Concert Review: Tame Impala

Tame Impala

The stereotypes that come with a psychedelic rock band are completely thrown out the window when you witness Tame Impala live – Kevin Parker and his band are a class act.

Last night at Shed 6 in Wellington there were swirling colourful lights akin to something from the LSD heyday, guitar riffs to send you into a head spin and drum beats to make you shake – and it all came without the sloppy rockstar antics I’ve come to expect from other bands within this genre.

Australian Kevin Parker is a musical genius and his accomplished band bring his songs to life in a manner like nothing I’ve quite seen before. From get go I was entranced. They burst on stage and built momentum as an incredible light and graphic show, which would mesmerise us all night long, filled the stage. The reverberating base lines kicked in and the echoing synth took flight as Intro built the tension. It was the perfect lead into Let It Happen, which immediately bewitched the crowd. The epic song of 2015, Tame Impala’s first single off new album Currents, twisted and turned for eight minutes of magic. Lyrics were screamed, air guitars imitated the ever-changing riffs and feet and hands slapped along to the enchanting beat. It was heaven for Tame fans and the perfect way to kick the night off.

The audience was next treated to some older tracks like Mind Mischief, Why Won’t They Talk To Me and It’s Not Meant To Be. Each song was played to perfection with Parkers ethereal falsetto vocals soaring above the grungy base brought together so brilliantly by a talented set of musicians. Of course, Parker is the brains behind the business, he writes, performs and produces all of his songs, but without this stunning band, his famous live set wouldn’t be so well polished. Jay Watson, Dominic Simper, Cam Avery and Julien Barbagallo are faultless and their onstage personas sit perfectly alongside Parker. As for the main man, he is humble and grateful, has simple and short interactions with the audience and doesn’t get up to any outrageous stage antics but knows the perfect moment to swing his guitar high in the air, throw his cup of drink over the crowd or start the crowd clapping or singing.

This tour was of course to showcase Tame’s new material and it is fantastic stuff. For me, the tracks off Currents were a class above the rest, it seems like Parker has now perfected his art. The Moment, Cause I’m a Man and Yes I’m Changing move away from the loud noise of earlier songs and were more refined in my opinion. The lyrics are more meaningful and easier to follow and the melodies are clearer, all this while still maintaining the trippy rock sound Tame is famous for.

But it was still older track Elephant that was the clear crowd favourite and it was performed with finesse. The audience, filled with a number of long haired and bearded Parker lookalikes, danced up a storm and sang their hearts out as the band came alive during what is obviously one of their best-loved tunes as well.

Another clear highlight came in the encore as we were treated to Feels Like We Only Go Backwards before things closed on a monumental take on Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control. Tame Impala left the stage of their final show this tour, as the synth still hummed and the lights still swirled and everyone in the crowd remained completely hypnotised. Nobody wanted it to be over, the show was just that good.

Concert Review: Elton John

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There’s a reason Elton John is still packing out concerts with crowds of 30,000 people. At 68, this music superstar still knows how to put on one hell of a show.

Last night Westpac Stadium in Wellington every attendee would have been mesmerized as he played his Yamaha piano with every bit of fervor imaginable and sang those lyrics we all love so much to life.

The tempo was upbeat right from the get go as we were treated to a nice warm up with Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, before the diamante-clad, sunglass wearing icon burst into Bennie and the Jets and a contagious happiness spread around the crowd. A poignant moment came next during Candle in the Wind when the modern day lighter – people’s cellphone torches – had the whole stadium twinkling like thousands of tiny stars.

 Watching his fingers glide up and down the piano was gripping, particularly in a stripped back version of The One and the always enchanting Your Song.

 We were reminded why his most famous album was named after the song Goodbye Yellow Brick Road as the crowd echoed every word of the epic ballad. I was blown away by how the crowd took over the chorus, it was a moment I’ll never forget.

A similar feeling of overwhelming emotion came as John dedicated Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me to Jonah Lomu on the week of his death. There were plenty of wet eyes around me as the song built in crescendo to a chilling finale.

