AFTER a break of almost 15 years, Australian rockers Midnight Oil went back out on the road in 2017 playing sold out shows around the world.

Now the band are heading to Manchester as they continue to bring their music with a social conscience to old and new fans.

For drummer Rob Hirst there is a certain irony that songs, some written more than 40 years ago, remain as relevant today as when they were first performed.

“When we went back on the road sadly we found some of the issues that are part of Midnight Oil haven’t gone away and that in some ways some of the songs are more profound now than when we wrote them.

“We were talking about things like the problems faced by first nation people in Australia, homelessness, about protecting the environment and climate change. These are all issues which are still making the news today.”

For any band, reforming after a long absence can be a nervewracking experience. Midnight Oil stopped touring partly to allow lead singer Peter Garrett to further his political career. He first became an MP in Australia and was then appointed environment minister in Kevin Rudd’s Labour government.

But in 2017 they were ready to get back on the road.

“We did all wonder how it would go at that first rehearsal,” said Rob. “But Jim, Martin and Bones plugged in, I sat behind my kit, Pete got a very tall microphone and we sounded pretty much like ourselves straight away.

“It was quite frightening really, we sounded like an exaggerated version of ourselves.”

Having decided to get back on the road, Rob said the band weren’t taking anything for granted.

“There was a lot of anticipation for that reunion tour - after all it was so long since we had played together. From the start we decided that we should be able to play every song that we’d ever written in our set which proved to be a monumental task.

“By the time we came to getting on the road it was pretty much of a relief for all of us.”

The tour proved a huge success and was extended to include repeat visits to both the States and Europe.

“We ended up with a lot more shows than we began with on original tour,” said Rob.

“But there was such a great reaction we wanted to get out there and play to people who hadn’t seen the band for a long time or had never seen the band.”

For some bands, getting back together again can prove a mistake. But not so for Midnight Oil.

“We were very fortunate,” said Rob. “But we’re probably better mates now than we’ve ever been. In that time apart I think we realised how much we have done together and what a common history we have had and how fortunate we are to have such a big catalogue of songs we have got to play live.”

Now the boys are back on the road again - Sunday’s show in Manchester will be one of just two UK dates on the current tour.

“My only concern when we got back together was whether we would be able to play the songs with the same kind of mass energy we had,” said Rob. “But we showed that we could do that.

“We never want to do that polished old guy thing even though there are a lot of bands out there doing that.”

Even though now all in their sixties, Midnight Oil retain the energy in their live shows they had when they first started out.

“In the ‘70s when we started out in the pubs and clubs around Sydney were were playing up to 170 shows a year. The were crowded, overheated and smoky venues back then and there was nothing better to toughen a band up than that and we were in the thick of it

“It was almost a gladiatorial thing back then. If you didn’t give the audience what they wanted they could overwhelm the band.

“When we first toured outside of Australia, audiences seemed very sedate in comparison.”

What has surprised us has been the age of audiences at their shows.

“We were expecting a crowd of a certain age,” said Rob, “but there have been a lot of folks under 30 and quite a few in their teens all singing along. or maybe there has been a generational shift.

I think it’s a generational change. People don’t categorise music in the same way that we would have. They don’t care what vintage it comes from, they just like it or they don’t.”

And Rob had more good news for these new fans.

“We have spent the last month recording new songs that hopefully not too far down the track will end up on a new Midnight Oil album.”

Midnight Oil, Manchester Apollo, Sunday, June 9. Details from