Review by Ryan Beardsley

Like many people of my generation, my first experience of Men At Work was Colin Hay, strumming his guitar in the daydreams of JD, in popular 2000s sitcom Scrubs. Overkill was the song in question, and once I’d busted out the dial up connection and spent 45 minutes downloading the track via Napster, I was hooked.

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Photo Credit Jorge Sayegh

Fast forward 20 years later, and M.A.W. announce their first run of shows in over 15 years and I knew I couldn’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity. However, as I stood waiting in anticipation in the middle of a packed out Shepherd’s Bush Empire and the band embarked on stage, it didn’t take a genius to notice that this was not the original line up…

I instantly forget this point as the band launch into Touching The Untouchables and it’s clear Colin Hay is still in fine form and the group of musicians he’s brought along are up to the task, and he even makes light of the fact that it is not a reunion as he joshes with the boisterous crowd.

It’s A Mistake shows that Hay’s voice has stood the test of time and he can clearly still hit those high notes in impressive style but the crowd is also on hand to assist and it’s refreshing to see the band are clearly having just as good a time as the audience, if not more so!

Down By The Sea slows things down a little and allows the crowd and the band to catch their breaths, particularly London’s Australian contingent who appear to have descended en masse to Shepherd’s Bush to welcome their countryman, making for a great atmosphere.

Hay takes the opportunity once again to identify the elephant in the room with regards to the band’s line up and brings up Greg Ham. Ham, the only other founding member of the band who continued to play with Men At Work until his death in 2012 has his memory toasted by the crowd and emotions are clearly running high.

There’s no time to dwell as Who Can It Be Now? is next up and the quality of the session musicians comes to the fore with their performance of the band’s breakout hit. True there can be no substitute for the late, great Greg Ham but the band more than do the song justice for the highlight of the evening.

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Photo Credit Jorge Sayegh

Before we hit the home straight, the set is broken up by a Colin Hay solo number from his most recent record Fierce Mercy. It’s a nice little ditty, but why Colin, why couldn’t you have played Beautiful World or My Brilliant Feat from your solo catalogue? Oh well.

The band have saved the best ‘til last as the familiar strumming on Hay’s guitar gets the crowd bouncing for Overkill which is followed by signature hit Down Under and the Shepherd’s Bush Empire is temporarily transported to down town Melbourne and it’s clear we’re being spoiled here.

We get one more hit from an encore performance of Be Good Johnny which the band races through at maximum speed to end the night on a high, harmonies as ever provided by the grateful crowd and just like that, Hay leads his troops off stage after a job well done.

On reflection, of course it wasn’t the big reunion some might have expected but Colin Hay has brought together a fine group of musicians to fill the gaps left by his old comrades and if people want to still hear the hits (as they clearly do) then what harm is there?

On a final note, my fellow gig goer was suffering from pollen allergies due to the London sunshine and spent most of the gig sneezing, so if anyone’s night was ruined, please accept my apologies on her behalf. I remarked that she might have Colin Hayfever… nevermind.

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