Originally, I was considering titling this article, “Colin Hay vs. St. Patrick’s Drunkards,” but modesty and respect for the artist and venue veered me away from that title, but not enough to leave it out of this review. On Friday, March 16, Colin Hay played the Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points to a sold out (or nearly sold out) seated audience. Hay is currently on a solo tour for his 2011 album, Gathering Mercury. If you are not familiar with his name or sound, think front man for the popular 1980’s group Men at Work that had hits including, “Down Under,” “Who Can It Be Now?,” and “Overkill.” Still not familiar? Ok, or maybe you would recognize him from his guest appearance on the hit tv show Scrubs (in an episode titled “My Overkill”), where he chased an emotional J.D. (Zach Braff) around while playing his guitar and singing, “Overkill.” He has also been on the soundtrack for Scrubs and the movie Garden State, as well as making special guest appearances on the Larry Sanders Show and a birthday serenade for Ellen on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Musically, Hay continues to have the strong, distinctly booming voice that he is famous for and makes a wide variety of guitars sing with him. He’s not much of a showman on stage, preferring to stand, sing, and play guitar instead of opting to walk the stage, sit, or make wild rock gestures, but his singer/songwriter style and ample anecdotes (stories and jokes) do not require him to be a stage showboat. He spoke poignantly about his childhood, his meeting with Sir Paul McCartney (of The Beatles fame), and the hilarity of “goats appearing and fading away” for one music lover. The beauty of his craft is in his ability to weave his life’s tale into funny stories and song while keeping the audience in stitches and awe throughout the set. His set list included classic tunes from Men at Work mixed with his solo work.

The timing of his appearance at the Variety Playhouse proved to be hard on the audience because several had already started their St. Patrick’s Day weekend of drunken revelry (which was way more boisterous and obnoxious than the audience was for his show last year). Hay received a bit of loud retorts and commentary from the peanut gallery during his set, which was annoyingly distracting and not necessary for his style of music. A few drunken audience members opted to talk during several songs, which persuaded and pissed off other concert goers, setting up for heated arguments and discussions that were eventually subdued by others. Luckily, Hay seemingly shrugged it off and kept his enthusiasm during his set and even stayed afterwards for a meet and greet, photo op, and memorabilia signing.

photos by Gary Phillips

Colin Hay Set List included these songs:
Wayfaring Sons
Who Can It Be Now?
Into the Cornfields
Beautiful World
Gathering Mercury
Family Man
Going Somewhere
Dear Father
Prison Time
Send Somebody
I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You
Waiting For My Real Life To Begin
Down Under