If anyone were to need an introduction to New Zealand’s best musicians they should head along to a Fly My Pretties show. These performances showcase the best array of sounds in the most special of ways.
I’ve been to a few FMP shows over the years and there is nothing else like them. The general idea is that a number of Kiwi musicians, from an array of genres, come together and play each others songs as a collective. These shows are so special in the way they introduce up and coming artists, showcase new songs from much-loved stars and bring old favourites back into the mix. These gigs bring together the best in the country and seeing what collaborations they’ve come up with each time round is incredibly exciting. Obviously, the result is generally pretty stunning.
Last night, as I watched Fly My Pretties perform at the St James in Wellington I realised, I’ve never seen artists as happy on stage as this crew. They’re alive with energy and look to be having the times of their lives as they belt out a song, play a funky solo or simply just take up the backing vocals.
After their own offering, the musicians proudly introduce the next performer with a sibling-like endearment. They swap instruments and positions on stage with each other like they’re having a jam in someone’s garage, yet at the same time, they own the stage like they’ve done it forever.
This project is the brainchild of Barnaby Weir, best known for his work as front man of the Black Seeds and last night he lead the current 15-piece group in what was an amazing warm-up show before they head to play Byron Bay Bluesfest in April.
Here are my picks for the best moments of the night:
– Anna Coddington smashing every song she played. The first song of the set was Bird In Hand. The gang were straight into it with this one and it was spine-tingling stuff. Coddington’s vocals were flawless and the funky bass line, drum beats, piano melodies, violin solo and guitar riffs were rousing. Of course one of the real highlights of the night was Garden, my favourite from FMP’s A Story tour. It’s the most beautiful song and when performed on this scale with so many wonderful musicians, the elements are chilling. Coddington’s vocals flowed perfectly from soft to grunty as the tempo quickened with Ryan Prebble’s brilliant guitar picking, then came Eva Prowse’s violin solo and I was spellbound. Such a magnificent song.
– LA Mitchell just being her legendary self. Seriously this woman is amazing, there is something about her that means you can hardly take your eyes off her as she performs. She has the powerhouse voice everyone dreams of having. While singing a note that I think would physically kill me, she looks like she’s barely trying. During I’m Alive In The World the crowd was completely captivated, same again when she led the women in a version of Lisa Tomlin’s Angels and her own song Apple Heart. Each of these tunes were highlights for me last night, LA Mitchell is New Zealand’s soul queen and backed up by such spectacular musicians and singers her songs were clear standouts.
– Fly My Pretties. This song went down a treat in Wellington, as it should, it is written about our marvelous city after all. It’s a rather poignant song as it talks about creative musicians needing to leave the city to try and make a few bucks in a bigger place like L.A. But it’s special in that Barnaby Weir sings about how it’s ok to leave, “as long as you come back some day”, something that many Wellington musicians have done.
– Ria Hall and Bailey Wiley’s sass. From these gals we got some much needed flare and funk. Hall’s Where Did All My People Go was upbeat, quirky and alive. With backing vocals from all the other women on stage, it had real spine-shiver moments and had me completely captured. Wiley’s After The Tone, provided some RnB feel, with shades of Ladi6, as she moved on stage saucily and sensually while singing with stunning quality.
– Quiet Girl. How awesome to have the Phoenix Foundation’s Samuel Flynn Scott back on stage with the FMP crew. He waltzed around the stage throughout the night in an hilarious manner, with his scarf wrapped around his head in many different forms. That in itself was entertaining but of course it was best when he took centre stage to play Quiet Girl. He epitomized what FMP is all about when he talked about how about 12 years ago he had a half written song he didn’t quite know how to finish, until the guys on stage helped him. And what a song it is, it was an awesome watch and night highlight.
– Ryan Prebble and Kara Gordon – What a formidable force! These guitar geniuses were absolute show stealers last night. Leave This Town was an amazing song from Gordon. His training at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music was obvious during this smashing number. He absolutely killed it in a Hendrix-like manner with Prebble backing him up brilliantly. Prebble’s tune Real Calm, which appropriately was so far from a calm-sounding song, was outstanding. The FMP legend was in fine form as usual last night, dominating every song with his amazing guitar contributions, singing with such grungy passion and just generally looking like he was having the time of his life. Every time Prebble and Gordon played together it was compelling. The two rockers were in fine form.
– Let’s Roll. This song was the Live At Bats song I was waiting for and it didn’t disappoint. Barnaby Weir was in his finest form during this tune. It’s such a catchy song that builds up in the most magnificent fashion throughout. Layer upon layer of electric guitar riffs and drum beats you can’t sit still through meant the rock track was an obvious crowd favourite last night. And how awesome to see Anna Coddington up there rocking out on electric guitar with all the boys.
Thank god for Barnaby Weir having the brains to pull this genius idea together. I can’t believe anyone in the audience last night would have been bored for a moment. Fly My Pretties have done it again.
-Samuel Flynn Scott