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Tuesday, June 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A&E >  Music

Man (still) at work: Colin Hay mixes solo work and hits from the ’80s in his sets

UPDATED: Thu., May 9, 2019, 1:11 p.m.

Last time Colin Hay was in the area, in 2013, it was just him and his guitar on stage at the intimate Panida Theatre in downtown Sandpoint.

This time, the former Men at Work frontman is bringing a band for his show Saturday night at Northern Quest Resort and Casino.

His solo shows have a well-earned reputation for being loose affairs, with stories and jokes sprinkled throughout the evening. It’s a big tighter with a band, Hay said in a recent phone interview, so it’s a different experience.

“I love touring with a band because it’s like traveling with a gang,” he said. “You travel in a pack. You can go out to eat and do different things. It’s a family really more than anything while you’re on the road. So that’s good.”

He means it when he says family. His wife, singer Cecilia Noel, is touring with them. And his band? Well he poached a couple members from her band.

“My band is exceptional, I think,” he said.

Hay, 65, was born in Scotland where his dad owned a music shop. The family relocated to Australia when he was a teenager. He achieved a lot of success very quickly with Men at Work, the Melbourne-based band he formed with guitarist Ron Strykert and drummer Jerry Speiser in 1979. After adding keyboard player/flutist Greg Ham and bassist John Rees, the quintet released their debut album, “Business as Usual” in Australia in late 1981 and in the U.S. early the next year. It was huge: It spent 15 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. It sold 6 million copies in the U.S. and 15 million worldwide. They won the Grammy for best new artist

The follow-up album, 1983’s “Cargo,” didn’t do as well, but it still hit No. 1 in Australia and No. 3 in the U.S. But tensions in the band began rising. During the recording of “Two Hearts,” Speiser and Rees were fired. By the end of 1985, Strykert and Ham would be gone, too, and Hay turned his attention to building a solo career.

Fans of Men at Work will be happy to know that he has six or seven songs from that iconic ’80s band in his current setlist, including “Down Under,” “Who Can It Be Now” and “Overkill.” In fact, Hay is reviving the Men at Work name for a tour of Europe later this year.

“I was touring Europe last year with Ringo (Starr) and that’s where I got the idea,” Hay said. “I thought I’d try it and see what happens. It’s an experiment really.”

He’s quick to add that the tour will feature him with his current band. “I’ve made no secret of that. It’s just going to be a completely Men at Work set list as opposed to a few Men at Work songs and songs from the rest of the 13 records I’ve done since.”

Hay’s most recent release was the 2017 album “Fierce Mercy,” which he calls his favorite record that he’s done. When he’s off the road at the end of August, he anticipates he’ll head into the studio to make some more music.

“I really make the records because I can, and because people seem to like them who are my fans, and so it’s a great creative outlet,” he said. It’s one thing to just go record any old thing. Instead, he wants each one to have something special about it. “Sometimes you have to push for that and sometimes you have to wait for that,” Hay said. “It really depends on what’s going on. Hopefully it’ll be between the end of August and the start of next year that I’ll be able to release something for when I tour next year.”

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