Nils von Kalm

My take on faith, life and how it all might fit together

Category: Music

Oils at the Bowl

I almost made the calamitous mistake of choosing not to go and see Midnight Oil on their current ‘Great Circle’ tour. I figured I had seen them a couple of times previously, and I could do something else with the $100 that was the ticket price. I won’t make that mistake again. What was I thinking?!

So, when the opportunity came up last week to grab a ticket, my impulsive nature made an uncommonly good decision. I paid the price and got my ticket.

As I stood on the lawn of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl as the band came onto the stage, storm clouds were gathering around Melbourne and the rain was gaining momentum. The cool change had come and I was getting wet. But it didn’t matter. I was glad that stupidity hadn’t gotten the better of me by knocking back the chance at being here. This was the Oils at the Music Bowl. I looked around at the crowd, represented by a few generations as Peter Garrett broke into the famous, maniacal dance moves that only he can do. I couldn’t get the smile off my face. You know when you’re glad you’ve made a wise decision, and this was one of those times.

I first started following the Oils as a 13 year old. They have been part of my life for 35 years, and they are as good and energetic today as they were back in those heady days of the early 1980s when songs like ‘US Forces’, ‘Short Memory’ and ‘Read About It’ became legendary Australian rock anthems almost as soon as they were released.

The aura that Midnight Oil have had about them comes down to a few factors: no-nonsense, intelligent, unflinching political and social commentary which is as prophetic as it is bold, a tall, bald singer whose dance moves are uniquely natural and at the same time almost out of control, a passion and energy that brilliantly complements the lyrics of their songs, and finally, just really, really good, raw, authentic (non-manufactured) rock ’n’ roll.

It is a sad irony that many of their songs which were made so famous in the ’80s and ’90s are suddenly relevant again. ‘Blue Sky Mine’ is now an indictment on the Adani coal mine, and ‘US Forces’ brings up nightmarish images of Donald Trump’s massive spending increases on the military and his fawning of nuclear weapons.

The other thing that grabbed me about this tour was the impact of the legacy of Peter Garrett’s own political career. All now seems forgiven after he was seen by many to have sold out by entering the bureaucracy of the political machine in Canberra as a Minister in the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Governments. People just wanted to come along to hear legendary Aussie rock. I think we are all just glad to have the Oils back doing what they do best.

Midnight Oil captured much of my generation in the ‘80s, and 30 years later they have captured some of the younger generations. I just hope that the younger people in the crowd at the Bowl during the week are able to appreciate what the Oils are about, and the impact they had on this country back then. They have always had their own sound, their own presence. It is theirs; they have never tried to be anyone they are not, from when they first started out in the Sydney pub scene in the late 1970s, to when they famously wore their ‘Sorry’ t-shirts in front of a global audience of 2 billion at the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, to today, when they are rocking the world again, both musically and with their powerful criticism of injustice and environmental degradation.

When passion is combined with the goodness of a cause, the energy that is exuded can be breathtaking. Midnight Oil are the quintessential example of this. You know a band has legend status when they can play their greatest songs and the lead singer can just stand back, hold the microphone to the crowd and let us sing, and we all know every word. It is a reciprocal gesture of respect and giving. The Oils have given so much to us over the decades, and we want to keep turning up to their shows and give back to them.

Midnight Oil have been a major part of my inspiration to be a part of the solution to the problems of the world since I was a quiet teenager. Who would have thought that a lanky, bald, tall singer with a crazy dance routine, and his band of brilliant musicians, could influence so many? You wouldn’t read about it.

Bono on the Psalms

You may recall that last year Fuller Seminary in the US did an interview between Bono and Eugene Petersen. It was fascinating and got a lot of coverage in Christian circles.

This time Fuller have a series of short clips of Bono talking about the Psalms. His critique of Christian music is what much of the latter is not: honest and hard-hitting. Check it out here:

Bono & David Taylor: Beyond the Psalms – Fuller Studio

On the first year anniversary of FULLER studio, we reflect on our inaugural conversation on the Psalms between author Eugene Peterson and musician Bono. In celebration, we are pleased to offer five new, exclusive videos from an additional interview conducted subsequently in New York.

Bono and Eugene Peterson on the Psalms

Bono and Eugene Peterson struck a friendship some years ago when the U2 singer messaged the author of The Message in thanks for the translation and the impact it had on Bono.

What followed was a connection between kindred spirits who both had a passion for the rawness and brutal honesty of the Psalms.

