Gig review: Nadia Reid

I just witnessed one of New Zealand’s finest musicians play a gig which couldn’t have been any lovelier.

Nadia Reid – “she’s NZ’s answer to Joni Mitchell” I read. I pondered. That’s a big call – could it be true? After last nights show at Meow I can confirm, she’s definitely on the right track!

Tonight we were taken on a journey of her life as she told stories through songs from her brand new album Preservation and her 2015 debut record Listen To Formation, Look for the Signs.

Reid, a folk musician from Port Chalmers, has wisdom in her music you don’t naturally expect from a 25-year-old. Whether you’re foot tapping to a gentle melody or closing your eyes to soak up a crooning ballad, the lyrics come through so clearly and are hauntingly relatable. I accept that the fact I’m the same gender and incredibly close in age to her might make that last line seem redundant, but I don’t say it without genuine consideration. I feel certain Reid’s music connects with a wide audience because she writes with sincerity and performs the songs with a rare vulnerability.

Tonight her candid and sometimes hilarious tales behind the tunes particularly took me. “Now can I sing you a song about going home to stay with my mum after a break up and sleeping in a single bed? Sleeping in a single bed really makes it hit home.” That was her introduction to a stunning rendition of Reach My Destination. She may have had us laughing, but she’d also got us thinking and reflecting, and as soon as she sang the first lines…

There is one main street in this town

There are two straight lines in my head

It goes on, it goes on forever

…I was mesmerised in a haze of magic metaphors.

Reid’s vocals are faultless. Numerous times tonight I likened her in my head to Laura Marling, not a note was missed, not a waiver was heard. The control she had over this instrument was showcased particularly well in her ode to Wellington, Hanson St Pt. 2 (A River) and her encore tribute to her mother, Some Are Lucky. In these songs she carefully moved to and from the microphone to get the perfect echo or the perfect fade of vocals. In doing so she created tender and intimate moments for the audience to savour.

But there’s more to her songs than her voice, Reid knows how to play a guitar. Her fingers glided across the strings picking with impressive ease. Acoustic tracks, performed with little or no backing, were played to precision with careful crescendos. Thicker songs, with her talented band backing her up, were still dominated by her carefully strummed melodies.

Tonight’s conclusion? Preservation is an album capable of competing against the best artists in the world, especially when brought to life in concert by this talented performer.

Nadia Reid – I can’t wait to see what else you’ve got.

 

(Sorry for lack of photos, phone through a tanty)

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Concert Review: Adele

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Eight years since I was first mesmerised by Adele’s epic ballads, the night I was waiting for for so long, finally arrived. Last night I was one of the lucky ones who got to witness this superstar bring down the house at her final show at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland. This morning I’m basking in the afterglow of one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. Not even a traffic jam that meant I was at risk of missing my flight back to wellington can bring this gal down today.

I wish I could relive that concert over and over. Adele has the best voice I’ve ever heard. In two hours of music, all of which soars across low and high pitch and has key change upon key change, Adele did not miss one note. Each song was sung to perfection. I spent half the show with my mouth gaping open in amazement, tears rolled down my face in awe at least five times and I laughed wholeheartedly on numerous occasions.

A huge part of Adele’s appeal as a musician is that she’s real and relatable. As this was the last stadium show of her overseas tour we were treated as an audience to a raw version of her. She spoke with tears about what an accomplishment finishing this tour is for her, she never thought she’d make it through 50 shows let alone 219. She confirmed the rumours we’d all hoped weren’t true – “I don’t know if I’ll ever tour again” – and we all felt incredibly grateful in that moment that we got to witness her magnificence.

Despite it absolutely pissing down the entire show, this artist – with no trace of diva – continued to strut the stage in her waterlogged dress. She had make-up dripping down her face as she batted away wet and sticky bits of confetti but no complaints were made! Instead she just laughed about getting eyelash glue in her eyes and falling on her ass – a little bit of water wasn’t going to stop her giving us a show to remember. At one point she even donned a poncho handed to her by a helpful fan and the crowd erupted into giggles as she looked like a pink marshmallow while singing a heartfelt ballad.

All of the big hits were played, reminding us why they’re the favourites. Chasing Pavements, When We Were Young, Rolling in the Deep and Someone Like You certainly stood out. Hello was so powerful as an opener that I was completely overcome with emotion. It took me about a minute to shake off the tears. I realised then just what kind of concert I was in for and the anticipation was intense.

There were endless lovely moments but I was particularly taken by her performances of Don’t You Remember, Take It All and Make You Feel My Love – which she dedicated to her husband and son before struggling not to cry while delivering the most stunning rendition.

As we trudged home in the heavy rain, our faces plastered with grins, we knew this was a concert above the rest. “This will be the artist we rave to our kids about one day” we quipped. Thanks Adele, you’re going to be hard to beat.

The 2017 WOMAD Awards

IMG_9563Another year later and I’m once again nursing an epic hangover from a wonderful three days at WOMAD in New Plymouth. This year we had the most stunning weather imaginable, the mountain was out in full glory, the flags were glistening in the sunshine and the people were kicking off their shoes and embracing bare feet as a cool-down method. The Bowl of Brooklands was looking its finest, and the music, food and dance that filled it was certainly world class, here are my picks:

The crowd favourite award:

This has to go to UK ska superstars The Specials. Their energetic set to close out Friday night was just what the doctor ordered. They had the bowl stage packed in and everyone was up on their feet dancing away as they charged through a hit filled set. Songs like Message To You Rudy and Ghost Town were echoing in my head for hours after they left the stage, only complaint – an hour set wasn’t long enough!

