Colin Hay is best known for songs he wrote during the time of Reaganomics and synthesizers. Back in the early 80s, the songs "Down Under," and "Who Can It Be Now?" topped the charts when he was a member of the group Men at Work. But since then he's embarked on a solo singer-songwriter career, which is what the sold-out crowd at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater got a taste of Friday night.
His set was mostly acoustic, and the seated audience seemed to be quietly enjoying themselves. I would have enjoyed standing as a sign of respect, but I suppose Colin Hay's fan base is a bit older than the shows I'm used to. Accordingly, Hay told a story during the set about how an older man once walked up to the front of the stage at one of his concerts, tapped his watch and said "It's getting late. Are you going to play that famous song? I have a babysitter at home!"
That song of course being "Down Under," which he played with about as much gusto as you can stomach after decades of playing the same song. He also kindly played "Who Can It Be Now?" and the songs he has recently garnered acclaim for from the show Scrubs, including the fantastic "Overkill." After a cover of The Beatle's Rubber Soul classic "Norwegian Wood," he said only, "Wish I written that one." I was looking forward to hearing him play "I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You," a song from the soundtrack of the 2004 movie, Garden State. I used to play that album repeatedly and Hay's mellow acoustic track was one of my favorites on the album. Live, he delivered with the same staggering beauty as the studio version.
Also, some people might not know this, but: he's funny! In-between his set he told stories about the people he's met during his years in the limelight, including anecdotes with a Craig-Kilborn like animation about Little Richard, Ringo Starr and Jerry Lee Lewis. After one song, he started talking about a dream he had once about John Wayne coming up to him in an Apple Store and asking him if he was one of the geniuses in the genius bar. He also praised Sting's wide shoulders and questioned what the grandmother of "The Edge" thought about the name change. "He's calling himself what now?" he said in an old woman's voice.
His set was what I expected, a hushed, sedate string of songs about love and loss. More than "Who Can It Be Now?" and "Down Under," Hay put on a capable solo set. Who can't he be now?
Here's Mr. Hay singing "Overkill":