Concert Review: Thomas Oliver

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Last night I was lazing on the couch, hungover after an epic wedding and lacking enthusiasm to do much but focus on my recovery. But a couple of months ago I’d booked tickets to see Thomas Oliver and I knew I had to take off my PJ pants and slippers and get myself out the door and to the Opera House.

30 seconds into the first song, an upbeat and stirring Shine Like the Sun, I was no longer tired – I was fully immersed.

I’ve always thought Thomas Oliver is one of New Zealand’s best musicians and last night he proved that once again. With an outstanding band with talent galore, he led us through a set rich in diversity. From the gentle love song intro, into the energetic and personality filled If I Move to Mars (which translates so much better live), before mellowing us out with slow jam Losin’. I was feeling sad as I noticed their was no trumpet on stage for the solo which is my favourite part of this song, but I had no need to feel disappointed, as Oliver went on to pick up his electric guitar and lead us through a solo with a difference, it was stunning.

We got a taste of what’s to come from this man of many talents with new songs Bulgarian Mountains and Time in Tokyo, both lovely little tunes which are hard not to immediately connect with.

But the show stopper moment came during Tenderly, when the weissenborn was pulled out and the blues riffs and melodies Oliver busted out sent waves through the crowd. Add to that his epic grunting howls and the song could be nothing but mesmerising.

Let It Be This One, with collaborator Rhian Sheehan on stage, was the perfect finish. The instrumental lead in was chilling as the haunting whine of the weissenborn gave way to the vocals which once again showcased Oliver’s range and ability to jump into falsetto so effortlessly. It was such a good finish in fact that the crowd happily jumped from our seats to give a well-deserved standing ovation.

Oliver is one hell of a musician but he is also a natural performer. He energetically involved his audience, proudly introduced his band members and gave them time to shine as they played a carefully thought through and polished set.

Thomas Oliver plays the Powerstation in Auckland this Friday 25th, don’t miss it.

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Concert Review: The Staves

28811181_10213877431722620_872229270_oThe haunting vocals of Wisely & Slow soared across the hushed venue with incredible effect as British sister act The Staves put their best instruments on show. The three-part harmonies we came to hear burst through in show-stopping fashion from the get-go, with perfect pitch and impressive vocal control. By the end of the first number I was mesmerised – and there was so much more to come.

The Staveley-Taylor sisters were in Wellington as part of the NZ Festival and that meant we were lucky enough to witness the increasingly popular group in an incredibly small and intimate setting – a spiegel tent of all things. The siblings started off quietly, letting their songs do the talking, but warmed up throughout the night and by the end of the set they were giggling with typical sibling-banter. Chat ranged from gentle thank yous and appreciation for Wellington before morphing into silly talk including telling us they were going to “play some music which is gonna fuck you up”, and later getting into a silly back and forth about how the Spice Girls reunion is a bad idea (this came after admitting they sang the 90s girl groups songs during their soundcheck earlier in the night). As an audience member they were relatable and all the more loveable for it.

The set got off to a humming start with Blood I Bled and Steady from 2014 Justin Vernon produced album If I Was. The tracks from this record and 2016 EP Sleeping in a Car stood out above their earlier tracks because the girls incredible vocals are used in unique and exciting ways, and because they have a bit of grunt to them. Vocal melodies were looped and layered to create the base line for Outlaw and as Camilla took the softer lead in Black & White, Jessica and Emily’s backing vocals took on the effect of a saucy electric guitar riff as they punctuated each chorus. The grungy and no-nonsense performance of Tired As Fuck with it’s quickening tempo was high-impact and Teeth White flowed effortlessly between full-noise rock-style vocals and guitar melodies to softer folk harmonies.

Highlights for me were the chilling performances of Make It Holy which started soft and delicately before building to a phenomenal crescendo, and the stripped back No Me, No You, No More which was the perfect scene setter for vocal show-stopper of the night – Let Me Down. The sad, but stunning lyrics were laid bare as the three sisters sang it to perfection.

The end of the set came too soon according to the crowd who clapped and cheered for more and more. The Staves willingly obliged and returned on stage in a humble fashion for a raw and honest acoustic encore. The trio sang around one microphone and brought out the oldies. In The Long Run was magic, a cover of Sufjan Stevens’ Chicago was a welcome addition, and show closer Mexico was a poignant and delicate final display.