The unforgettable award:

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The Soil, an acapella trio from South Africa, blew me away. I am lost for words when I think back to their closing set on the Dell stage on Sunday night, it was the perfect performance to finish the festival on. This trio have voices like I’d never heard before and their ‘kasi soul’ sound is modern but traditional at the same time. It was simply magical to listen to under the trees and stars and beside a shimmering lake. I’ll never forget their show and that feeling.

The stage presence award:

Mali dance music hero Inna Modja had the most compelling stage presence. I couldn’t take my eyes of her! She moved with grace and funk, sang each note perfectly, told stories with pride and passion and generally just had me as putty in her hands.

The best dance party award:

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New Orleans jazz-hip hoppers the Hot 8 Brass Band had the crowd at the Gables Stage on Sunday dancing like mad things with their funky blend of genres. They had a contagiousness to their performance and I had a stupid grin plastered on my face as me and friends bogeyed the set away. Their musicianship was outstanding, to have so much talent on one stage is pretty darn impressive. Special mention to the trumpet player who regularly gave me chills as he hit such high notes so effortlessly.

The wow factor award:

Marlon Williams, our kiwi folk prodigy, ditched the dingy bar concert venues to take on the mighty Bowl of Brooklands and he did it superbly. He and his talented band the Yarrabenders, had the huge crowd overwhelmed in various fashions throughout his show. I was close to tears numerous times and kept gushing over how long he could hold a note for. I loved being up stomping my feet in a mad dash to keep up with the fast moving guitar before sitting back by the lake front to sway side to side in a mesmerised daze.

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The unexpected delight award:

Sitting down on a sunny Sunday afternoon to watch some of New Zealand’s best dancers on stage was a true privilege. The New Zealand Dance Company had the crowd captivated and were the talk of the festival for their stunning perfourmance of Brouhaha. I’m no dance expert but I loved it and didn’t want it to finish! Great to see the D put back in WOMAD.

Song of the Week – 3WW

3WW – alt-J

English indie group alt-J’s new track is dreamy. 3WW is a slow-building mesmeriser. Whatever you do upon first listen, don’t cut it off early, keep going right till the end and it won’t disappoint.

3WW features a more gentle melody than their previous works, it’s lullaby-like for much of the song. But don’t you worry -the alt-J trademarks still shine through loud and clear, they just have new twists. For example – a woman’s vocals (Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell) adds a refreshing new element to the quirky male vocals we’ve come to love from lead singer Joe Newman.

I must say, I’m a big fan of all their old work, but I love being able to follow the lyrics in this song more clearly than in previous tunes. Captivating poetry shines through:

“There was a wayward lad
Stepped out one morning
The ground to be his bed
The sky his awning”

The song has mellow use of synth and soft drum beats throughout but cleverly inserts bursts of crescendo which take the song from being a cafe style easy-listener to a well-thought out and cleverly crafted single.

This is the first track off the bands upcoming album Relaxer. It reflects the album name as it is a more subdued style song for the group but I think it’s an interesting new direction and I can’t wait to hear more.

Song of the Week – Barcelona

Barcelona – Ed Sheeran

Ed is back with better material than ever with his new album Divide. He’s tried to take on a different sound in every track on this record and it sure makes for fun and surprising listening!

My favourite track from my first couple of listens is jazzy tune Barcelona. This song just makes me grin – right now I’m on the train listening to it and I’m having to work hard to stop my feet tapping and my shoulders jiggling in time with the bouncy and fun-loving track.

If you’re looking for a song to ensure you feel happy, make you want to dance and unable to not singalong then this is it! Pure happiness for three minutes!!

Song the Week – Big Picture

Big Picture – London Grammar

English alt-pop group London Grammar are back with a vengeance with new track Big Picture, an epic ballad with a modern electro sound. In shades of their previous works it is a true builder – with every line sung the melody layered beneath grows and grows to great effect.

It’s hard not to sit up and listen when you hear Hannah Reid’s insane voice! This woman has such a unique sound and can show off the most impressive range, but the control she has of her instrument is the icing on the cake. Throughout Big Picture she changes the tempo and the feeling of the track regularly, her voice holds the power. The best part – the rest of the band (Dan Rothman and Dominic Major), know this. For that reason the bases to the songs aren’t overpowering but instead shadow Reid and move in her direction. It works beautifully and helps to make their music so powerful.

Big Picture is just a small taste of what’s to come on London Grammar’s new album and now I’m bloody excited.

Song of the Week – Shine Like the Sun

Shine Like the Sun – Thomas Oliver

I have been waiting for the release of this song for months and months now! I first heard it during Pass The Gat performances at the Taranaki Arts Festival and WOMAD. Played acoustically live it brought tears to my eyes – and now the released version has had the same affect.

Thomas Oliver is a super talented Kiwi musician with an array of talents and this first taste from his album due out in April (and paid for all by crowd funding) is a sign he’s perfected his true sound as a solo artist.

He first burst into the scene years ago with the Thomas Oliver Band who played a foot stomping style of folk music. Following that he showcased his incredible weissenborn playing skills on Beneath the Weissenborn.

Both of these sounds were fantastic and much loved by the people who discovered them, but Shine Like the Sun is more mature and accessible for listeners. The blues style riffs add some grunt to the gentle track, his falsetto shines in the chorus, and those lyrics? Romantic as hell!

I think Oliver is onto a winner with this touching ballad.