Last year Bono met with Peterson and his wife at their ranch in Montana and recorded a conversation about the impact the Psalms had had on each of them. The conversation was released to the public today. It’s a fascinating insight into the minds of two remarkable people…

 

Bono & Eugene Peterson on THE PSALMS – Fuller Studio

Special Thanks to David Taylor , Brehm Texas , and Fourth Line Films for their vision for this project. + Bono , Grammy award-winning artist and lead singer of U2. + Eugene Peterson , beloved author, pastor, and writer of The Message.

The Inbreaking is here

screen-shot-2015-10-24-at-9-19-40-pmThe Inbreaking is Eden Parris’ third album, and his music still impacts me the same way it did when I first heard it about five years ago.

Having known Eden for quite a few years now, I have seen how his music and lyrics arise out of a genuine, searching faith that seeks to make real his passion for the kingdom of Jesus to come on earth as in heaven.

Eden’s music is a breath of fresh air in a world of Christian music that is largely manufactured for marketing purposes. Albums like The Inbreaking are strangely reminiscent of many of the old Christian hymns, not for their musical style but for their earthy, genuinely Christian theology.

The title and opening song of the album illustrates this eloquently. A song about the inbreaking of the kingdom of God in Jesus, it strongly reflects the hope of the outbreaks of God’s reign on earth that are being seen across this weary world.

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Song for Charleston and the world

The recent tragedy in Charleston highlights again the tragedy of mental illness and the darkness that envelops much of people’s lives. The media feeds us with fear and stories of despair, but we rarely hear the stories of hope and goodness in the world.

John Mellencamp wrote this song more than 20 years ago, and it seems more relevant than ever in 2015. I’ve been listening to this song a bit recently. Some of the lyrics have been sticking in my mind, and they are even moreso after the tragedy of Charleston.

In particular, the second half of the second verse strikes me as prophetic to this time in our lives:

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Missy Higgins – honest, raw and genuine

Missy_Higgins_@_Sir_Stewart_Bovell_Park_(8_1_12)_(6693050923)I have had the privilege over the years of seeing some great musicians live. And as someone who is not musical in the sense of playing or singing, I have found that the great artists all have their own unique sound: U2 and Midnight Oil come to mind for me. Another one is Missy Higgins.

When you have that sense that the first time you listen to an artist that there is something special here, it stays with you. That’s what happened when I first listened to Higgins’ first album, The Sound of White, about 10 years ago. The emotion, honesty and vulnerability in the stories she tells through her songs, songs of the everyday joys and pains of life, as well as her unique Australian sound, have had an impact on me that always have me looking forward to her next release.

Seeing her live though was something else. She has a wonderfully quirky, comfortable stage presence, like she is having a conversation with you. She has that wonderful combination of being a self-confessed introvert yet possessing the ability to be a natural on stage, confident and able to just be herself. With Missy Higgins, what you see is what you get.

Her songs generally tell a story of life in all its beauty and ugliness, and of the impact that music and people have had on her. Her latest album, Oz, is a covers album of songs that have had an effect on her young life. Like me, it is the lyrics of songs that have the greatest impact on her. It might be a line or just the way in which the story is told that triggers memories of days gone by when significant events happened to us or when there were turning points in our lives. This is what makes Missy Higgins so easy to listen to.

Higgins’ music over the years has followed the example of those who have influenced her. But, like many quality artists, she is a whole package. It is her lyrics that inspire and take you to another place, but it is also how she sings, in that raw, honest, Australian drawl with a music that is fitting for the mood of the lyrics.

Not many artists are so open about their musical journey, but seeing footage of Higgins’ life as she sang songs that describe her joys and pains, gives you a sense of connection that only the really good artists possess. Again, like artists of true quality, you come away from a Missy Higgins song feeling like you know her just a little bit more. That feeling was amplified seeing her live, as she told of the ways in which the songs from Oz left their mark on her. There was an intimacy about a show like this that leaves you both satisfied at the end yet disappointed that it couldn’t go on for longer.

This was the last live show for Higgins for at least 12 months, due to the fact that, in her words, she has another project coming up next year which involves trying to bring up a human being.

The setting of the Regent Theatre in the heart of Melbourne was fitting for this excellent show. Performing her last show for a while in her home town, in a venue that is such an icon of this beautiful city, just added to the sense of occasion and feeling that was evoked by her presence. When she eventually tours again, be sure not to miss out on experiencing the delightfully ordinary, accessible yet beautiful stage-presence of an Australian icon.

Album Review – Rumours of Hope

Eden Parris is a friend of mine who I have known for a few years now. He has always impressed me as a man who is genuine in his friendship and desire to be a good person. I spent some time with him on a men’s camp last year and we ended up having quite a deep conversation about our lives and about our view of Christian faith. It turned out that we share similar views. So when, as he left the camp, he gave me a copy of his album Rumours of Hope, I looked forward to listening to it, not really knowing what to expect in terms of the type of music and what he would be singing about.

