Concert Review: Pokey LaFarge

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Last night Pokey LaFarge and his wonderful band transported me through the ages. He turned a dark and dingy little pubinto a glowing musical oasis with his old-time sounding songs that had the power to enforce a smile on ones face and start a foot-tap it’s impossible to stop. I checked out the singer-songwriter in an intimate gig at Bodega in Wellington and LaFarge was so good, he even made it worth missing half of the Cricket World Cup final.

The St. Louis musician burst on stage with his band kicking things off in a lively fashion with a couple of tracks from his new album Something In The Water. Both Knocking The Dust Off The Rust Belt Tonight and Underground went down a treat among an audience of big fans, everyone was whooping and moving from the get go.

Straight off the bat Pokey was cracking hilarious jokes and feeding off every comment from an audience member with silly gags that went down a treat. His banter provided a lovely base for the fun and bouncy songs we were set to hear.

The set Pokey LaFarge, real name Andrew Heissler, played last night was a wonderful mix of old and new, slow and upbeat. The well-known foot-stomping tunes like Central Time and Close The Door were show highlights with a real blues and country sound shining through. Every word was echoed as Pokey lead the crowd in an impressively in tune and in time singalong. New album tracks Something In The Water, Goodbye, Barcelona and The Spark showcased his latest direction wonderfully and stood up next to the old favourites. In these tracks he displayed different tones in his voice and mixed up the tempo in a vibrant manner.

Pokey LaFarge’s band deserves a lot of credit for managing to steal everyone’s attention from the compelling front man on regular occasions. Pokey is a star, that’s easy to tell, but what a crew of musicians he has to back him up! The amazing artists who are all true heroes in their instruments, regularly moved me to a mouth-drop, wide-open moment.

Adam Hoskins is a force on the guitar picking the most beautiful solos like he could do it with his eyes closed. Not only that but his low-humming backing vocals gave much needed oomph to some of the songs. Ryan Koenig is the best harmonica player I’ve ever seen on stage, he blew me away every time he lifted it to his lips. Add into the mix his amazing washboard, complete with a silver desk bell and playing gloves, and he’s a force to be reckoned with. Joey Glynn’s work on the double bass kept a stylish rhythm. But it doesn’t stop there, TJ Muller on trumpet made me feel like I was living in the 1920s with his blaring solos played with incredible accuracy and Chloe Feoranzo added to that effect with her stunning work on the clarinet and saxophone.

Lets Get Lost, which was sung in a lovely duet with sexy-voiced Feoranzo who finally stepped out of the corner she was hidden in for most of the show, and Far Away gave us a dose of LaFarge’s softer songs without losing the energy he’d built during the feistier offerings.

But by far the highlight of the night was when Pokey LaFarge burst back onstage for an encore. Gone was the rhine-stone bowtie; donned was a Black Caps shirt (buttoned right up) and a batting helmet. The crowd, who had been checking their phones for cricket scores throughout the gig, was enthralled. It was hilarious watching him bound across the stage, swinging a cricket bat and trying to sing into the microphone without getting the helmet caught on it. What a fantastic and thought-out touch.

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Pokey and his crew wrapped things up with a grand version of La La Blues, thankfully featuring another brilliant harmonica solo from Koenig. It was the ultimate way to finish what was an incredible concert.

Pokey LaFarge promised onstage three times that he’d be back in Wellington again next year. I’ll be there and I highly recommend you are too.