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BY MELISSA RUGGIERI
If Colin Hay weren’t such a terrific musician, he could fare well in stand-up comedy.
The former Men at Work frontman played a sold-out show at the Variety Playhouse on Friday — his usual haunt when he visits Atlanta — and talked almost as much as he played. And that’s just fine.
After opening with the elegant “Beautiful World” (aka, the song played on the last episode of “Scrubs” in 2002), Hay spoke amusingly of his admiration of Sting’s shoulders, joked about the old days when guitar techs would be waiting at the ready to hand him a tuned instrument (“That’s the first thing to go!”) and shared with the audience that he thought “Who Can it Be Now?”, the way it was originally written, sounded like “Masterpiece Theater” music (“Just before they hit you up for money.”).
He sounded robust and hearty on Men at Work’s first chart hit from 1981, and fans obliged happily when Hay cupped his ear and asked them to sing the “whoa-ohhh-OH” portion of the song.
In our recent interview, Hay, 62, talked about his longstanding relationship with the songs that made him a household name in the MTV era, and he seemed content to play them, even sharing a funny story about Men at Work’s performance at the closing ceremony at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia — “The biggest show I’ll ever play,” he said.
In between tales peppered with casually salty language, Hay stood on a stage sparsely adorned with four guitars, a table with some bottled water and a backdrop that showed images such as the video for “Down Under” as he performed the song in a slightly modified acoustic form.
The melancholy “Dear Father” was accompanied by photos of his dad on the screen, while later in his set, Hay spoke lovingly about spending time with his mother on her 90th birthday, shortly before her death in 2013. He offered a sweet tribute with “Scattered in the Sand,” from his current album, “Next Year People.”
Along with the title track and a couple of other songs from the album, Hay presented the bleak “Mr. Grogan,” which showcased his vivid storytelling skills. Men at Work fans know that a close listen to songs such as “Be Good Johnny” and “Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive” underscores their detailed lyrics.
Hay proves again on “Next Year People” — his 12th solo album — that his songwriting is as precise and heartfelt as ever and in concert, that his humor is intact as well.