Elton John has so many hits that his 24 song set list could have featured only number ones, but it was lovely to hear a few random songs from different albums over the years interspersed between the real bangers, especially because you could see the joy he felt in playing them. In saying this, there was one run of big hits all in a row which was particularly fun for the audience to dance and scream along to: Levon, Tiny Dancer, Daniel, Philadelphia Freedom, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Rocket Man – it doesn’t get much better than that does it?

The concert came to a close with a dance party as he energetically sang I’m Still Standing and Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting. Fists were punched into the air as people took on the role of back-up singer and echoed “Saturday” over and over with ridiculous grins on their faces.

Elton John was back on stage in a flash to give us the encore we all wanted and nobody was disappointed to hear Crocodile Rock which was a stellar way to finish the night.

Before the show there were whispers around me that he just couldn’t be the performer he used to be any more. “He’s too old” they said. Well last night Elton John proved those naysayers wrong, he’s still bloody fantastic. The Bitch Is Back.

Concert Review: Fleetwood Mac

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They may be old, but they sure don’t act like it.

Fleetwood Mac are the ultimate performers and last nights show at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin was just what fans were after. After the first four songs – The Chain, You Make Loving Fun, Dreams and Second Hand News – my friend turned to me and exclaimed: “and there are still so many good songs to come!” That statement perfectly summed up how you felt the whole night as the band charged through hit after hit with a contagious energy.

Having Christine McVie back on board for this tour was acknowledged by Stevie Nicks early on as being such a blessing and I definitely agree. When the band last toured here in 2009 they were powerful enough with the four of them, but adding her musical abilities and her amazing collection of songs into the mix gave this concert a whole extra layer. It was fantastic to hear Little Lies, Everywhere and Say You Love Me all sung by McVie who’s voice is well intact.

The magic of a band like this is that each and every member is such a talented musician. With three of the best song writers of all time the variation between songs is refreshing when so many acts today sound same-same. Each writers tunes are equally loved by the audience and it sounds fresh and exciting going from an impressive Lindsay Buckingham guitar picking track like Big Love straight to a slow Nicks ballad like Landslide which had the whole crowd captivated.

Other highlights for me included Gypsy which had the whole crowd dancing up a storm, a lovely rendition of Never Going Back Again and an attention grabbing Gold Dust Woman. (In which Nicks appropriately donned a very shiny gold jacket).

As with their last show, Lindsay Buckingham really stood out for me. He lead the action on stage, didn’t take a single break, sang beautifully and played guitar solos that sent shivers down your spine. In comparison, although as compelling as ever, Nicks’ voice is definitely not what it used to be. It’s a pity she can no longer hit the higher notes in tracks like Rhiannon, but she does make up for it in presence.

As the set came to a close with a singalong to be envied during Go Own Way. They came back on to rapturous applause and played World Turning featuring an interactive Mick Fleetwood drum solo in his true, hilarious fashion. Then the crowd went wild as they busted out a foot-stomping Don’t Stop. I thought it was all over then, but my dream came true as the group played Silver Springs, this song was mesmerising, I was completely enthralled as it grew in momentum and their voices built a wall of sound to good to be true. I could have gone home happy then, but we got one more taste of Fleetwood Mac and it came in a beautiful performance of Songbird which left a tear in my eye. What a way to finish.

My only complaint about last night is that the acoustics at Forsyth Barr are shocking. It was my first concert at this venue so I was interested to check it out but the technical quality I witnessed last night doesn’t make me want to travel here for a show again. It’s great having a roof on a cold Dunedin night but the echo at the back of the stands was so bad it hurt your ears. Things got better after we ditched our seats and headed into general admission but only marginally. I was glad I’d seen the group before at the Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth because it meant I knew they sounded even better than they were coming across last night.

Still, that said, last nights concert was one hell of a show and worth every cent. Fleetwood Mac are easily one of the best live acts of all time and with a set list as good as that – you can’t go too wrong. Auckland are in for a treat with their two shows this weekend.

