Colin Hay was in lockdown at home in California, searching for ways to pass the time like the rest of us. He concluded, as perhaps many others did, “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself.”
Thankfully, the quick-witted Scotsman immediately connected the thought to a hit song of that title, written by Burt Bacharach and covered by Dusty Springfield in 1964. It was a song Colin loved from his youth, and he scoured his memories of his father’s record store in the ’50s and ’60s for other inspirational tunes. Colin recorded and released 10 of them as a covers album
So it turns out that Colin did in fact know what to do with himself, which was abundantly evident in a wonderfully engrossing show by the drily humorous veteran in the first of two nights at The Birchmere recently.
On Aug. 17 at The Birchmere, Colin appeared with his talented and good-spirited “band of immigrants,” consisting of, among others, his significant other Cecilia Noël on tambourine and backing vocals and scene-stealing Scheila Gonzalez on keys, saxophone, and flute.
During the first half of the show, Colin performed three of the covers from his new album, including title track “I Just Don’t Know” by Dusty Springfield, “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell, and sublimely “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks.
Stream I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself by Colin Hay on Spotify:
During the second half of the show, Colin revealed he also has another album of original material in the wings, and he introduced several of those songs including the lead song “Now and the Evermore,” a contemplative and lovely folk ditty that considers life’s journey and its end. Here as in other places, he slips a sly smile to Cecilia, who sings along and dances to his left.
All of this nicely kept the attention of the pretty full house, which undoubtedly would have been fully sold out if not for the resurgent coronavirus pandemic, but folks of course got very excited to hear material from Colin’s days as frontman of Men at Work, the Aussie outfit that put him on the musical map. Colin’s family immigrated to Australia in the late ’60s, you see, and he took that headful of tunes featured on his recent covers album along with him as influences when he went to craft those unforgettable tunes. He would immigrate again to Los Angeles after Men at Work broke up in the ’80s, providing us these terrific opportunities to see him regularly around the United States.
Out of 17 songs performed throughout the course of the evening, Colin showcased eight Men at Work songs, which I suspect is a few more than he usually would. The audience didn’t mind, and listened rapturously to initial numbers “Touching the Untouchables” and “Who Can It Be Now?” and broke out into heartfelt singalongs of “Down Under” and “Be Good Johnny” at the close of the show. If everyone was mindful not to jump up and dance out of respect for the threat of the coronavirus, Cecilia at least kicked up a storm during those final songs to capture the mood.
While Colin has a very good band among his latest recruits, Scheila Gonzalez really grabbed the spotlight with a stunning flute performance during “Down Under” and earlier with an impressive sax contribution during “Who Can It Be Now?” Brava, Sheila!
Catch Colin Hay on this current tour for a refreshing and thoroughly crowd-pleasing evening of well-loved tunes. We could all use exactly that after our own pandemic lockdowns.
Here are some photos of Colin Hay performing at The Birchmere on Aug. 17, 2021.