They promised they’ll come back – and when they do – you’d be stupid to miss The Staves. This was an unforgettable concert.

The 2018 Laneway Awards

The best of the bunch award:

5E275313-DB0D-42BB-AC59-CAD5BEF2B566.jpegWithout a doubt this has to go to the mesmerising Father John Misty. J. Tillman, formerly of Fleet Foxes, blew me away with his captivating performance of his hilariously honest songs. The indie style ballads translated brilliantly on stage, I was compelled from start to finish. Although Tillman barely uttered a word to his crowd, he was engaging and hard to take your eyes off. His voice was faultless, and had an incredible strength and tone. Backed by a wonderful band, it was hard not to love this set as he played songs like I Love You, Honeybear, Chateau Lobby #4 and Nancy From Now On.

The ultimate groover award:

2442A6C8-D0F4-46B1-8F09-3C2544C2799B.jpegLondon rapper Loyle Carner’s set was fun in every way. The Brit seemed quite impressed he had so many people there to see him and his humble and friendly conversation with the crowd was so endearing. Add to that the fact that his slow style, jazz influenced rap music is fresh, funky and a bloody good time to groove to – how could this set not be a favourite of the day!

The dud stage award:

My groups gripe of the day was the terrible sound quality at every set we saw on the Rotunda stage. How could they not sort it out !? It was so frustrating, at every act we checked out there during the festival we were immensely disappointed. All of the artists I was most excited to see played this stage – and they all put on great shows – the problem wasn’t them, the problem was that we just couldn’t hear them.

Laneway organisers needed to recognise they had an issue early in the day and fix it, instead we felt angry as we couldn’t enjoy the acts we came to see. I am pissed off that half of Billie Eilish’s vocals went unheard (not to mention that she was 20 minutes late on stage as they did sound tests), the Internet were inaudible, so much so that I found myself talking the whole way through their gig, and as for Anderson .Paak – today I’m feeling truly gutted. This was the act I was immensely excited to see, the act who is famed for his live performances, the act who easily had the biggest crowd of the festival – and I walked away halfway through the set because I couldn’t hear it. How much of a bummer is that? Hope organisers sort this before next year!! (And hope he comes back to NZ to play a solo show.)

The up and comer award:

This without a doubt goes to Australian modern rocker D.D Dumbo. His snazzy and contagious guitar riffs, clever use of percussion and epic vocals are something else! We started the day at his set and were bloody glad we’d made the call to venture into the glaring sunshine so early in the day. Oliver Hugh Perry and band were charismatic in their flawless performance and Perry involved the crowd with funny anecdotes including a swipe at himself for choosing the name D.D Dumbo – “we all make mistakes”. With a voice which regularly reminds me of Sting, paired up with a fresh indie sound, this guy has a winning combo and I highly recommend you check him out.

The sass award:

B4823080-BA73-4679-803C-A29C2C596024.jpegDespite sound issues doing their best to completely ruin Billie Eilish’s set, the talented US teen was still a show stopper. She raunchily danced around the stage, encouraged the crowd to shout out obscenities and then asked her Mum who was watching side of stage to take a picture of the crowd. It was hilarious and sassy in every way. But most importantly her vocals were spot on and she had the crowd dancing away in the direct sun – not an easy feat considering most people spent the day trying to find shade, shade and more shade. A ukulele style cover of Drakes Hotline Bling went down a treat and seamlessly transformed it into Party Favor which was an epic singalong. Pretty bloody good for a 16-year-old!

The voice award:

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Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso – wow what a voice! I have always thought she sounded amazing on record, but live she was just epic! The British electronic pop pair were a compelling act. After some intense time in the sun we decided to sit in the shade to listen to their set – of course that didn’t last, we were compelled to venture back into the heat and dance away to the magical sound.

The best boogie award:

Canadian indie legend Mac DeMarco had me dancing like a mad thing. His groovy tunes and hilarious chatter made for a delightful early evening set. I twisted my feet and hips in slow grooves and sang my heart out to bangers old and new like Salad Days, On the Level, This Old Dog and many many more. Shit it was a good time!

