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ROCK GROUP BLENDS ENTERTAINMENT, ACTIVISM

Call it conscience rock. Call it morality in music. Call it self-righteous, overbearing, preachy.

You also have to call it mandatory. Being concerned about the environment, nuclear weapons, world hunger or animal rights is no longer an optional frill for the ambitious, industrious would-be rock star. It's a must.Nonetheless, it's hard not to be impressed with the amount of good that can be done by a conscientious rock star, regardless of his or her motives. Witness, for example, the $150 million in relief money for Ethiopia in 1985 following the "Live Aid" concerts in the United States and Europe.

And it's hard not to be impressed with Midnight Oil, Australia's crusading crooners who will stop in Utah for a Saturday evening show at ParkWest.

Midnight Oil would have to be counted among the first wave of rockers who brought social consciousness back to popular music. They have campaigned on behalf of aborigines and against developers. In "Blue Sky Mine," the band demands restitution from mining companies whose workers are dying of cancer. The band also performed in front of the Exxon Building in New York last May, singing "Your dream world is just about to end."

The line between activism and entertainment became even more blurred when Oil lead singer Peter Garrett narrowly lost a hotly contested race for the Australian Senate.

But Midnight Oil's saving grace is that band members don't kid themselves about their roll in facilitating change. They seem to see themselves as primarily entertainers - entertainers with a lot on their minds, surely, but still only entertainers.

"We just think of ourselves as writers who have written about things that they care about - about the country," drummer Rob Hirst said in a 1988 Deseret News interview. "We just try to transcend the usual meaningless drivel from so many people in leotards posing as Hendrix."

Midnight Oil has built a slow, steady following and now counts as one of the genuine musical talents in the world today. Their breakthrough album came in 1988 with the album "Diesel and Dust." They are on tour this summer with the release of their seventh album, "Blue Sky Mining."

"Hunters and Collectors" opens the ParkWest show, which begins at 7:30 p.m.