Song of the Week – Anna

Song of the Week – Anna by Will Butler

Will Butler, one of the many geniuses behind Arcade Fire, has released his first solo album Policy. It’s all pretty impressive stuff but the second released single Anna, is just superb. To me, it’s the catchiest song of the year.

It may be a simple track lyrically but that is more than made up for by it’s energy. The song bumps and bounces along in such a fashion it’s impossible not to shimmy along with it as you listen. In fact, I’ve just realised my typing has even synced into a tapping pattern as I listen and write.

Arcade Fire is famous for its longer songs which build with emphasis as they roll along, but Will Butler’s solo work takes the short and sharp approach and it’s just as effective. Anna doesn’t mess around, right from the get go there’s a strong drum beat, a funky synth rhythm and repetitive vocals and these don’t let up throughout the song. Butlers falsetto’s at the start of the chorus are such an enthralling contrast to his lower tone as he echoes the last word of the line “cause you got to get money”.

This song is contagious, refreshingly unique and happy. I just love everything about it!

If you are a fan do have a decent listen to Policy. It is a fantastic album with a lot of light and shade. Butler teamed up with The Guardian newspaper and wrote five of the songs on it around news headlines. This makes for fascinating listening as he portrays his take on ISIS, the Greek economy, black holes and more. At an Arcade Fire concert Will Butler always stands out on stage, which is credit to him given how entertaining all of the band members are. I’m thrilled to be able to explore his own talents in this solo album.

Concert Review: Mel Parsons

Mel Parsons plays the Paramount Theatre in Wellington.
Mel Parsons plays the Paramount Theatre in Wellington.

Before last night I liked Mel Parsons, now I love Mel Parsons.

Last nights show was a hit with fans who filled the Paramount Theatre to check out her latest offerings live. The Christchurch based Kiwi folk artist has created a refreshing new sound in her latest album Drylands which was recorded at Wellington’s Surgery Studio with the help of Lee Prebble, Oliver Harmer and Gerry Paul. The quality of the record has been endorsed by Prebble and Harmer winning the Best Engineer gong in the New Zealand Music Awards, a well deserved prize I say.

Drylands has a more mature sound than her previous works and when performed live it takes on a whole other level. Parsons voice is so powerful, it soars above the instruments and holds the attention. But the backing work from her compelling band was also mesmerising. Gerry Paul was captivating on guitar, drummer Jed Parsons is one to watch, he stood out when he stepped forward to sing with his cousin in the dreamy track Don’t Wait. Julia Deans is one hell of a vocalist and packs a punch even in a backing role and double bassist Aaron Stewart stole the show a few times as he busted out mighty solos. I admire an artist who truly appreciates their band and Parsons relationship with hers is clearly a good one, it was nice to watch.

Parsons shared with us a series of beautiful songs from Drylands, interspersed with material from her two previous albums. She is a natural storyteller, not just in her songs but in conversation, which meant each tune had a short but solid explanation which helped to connect the audience. We learnt Fireworks, a gentle love song anyone would enjoy, was written for her sister on her wedding day. We giggled away as she narrated the struggle she went through to name her album because all the song titles she wanted to use were already taken by Nickleback, Katy Perry or Bear Grylls. In the end she went with Drylands, one of the first lyrics of Non Communicado. This song was a favourite of mine, it showcases lovely light and shade in her voice and instrumental crescendos.

The most poignant moment for me was when the band left the stage and Parson’s played a stunning acoustic take on Things Will Get Good, a song she tells us was written for her friend who had a hard time dealing with depression and eventually took his own life. She dedicated the song to everyone in the crowd with a little “sadness in their hearts” telling us this song contains all the things she wishes she could’ve said to her friend. It is a beautiful lyrical piece and she played it with impressive emotive control, her voice soaring across the notes without a shake – it was tear invoking.

Her two latest singles Get Out Alive and Far Away were more upbeat tracks which had you foot tapping and clapping along. The tale of her near-death car crash experience isn’t your normal song material as she expressed with humour, but it works and makes for a fresh and compelling tune. To finish the set Parsons got her musician friends in the audience up on stage to form a powerful backing choir in Far Away. This song with an Irish twist was first showcased when she toured with Fly My Pretties so it was lovely to hear it performed in a group setting again.