After listening to a few songs I was hooked. This is a special album, and Eden is a special songwriter. Of all the Christian music going around today, you don’t hear alot about the biblical message of the kingdom of God and about the good news of who Jesus really is and the new creation that he has inaugurated. Much Christian music is about feeling good, and unlike most of the old hymns, does not contain much good theology, and therefore doesn’t bring us close to the God we worship. As far as great theology goes, Eden’s songs are alot closer to the old hymns than much of today’s Christian music.

To paraphrase Walter Brueggemann, this is an album of prophetic imagination. Throughout the songs, Parris inspires us to dream of a better world, a world that is not just a pipe dream, but a world that, if we dare to believe it, has already been inaugurated in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Some of the lyrics from the first song, A Deeper Magic, say it all:

Have you heard on the wind
Distant murmurs of Spring
They say Aslan is on the move
And the people in caves are beginning to pray
They say that he will be here soon
To banish the night and to make all things right
To colour the earth with his song
But the most precious thing is it’s already Spring
It was hidden right here all along

 

This is just a sample of the quality of lyric (more of which can be seen in the video of the whole song above) and inspiration that we see on this album. But it is not just dreaming that we are called to in these songs. They also draw us out of our fears and natural cynicisms to be a part of something bigger, something worthwhile, rather than be caught up in the treadmill of a life that is on its way out.

Clearly influenced by Jesus’ message of the kingdom that is both now and not yet, as well as by such geniuses as C.S. Lewis, this is an album that is easy to relate to. It not only draws you out of yourself, but Parris also gets quite personal and sings of issues that resonate with the astute listener, be they about the relationship struggles that we all go through if we want to make them work, or about the encouragement that we all need on the often trudging road to our destiny of love.

It is not just the lyrics that make this album so enjoyable though. It is the musical style that evokes a certain simple joy in the midst of struggle and pain. The lyrics and the music complement each other to bring out the sure and certain hope of the kingdom despite what  too many people experience in our world of injustice and inhumanity.

This is an album that leaves you wanting more. It inspires a desire to live the dream, but not the dream that our society talks of. This album speaks of a dream that is just so much better and complete that it doesn’t bear comparing to anything that we think is special in this world’s way of thinking.

This album has lyrics and music that more people need to be made aware of. I recently watched Eden play live with one of his band members, during which he played a song that will be on a forthcoming album. I’ll be keeping an eye on Eden’s Facebook page for the details. If it is anything like Rumours of Hope, it will be well worth the wait.

If you would like to book Eden Parris and his band The Second Chance, email edenparris@yahoo.com.au

Playing for Change – Stand by Me

Fuzz Kitto preached at church this morning and played this magnificent clip of people playing John Lennon’s classic Stand by Me as part of the ‘Playing for Change’ initiative. I think some of the lyrics were changed to highlight the importance of standing by each other. As Roger Ridley in this moving performance says, no matter our situation in life, we need somebody to stand by us. We are made for relationship, and without healthy relationship in our lives, we are less human than we could be. We are created for God and for each other. Check out this inspirational clip:

Top 10 favourite songs

I was among a group of people who was recently asked their top 10 favourite songs of all time. My first thought is how can I do a top 10 when there have been so many songs that have impacted me over my life. For a start I could list just about any song from U2, such has been the inspiration of so much of their music. Then there are at least 10 from John Mellencamp that could be considered worthy of making a top 10 of all time according to me, as could a mtriad of songs frmo Midnight Oil. One band that didn’t make it was Queen, with a few of their songs that have certainly hit the spot. But in the end there can be only 10. So here is the list, with apologies to the many who did not make it:

  1. All I Want is You – U2
  2. Window in the Skies – U2 (a song I would like played at my funeral)
  3. For the Children – John Mellencamp
  4. The Real Life – John Mellencamp
  5. The Long and Winding Road – The Beatles
  6. In My Life – The Beatles
  7. In the Valley – Midnight Oil
  8. The Special Two – Missy Higgins
  9. Secret Garden – Bruce Springsteen
  10. Blow up the Pokies – The Whitlams

And for the best live performance of all time, can anyone go past U2’s Where the Streets Have No Name? One of their many anthems, I have never seen a peformer have 50,000 screaming fans in the palm of his hand like Bono does when this song is performed live. It sends shivers down my spine and makes me want to get up out of my chair and jump around the room. Check it out:

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