With Midnight Oil's live album (Scream in Blue) and their first "greatest-hits" collection (20,000 Watt R.S.L.), it might seem strange to learn of the band releasing yet another concert album of past favorites. However, there are a few important distinctions. First, The Real Thing has four new songs straight from the studio. Second, all these live songs are from the band's more subtle acoustic performances. And third, it is one of the most definitive collections the band has ever recorded. "The Dead Heart" sounds utterly magnificent, injecting restrained aboriginal majesty into one of the band's most over-played songs. However, "In the Valley" (taken from the band's MTV Unplugged show) is the most telling: Completely subverted into a piano-led solo instead of the original's searing peaks, Peter Garrett vocalizes the loss of the recent death of a loved one with such vulnerability it is nothing less than astonishing. So with this in mind, are the new studio tracks even worthwhile or just distractions? Well, both "Say Your Prayers" and "The Last of the Diggers" retain the renewed vitriol of albums like Redneck Wonderland, yet more with the natural tones of Earth and Sun and Moon this time around. One may feel that The Real Thing as a whole might lack the sheer onslaught of a more varied, "plugged" Midnight Oil, but even an embittered listener would have to admit that the band is first and foremost a live group. Because to showcase such strengths in this enormously rewarding collection of acoustic live selections is a welcome open door for a casual listener as well as a blowing kiss to longtime, loyal fans.
AllMusic Review by Dean Carlson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2