A very impressed crowd applauded with enough enthusiasm to provoke an unplanned encore which we were lucky to get. Parsons and her band performed a chilling version of the Eagles Seven Bridges Road. Their five part harmony was epic, it sent shivers down my spine and made my mouth drop open. The perfect encore. A night with Mel Parsons and her band was the perfect way to finish the weekend, I’ll be lining up to get tickets next time she’s in town.

I must also pay credit to Julia Deans who was the opening act for the night. She tested out her latest material, which will make up a new solo album being released next year, and I was impressed. For a start, this woman has one of the largest vocal ranges around. She soars above the high notes with absolute control of her voice. For just one woman and a guitar, Julia Deans commanded the audience, threw in a bit of comedy for good measure, and put on a stunning show. I’ll look forward to hearing these songs, particularly my set favourite, We Light Fire, when her album comes out around April.

Concert Review: Robbie Williams

Robbie Williams plays the Basin Reserve in Wellinton.
Robbie Williams plays the Basin Reserve in Wellington.

Robbie Williams wanted to entertain us and that he did.

The naughty English rocker played the Basin Reserve in Wellington last night. This show of singalongs was the perfect way for Kiwis to distract themselves from the nerves of the looming Rugby World Cup final this morning.

I have no doubt big fans of Robbie Williams would have got exactly what they were after last night. His show was typical of his cheeky character and hilariously amusing, it featured hit after hit from the musicians 90s heyday and it was pulled of with an on stage ease.

To love a bit of Robbie you’ve got to love a bit of cheese, and that’s exactly what he gave. He burst onto the stage following a dramatic, NASA-rocket-launch type countdown, teasing us with lyrics from some of his best songs. Immediately the thousands of middle-aged women around us were screaming as if they’d traveled back in time to their teenage years as he leapt around the stage pelvic thrusting during Let Me Entertain You and Rock DJ.

Things slowed down a notch here with a dreadful song I’d never heard before, Me and My Monkey. It was a stupid track to include in a mostly upbeat set list. But it wasn’t long before things were back on track and the crowd was boogying again. He brought out his opening act, boy band Lawson for a lovely version of Take That’s Back For Good and from there came the ones we were waiting for.

Feel was my pick for performance of the night and Supreme was another crowd pleaser. A duet with his black tie wearing “daddy” to Better Man was musically flat but rather cute. I still find it rather ironic hearing him sing about wanting to be a better man when he spent half the show swearing, talking about being “soberish” and singing a tune written for his two-year-old son called Motherfucker.

Robbie Williams and his father perform Better Man.
Robbie Williams and his father perform Better Man.

His real performance nouse was showcased as he brilliantly recited the poem Hello Sir from the album The Ego Has Landed. He wrote this as a ‘look where I am now’ message to his school teacher who believed he’d amount to nothing and took real joy in performing it to his legions of fans last night.

The Basin Reserve proved to be a fantastic concert venue for Wellingtonians, on a stunning spring night it was the perfect setting. A few neighbours cashed in on a free concert and Williams wasn’t going to miss the chance to give them heaps for it. At one stage he had apartment residents flashing their lights on and off to tell him they were enjoying the show. The way he involves his audience is admirable. He chatted freely between songs and it was very well received.

One thing that didn’t work for me were the many covers throughout the set. We heard snippets of Wonderwall, Lorde’s Royals, I Love Rock n Roll and even Hey Jude. Not to forget the cover of Bohemian Rhapsody he led out with in his encore. They didn’t work. His songs were what people wanted to hear and they’re the ones he performs with the most skill. One cover would have been more than enough. I’m certain the crowd would have preferred to hear tracks like Strong and You Win Some, You Lose Some more than these weak replications.

But Robbie Williams did finish in fashion. The show was brought to a close with She’s The One and Angels bringing down the house in true 90s singalong fashion.

Overall, it was a great blast from the past and a fun concert to check out but I’m not sure people will be rushing out to buy tickets if he returns in the next 18 months as promised.