I went to Hannover with a good feeling.
When the show started with „Touching The Untouchables“ I had goose bumps and was close to tears. That was the moment I had been waiting for a few decades. Instantly there was no doubt anymore that the rebirth of Men At Work would be as good as it can be. After a short introduction by Colin they continued with „No Restrictions“. During the evening Colin would keep talking with the audience with a lot of humour but not telling long and funny stories inbetween songs, as he usually does on his solo shows. That allowed the show to go from one favorite to another without interruption. „Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive“ was followed by „Everything I Need“. When the next song was introduced by Colin I was really close to tears. He said how much he misses his friend Greg who wrote the following track, „The Longest Night“. It was a very emotional performance where Colin for the only time during the show put down the guitar and just sang this great song. I think everyone in the venue who knew the circumstances of Greg’s dead and what a great guy he was, could feel that he was with us in that moment. The show went on with a number of tracks that didn’t make it in the charts back in the 80s but are amongst the fan’s favourites nevertheless: „Catch A Star“, „Children On Parade“, „Upstairs in My House“, „I Can See It In Your Eyes“, „Blue For You“ and „No Sign Of Yesterday“. The latter had a stunning end section where bass player Yosmel Montejo and sax (and keyboard, flute) player Scheila Gonzalez added incredible solo performances. That was followed by the band introduction. Time flew by because one highlight followed the next, all very well performed by this stunning band: „It’s A Mistake“, „Underground“ and „Man With Two Hearts“. „Down By The Sea“ ended with a long guitar improvisation played by Colin and a powerful drum solo by Jimmy Branly. We were getting close to the end of the show, still ahead some surprises and the greatest hits. „Who Can It Be Now?“ was the first followed by „Come Tumblin’ Down“ from Colin’s latest solo album. The audience was asked to participate on this song and sang along the „tumblin’ down“ line of the chorus. A big surprise for me was the next song „Can’t Take This Town“ that I had never heard in a version with full band before. At the end of the song Scheila Gonzalez once again had the chance to show what a great saxophone player she is. A stunning version of a so far totally underrated song. The show came to an end with „Overkill“ and a perfect version of „Down Under“. The band left the stage to return just a short time later for two encores. „Waiting For My Real Life To Begin“ was yet another Colin Hay solo track that was played in a much more powerful version than on any of his studio albums. The final song – as expected – was a mindblowing version of „Be Good Johnny“. The band said goodbye and left a happy audience that got everything it expected and much more.
Although this is not Men At Work as die hard fans will always remember them from records, videos and photos, but I think Colin and the new „men and women at work“ are as good as the original band was. It was great fun to see Yosmel Montejo playing bass. San Miguel Perez on guitar added many incredible solos and truely took Ron’s original sound into the 21 century as well as Jimmy Branly on drums did a remarkable job. Cecilia Noel, though adding just a bit of percussions and backing vocals to the music, was a big part of this live show. She’s a born performer on stage. Scheila Gonzalez on saxophone, flute and keyboard was amazing and showed that Men At Work would not be the same without a great multi-instrumentalist like her. Well, and Colin Hay himself … he is the living proof that some artists always get better by time, like good red wine. What a brilliant voice and what a charisma as well as a good portion of humour.