Colin Hay demonstrated to Indianapolis he still has appeal after 50 years in the music industry

Colin Hay beginning his performance at Butler University on March 20, 2024

What is the appeal of the aging rock star? This question was answered on March 20th on Butler’s Indianapolis campus as Colin Hay spent the evening at the Schrott Center for the Arts performing to the capacity crowd of nearly 500.

The Grammy Award winning musician has sold nearly 35 million records combined, as both the frontman for the multi-platinum band Men at Work and as a solo artist.

It has been more than 40 years since the debut of Business as Usual, the standout debut record for the Australian New Wave Rock phenoms, Men at Work. The album spent 15 weeks harboring the top spot on the Billboard charts, and catapulted Hay’s career.

Once one of the biggest music stars in the world, Hay has managed to keep his career alive, and to maintain a somewhat extensive touring schedule; although these days, there is much more intimacy in the size of the venues.

So let’s get back to the appeal . . .

He humbly entered the stage around 7:40pm, looking around the room, smiling, and waving. He went out of his way to make eye contact with several audience members, and even joked around with the crowd quite a bit. Even after the first song, making mention to a couple that had arrived late, being escorted by the venue’s staff, thanking them for coming out, as they took their seats.

With a small stage set that consisted of a vocal mic, a guitar mic, a guitar amp, a pedalboard, 3 guitars, and a random coat rack, Hay appeared within reach. Oh, there was also the most basic of green stage lights, of which Hay went out of his way to poke a little fun of throughout the show.

Like regular guy, he wore a pair of jeans, a tee-shirt, a jean jacket, and a pair of what looked like Chuck Taylor Converse hightops. Regular clothes!

Colin Hay is 70 years old, and his fans generally have a head of grey hair. A relaxed evening listening to acoustic music is the perfect speed for a Wednesday evening during this phase of our lives.

Hay was personable and extremely funny, keeping the audience laughing throughout each of his stories. And he is a pretty quality story teller!

He described his teenage years, his early life move from his home in Scotland to Australia, his admoration and love for his parents, and his introduction into music. He delighted us with how he first met Paul McCartney, and subsequently how the Beatle came to wash his dinner dishes at Hay’s Los Angeles home. We yearned for more insight, almost forgetting that this was a music concert.

He got around to playing plenty of music, however. He beautifully segued from story to song and back to story, performing several of his more recent solo tunes. He even performed a cover song, Waterloo Sunset, a 60’s hit by the Kinks, which he dubbed one of the great pop songs of all-times.

“There may be some that match it, but I don’t think there’s any better than this one,” he stated as he knocked it out of the park.

And then that moment arrived! You know, the moment where the artist finally plays one of the songs that you came to hear. He struck that high necked Eminor chord with a reggae feel and most in the audience began their applause for what they knew was about to come . . . It’s a Mistake, the top ten hit song from 1983.

Hay eventually got around to playing all four mega hits he recorded in the early days. He of course ended his 2-hour show with the fan favorite, Land Down Under.

The versions of his hits were great, true to the original, yet arranged for a solo guitar and voice. This is what the 50 and 60 something year old rock fans want to hear these days. We have been through all of the phases. We filled the stadiums, we crowded the arenas, we hooted, we hollered . . . but we are older now. We want to bring back just enough of the nostalgia and get to work on time the next day. Which Colin Hay delivered to perfection.

Colin Hay is not a household name, but few 50-70 year-olds are unable to hum along with the classics brought to us by Men at Work. He is not among anyone’s top 100 guitarist lists, but is a true technician of the instrument, and perfectionist of his craft. He spent quite a bit of time in between songs fine tuning his guitars, with what many might have mistaken as nervous energy. Instead, it is just a small part of the musical brilliance of Colin Hay.

Hay brought amazing appeal with him to Indianapolis and provided the audience with everything they could have desired walking into this truly incredible show! We walked away feeling as if we were a part of his success and his musical journey.

The audience delivers a standing ovation at the conclusion of Colin Hay’s performance in Indianapolis on May 20, 2024