The 2017 Auckland Laneway Festival Awards

Best festival venue:

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The Rotunda stage in Albert Park

Well what a festival! Moving to Albert Park was the best venue change imaginable. Laneway has gone from being an event which had echoey acoustics, no shade on impossibly hot days and no way near enough space for all the punters – to a festival which is a dream for attendees. The gorgeous Albert Park was a stunning setting, trees framed the stages, provided much sought after shade, the sound quality at all stages was fantastic and the vibe was outstanding. 10/10!

The best act of the day:

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Glass Animals play the Rotunda Stage

There’s no doubt about who takes this award out, Brit rockers Glass Animals were the clear stand out of the day – my only complaint? 45 minutes just wasn’t enough!! I had extremely high expectations for this band as I have cranked their latest album How to be a Human Being for about four months ahead of this show. I was worried they might let me down and I’d walk away from their set feeling sad the music didn’t translate as well live – boy was I wrong and man am I glad. These guys excelled! This was the most entertaining performance I’ve seen in years, front man Dave Bayley leapt on stage for first song Life Itself dancing around like a mad thing and that energy never subsided, he was contagious. I couldn’t wipe the grin from my face as they rattled through song after song with every crowd member boogeying and singing along with ultimate enthusiasm. I can’t pick a favourite song of the set because each one played was just as good as the last – why aren’t they doing side shows? I need more Glass Animals in my life!!

The most polished performance:

There’s no doubt about who this award belongs to – the ever wonderful Tame Impala. These guys have been on the festival circuit for years now yet each show is fresh, flawless and crowd appropriate. The genius that is Kevin Parker knows exactly the right set list and never fails to deliver an entertaining performance. Seeing the day out dancing energetically (before our legs completely gave away with exhaustion) to Elephant, New Person, Same Old Mistakes, Eventually and Let It Happen was the best end to the festival I could have hoped for.

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Tame Impala play the Princes Street stage

I have to give second place in this category to the Veils. Despite being disappointed we mostly got new music and not some of their old hits I have a soft spot for, this band are very compelling to watch. Their set was straightforward visually but musically faultless. Finn Andrew vocals are chilling and the songs from their latest album came to life for me. Overall a very enjoyable set.

The most vocally talented:

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Aurora plays the Rotunda stage

Norway artist Aurora played a magic show. She had a compelling stage presence and the crowd was mesmerised from the first line of the first song. That voice is stunning! She has the most incredible range and is so in control of it that in just 45 minutes she showcased it in its entirety. I think I would have been enchanted if she just stood on stage and sang cover songs – it’s that good! But of course there is so much more to Aurora than that. Her songs are works of art, ranging from slower ballads to up tempo tracks which have you jumping up and down screaming along with her. This young artist was bound to be a highlight for many Laneway goers yesterday, she was certainly one of mine.

The act to watch:

A close second to Aurora on the vocals front is Australian singer Julia Jacklin who channels Laura Marling in her soulful sound. She plays guitar beautifully, has songs which are full of wisdom lyrically and sings without fault. Definitely one to watch! Pool Party and Don’t Let the Kids Win have a refreshing maturity to them and that came across brilliantly on stage.

The best new band on the block:

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The DMA’s play the Princes Street stage

Aussie rockers DMA’s were a breath of fresh air yesterday. Reminding us all of Oasis, they blew me away with their gentle rock tracks. The band layers different guitar sounds cleverly to create a thick but still tender song base which the vocals could soar over. They barely talked on stage but still managed to have a real presence and I loved swaying along to the passionate songs like Step up the Morphine and Too Soon in the sunshine.

The disappointing:

Nick Murphy (formally Cher Faker) did nothing wrong, he played his music well, his band was talented, his vocals were spot on but he just lacked something. Despite knowing all the words to his songs and him playing a great selection of hits in his set, it was still a performance I felt happy to walk away from. Murphy’s set was just a bit boring, the highlight was when he brought Marcus Marr on stage to play their hit The Trouble With Us, but even that was underwhelming. I read that he started touring with a band as he felt he couldn’t connect with his audiences on stage as a one man act, well if this was him with a band, I hate to think what seeing him on his own would have been like.

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Concert Review: Passenger

It’s been two days now since I saw Passenger bring his latest album to life at the Opera House. I’ve finally had a moment to sit down and do a wee write up about what I witnessed and I haven’t forgotten a thing and that’s because Mike Rosenberg is bloody good at what he does. I feel convinced anyone who attends a Passenger concert will be carrying this blissful feeling of contentment for a few days too!

On Wednesday night Rosenberg showcased his new album, Young as the Morning Old as the Sea, to a full house – an impressive feat given he’s visited New Zealand to play gigs at least three times in the last five years.

When you are one of the people in the crowd you understand why his fans keep coming back. This is a talented musician (backed by a great band for the first time), but also an incredible performer. Rosenberg has the crowd as putty in his hands from the moment he walks on stage.

He talks a lot, most musicians don’t get away with this much chat on stage, but he pulls it off effortlessly with his quick wit, silly gags and most importantly, his passion. This guy may be a joker, you certainly laugh through a lot of the show, but he’s got a depth to his music and the stories he tells, something a lot of performers lack.

The songs tell the most magnificent stories already through the clever lyrics and melodies, add to that a Mike Rosenberg introduction about what inspired the track and it really takes things to another level.

This was truly the case when he played Travelling Alone – a song about two people he met while busking in different parts of the world. I loved learning about the man who was in the middle of the overseas trip he’d planned with his wife before she died, and the woman who had been left heartbroken by her 10-year-long partner. There were certainly a few tears in my eyes by the end of this stunning acoustic track.

The band was a great addition and brought the tempo of the concert up. The piano melodies, base lines and beats added an exciting layer to the newer songs like Everything, Beautiful Birds and Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea. But on his own is what Mike Rosenberg knows best and when the band left the stage or took a quieter role, he really shone.

Highlights included a very creative rendition of Paul Simon’s The Sound of Silence, in which he (funnily enough) used silence in the most effective style. 27, was upbeat and fun, as is the always hilarious ode to the crappy things in the world – I Hate. Scare Away the Dark was the perfect closer, a sing-along which led into the most effective encore build up as the crowd echoed the final melody over and over until Passenger gave us just a taste more.

He finished the set with Home for the people like me who are suckers for his soppy and slow songs, before getting everyone to their feet smiling and foot stomping to finish on Holes.

The show was a fantastic two hours of compelling music from a gifted artist who appeals to such a wide variety of people. Thanks Passenger for a fab night and the blissful after effects!