Overall, it was a bloody good festival wth great music as always – bring on 2019!

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Song of the Week – Won’t Hurt

Won’t Hurt – The Venus Project

I feel like this is a fitting song of the week given the current climate worldwide in the fight for women’s rights and respect. Georgia Nott – one half of NZ sibling duo Broods –  has released the first track from her new solo focus The Venus Project.

Nott’s time in the world of music has made her realise how men dominate the industry, as they do many other working industries across the globe.

“I think there comes a point where you stop just thinking it’s normal and you start to realise that, actually, this is kind of f*cked that I’m the odd one out all the time,” she told Harpers Bazaar.

It was that train of thought that inspired her to create The Venus Project – an album put together entirely by women.

Won’t Hurt is the first single from the new album, which is set to be released on March 8, International Women’s Day.

It is a stunningly well put together track which showcases the epic vocals of Nott, whose vocal abilities I’ve always felt were slightly lost in the synth heavy Broods numbers.

It begins with warped vocals (interestingly they almost sound like male vocals with the distortion), a gentle keyboard and soft layers of strings which form together to create an ethereal sound. In come Georgia Nott’s spine tingling vocals and relatable lyrics alongside a mellow guitar riff, and the song is off soaring. It builds and builds into a more up-tempo pace with the introduction of a steady synth beat, and all of a sudden the track takes on an uplifting and powerful aura – particularly if you’re a woman listening and you know the meaning behind the track.

Won’t Hurt is not song that you’d have playing in the background. It’s a powerful number which demands attention – I can’t wait to see what else is in store from The Venus Project.

Top Five Albums of 2017

  1. Nadia Reid – Preservation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jN1BfSLbzg

Without a doubt this is the album I listened to most throughout the year. Folk musician Nadia Reid has crafted an album of such a rich quality that I’m blown away by something new with each listen (been on constant repeat since its March release so that’s saying something). The thought and care that has gone into each melody, each lyric and each performance is remarkable to hear from such a young Kiwi artist. With shades of Laura Marling and Joni Mitchell, and a live act to match, Nadia Reid is destined for great things.

Must listens: Hanson St Pt. 2 (A River), Reach My Destination, Richard

2. Lorde – Melodrama

I don’t think there will be many album of the year lists that Melodrama doesn’t feature on. On first listen I was underwhelmed (I still don’t quite understand the obsession with first single Green Light, I find it dull compared to Lorde’s other offerings), but I persevered because I’d been a huge fan of her 2013 album Pure Heroine. Boy am I glad I did, Melodrama is a dazzling album which presents the mature version of the 21-year-old. Her unique sound is more refined with clearer vocals and her intelligent lyrics are raw and paint a vivid picture in your mind. It’s the sort of album it’s hard to turn off, I always want to listen to it in its entirety.

Must listens: The Louvre, Perfect Places, Supercut, Liability

3. London Grammar – Truth is a Beautiful Thing

The London Trio have once again written an album of songs designed to send a chill down your spine. There is no other vocalist around currently with a voice as pure, or a range as extensive, as Hannah Reid’s. Her vocals are enough on their own to take your breath away (as demonstrated on first single Rooting For You), but when layered with the modern base tracks created by band mates Dot Major and Dan Rothman, they’re utterly brilliant. An album hard to ignore.

Must listens: Hell to the Liars, Big Picture, Trials, Oh Woman Oh Man, Rooting For You

4. Arcade Fire – Everything Now

I’m convinced if you played this album to anyone they would suddenly find themselves in the mood to party. Arcade Fire have simplified their alternative sound a bit on Everything Now, many true fans are angry at them for the more mainstream sound, but I still bloody love it. These tracks are short and sharp with funky beats and hooks that instantly make you tap your feet and groove. The lyrics are still trademark Arcade Fire quirky, the vocals are still sung with the usual intensity and overall it’s just a damn good listen.

Must listens: Creature Comfort, Everything Now, Sings of Life

5. The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful

For anyone who loved The Killers in their Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town heyday – Wonderful Wonderful was one of the most exciting albums to come out in some time. After the first listen I punched the air with joy – my favourite rock band during my teens are back with a vengeance! This album is pop-rock heaven, it is up-tempo, with catchy lyrics and unforgettable singalong style choruses. It makes you want to dance like a mad thing and puts an instant grin on your face. This is fun rock music and listening to it makes for a bloody good time.

