STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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Colin Hay was part of this year’s “Last Summer on Earth” tour with the bands Barenaked Ladies and Violent Femmes.
One of the tour’s highlights was when the Femmes’ saxophone player and Hay stepped on stage with Barenaked Ladies to perform “Who Can It Be Now?,” the debut hit for Men at Work. Since most of Hay’s solo concert career over the last 25 years has been stripped-down acoustic, it was an uncommon full-band presentation of Hay’s 1981 composition.
“It was a well-spent summer for me,” said Hay, who has a new batch of songs to share with his 12th album, “Next Year People.”
He takes the stage at the Keswick Theatre Nov. 14. “I like playing there,” he said. Famously associated with being Australian, those in the audience may be surprised to hear Hay speaking with a distinct Scottish accent. He grew up in Scotland, and his family emigrated to Australia in 1967, when he was 14.
“Scotland’s a great place, but there was a lot of social entrenchment there,” said Hay, who now lives in Los Angeles.
When asked how the new wave era Men at Work songs are received by audiences in an acoustic setting, Hay said: “They always do well. A hit’s always gonna be a hit.”
“They live very comfortably with the other songs. It’s like a big, happy, dysfunctional family,” he laughed.
Those “other songs,” sung with Hay’s recognizable, still-quite-robust tenor, include the “Garden State” soundtrack song “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You;” “Waiting for My Real Life to Begin” from the 2013 film “Words and Pictures,” starring Clive Owen; and brand new songs “If I Had Been a Better Man,” which Hay had written for a movie that a friend of his was making; “Next Year People,” inspired by Ken Burns’ documentary “The Dust Bowl;” and “Did You Just Take the Long Way Home?,” which quotes a melodic snippet from Men at Work’s song “Overkill,” something Hay acknowledges but swears was accidental.
Hay toured as a member of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band in 2003 and 2008. He said performing the songs of his bandmates, such as Edgar Winter and Paul Carrack, made for “great memories.”
In one Colin Hay concert clip on YouTube, he mentions during an entertaining monologue that Starr once teased him on stage: “Play that song about that place you’re not from,” referring to Men at Work’s smash “Down Under.”
Hay said the in-concert storytelling interludes that happen between songs go back to his earliest solo shows. Soldiering on after the breakup of Men at Work in 1985, “I couldn’t afford to take a band with me,” he said, recalling playing the Tin Angel in Philadelphia. “Sometimes the audience looked like they were embarrassed for me because there were so few people (in the audience). I just started talking to them, and people responded to it,” he said.
Hay’s acting credits include the comedy TV series “Scrubs,” the 2006 animated feature “The Wild” and the 2008 horror film “The Uninvited.” He stressed that music is always his No. 1 priority, but stated: “I get offered those (acting) gigs by people who think I can do it. Listen, I’m very available.”
“Colin Hay: Waiting for My Real Life,” a documentary about the singer, debuted at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August.
Catch up with Hay at www.colinhay.com.