John Farnham performs at the Bowl of Brooklands, New Plymouth.
Last night New Plymouth’s Bowl of Brooklands played host to an 80s flashback with rocker John Farnham and soul legend Lionel Richie taking the stage.
The Naki turned it on with the most beautiful autumn evening, the sky aglow with the mountain out in all its glory. The natural amphitheatre was packed to nearly full capacity with fans, either dedicated to one or both singers, old and young ready to dance – and that’s exactly what they did. Whether it was to the fist pumping singalongs with Farnham or the side-stepping foot taps of Richie there was barely a still person in the audience.
But the show wasn’t about the dancing, people came for the music and with two very different singers taking to the stage there was a clear star performer in my eye – John Farnham.
The Australian legend is a class act. His voice is still faultless. He played the perfect set of songs to showcase his work over the years and there was never a dull moment as he proved to the crowd between songs that he’s also a bit of a comedian. He had a tale for every tune. It was much to the delight of the crowd that the perfect weather held its ground after Farnham proudly declared he’s been nicknamed ‘the rain man’ because every time he performs Talk of the Town it starts to pelt down. It was a result to which he yelled at the audience what quickly became his trademark line ‘shuuuuuuuut up!’
Farnham has the crowd on fire, hits Touch of Paradise, Pressure Down and That’s Freedom were rowdy singalongs, before came a beautiful rendition of Man of the Hour –made even more beautiful with the help of backing singer Lindsay Field whose vocal range was mind blowing. Then it was time for everyone to get on their feet as he finished his set with mega hit You’re the Voice, sung with rousing energy and passion. Farnham was back for a much sought after encore to which his fantastic band and he brought to life ACDC’s It’s a Long Way to the Top – what a finish to a brilliant performance.
Next came headline act Lionel Richie and I just wasn’t sold.
Sure he is more of a chart topper than Farnham and the crowd knew more of his songs but he was well and truly outshone by the performer leading him. Richie can sing, and he was at his best while sitting at the piano taking on his softer ballads but to be frank, I found his entire set boring. It’ll get better I kept telling myself, but it didn’t. Even when the five-time grammy winner played Easy, a song I love, I was left uninspired. There wasn’t the same passion we’d seen in the previous act. It was simply lacklustre.
Then came Richie’s attitude, to which many people in the crowd were left with a foul taste in their mouth. In comparison to Farnham’s fun loving, crowd focused show, Richie came across as an arrogant performer who’s too big for his boots.
He began his set by insulting the weather saying it was freezing and how could this be summer. Sure that’s fair enough I thought, he does come from California after all. But he didn’t need to harp on about it regularly throughout the show, it ended up sounding like he thought he was too good to be there. It riled people up even more given the fact he’d been a real diva and chosen to only fly into New Plymouth at 8pm that evening therefore missing out on the beautiful day Taranaki had turned on for him. But insulting the weather Taranakians are so proud of was only the beginning. Throughout the rest of the set it was all about him. Never mind the thousands of people who’ve payed to come and see him play, it was all me, me, me. I got sick of hearing about how great he thinks he is very quickly.
Enough complaining, I’m sure the fans got what they came for at least. He played all the hits, All Night Long was a toe-tapper, Dancing on the Ceiling and a rendition of We Are the World were crowd favourites.
Overall, it was a great way to spend a night out in New Plymouth but I could have left happy after the first act. I want more of Farnham. He really does live up to his nickname of ‘the Voice’ and I recommend you get along to see him perform some time.