Must listens: Run For Cover, Life To Come, The Man

It was hard to pick the best five this year, other notable mentions include:

  • Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog
  • alt-J – RELAXER
  • Lydia Cole – The Lay of the Land
  • Thomas Oliver – Floating in the Darkness
  • Aldous Harding – Party

Concert Review: Paul McCartney

56724314-7468-4ACC-82D6-784595964CC9.jpegThe afterglow of a Paul McCartney concert is a feeling I’ve craved for many many years, and now the moment has arrived – I can say it’s a better feeling than I ever could have wished for.

Last night I witnessed three hours of pure magic. The superstar played the most epic set you could ever imagine, so good I was brought to tears multiple times.
Every time he finished another hit, I needed to pinch myself because I knew there was still so much more to come.

The 75-year-old proved why he has earned such a huge reputation by performing with more stamina than any other artist I’ve seen live. He never tired, he only got stronger as the set went on, and that’s no easy feat when you play and sing with as much enthusiasm as he does!

With a back catalogue like his, I always knew we were in for a show with many, many singalongs. But I can’t imagine ever again feeling the fulfilment I felt last night when we got treated to this run of songs in a row: Something, A Day in the Life, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Band on the Run, Back in the U.S.S.R, Let It Be, Live and Let Die and Hey Jude. It was a bloody musical miracle – my voice was shot and I couldn’t breath from dancing so hard by the end of that run.

McCartney is a man with some stories to tell, and he had the crowd enthralled spinning tales about cab rides with the Rolling Stones, taking musical advice from the legendary George Martin and acknowledging those missing. Particularly poignant moments in the set included John Lennon tribute song Here Today and a stunning rendition of George Harrison’s Something.

Other highlights for me included Blackbird – played and sung to perfection and a delicate acoustic I’ve Just Seen a Face. But really, it was a night full of highlights. It’s not often you still want the artist to keep playing at the end of a three hour set, but in this case I was desperate to listen all night long.

The Abbey Road medley was the perfect closer to a night I’ll always remember. Paul McCartney is an artist of the highest caliber and last nights concert was the best I’ve ever been to.

Bucket list ✔️

Concert Review: alt-J

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Last night I was swept up in the romanticism of alt-J. The moment the first chord of 3WW filled the TSB Bank Arena in Wellington I knew we were in for a treat and things only got better from there.

The British indie rock group performed to perfection last night, I couldn’t fault a thing, their set contained everything you want to get from a gig. Their set list was well thought out with a perfect mix of light and shade between the hand clapping, base thumping, upbeat numbers and the slow builders which had an almost symphony like feel to them, despite being produced with a purely modernistic sound.

The light show timed perfectly to match their beat focused music was simplistic yet mesmerising. Their crowd communication, was limited but this worked well because I felt like I was party to a true stage show and the songs were speaking well enough for themselves.

The new album RELAXER was showcased brilliantly with new songs interspersed amongst the old favourites. Not that I would have cared if they played new music start to finish- I think these tracks really stood out and proved the three uni mates have come along way from their first offering. Pleader was the track our group raved and raved about all the walk home, Deadcrush was easily my pick of the faster paced tracks played during the night and In Cold Blood picked up one of the better sing-and-dance-alongs of the night.

The unique vocals of lead singer Joe Newman were dominant over the loud base music and he didn’t miss a note. Gus Unger-Hamilton’s backing vocals are the perfect compliment and he and drummer Thom Sunny Green played the complex, layered and loud songs to perfection. The bands ability to perform their complicated songs such as Every Other Freckle, Bloodflood and Fitzpleasure to such a high quality live is testament to their true musicianship. There is a lot going on in most of these songs, but every element was always heard by the crowd and no songs lost their momentum or blurred.

The other thing that has to be mentioned is the crowd – that is the best gig audience I have been a part of in a long time. There was no talking through every song, everyone there was fully invested and I think the band recognised that. They did seem to mention coming back to Wellington many times!

I feel privileged to have witnessed alt-J at their best last night, certainly a concert to remember!