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.


Concert Review: alt-J


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!


Song of the Week – Chateau

Chateau – Angus and Julia Stone

Yippee! Aussie brother sister duo Angus and Julia Stone are sounding snazzier than ever on their latest single Chateau.

This is a modern style tune that makes you want to stop whatever you’re doing and just listen and lose yourself. Chateau features an up-tempo drumbeat, jazzy guitar riffs and the mellow tones of the siblings contrasting voices. It makes me want to close my eyes and spin around in circles singing the magical hook over and over.

I can’t quite put my finger on what makes this song so special but it’s a damn fun listen which makes me grin. I hope you like it too!

Angus and Julia Stone’s new album Snow is due out September 15th, they are set to tour NZ in December:

Auckland, Civic Theatre – December 15th

Wellington, St James Theatre – December 16th

Christchurch, Isaac Royal Theatre, December 17th

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)

Concert Review: Sufjan Stevens

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Sufjan Stevens takes you to another world of emotion.

Last night at the Michael Fowler Centre I was transported, I felt like I was part of the music as Stevens and his enigmatic band put on a faultless production. The concert was one of two halves and each was just as mesmerising.

First came a showcase of the stunning work that is Carrie and Lowell. The word death is mentioned in almost every song from this album which explores the difficult relationship he had with his mother, who was bipolar, schizophrenic and suffered from drug addiction. She died of cancer in 2012. But Stevens’ music, although it tells a depressing story, is uplifting in concert. Surprisingly, lines like: “Should I tear my eyes out now? Everything I see returns to you somehow. Should I tear my heart out now? Everything I feel returns to you somehow” didn’t make you feel like the world was ending. In fact, at the culmination of the show 4th of July, the audience happily sung along as the musicians chanted “we’re all gonna die” over and over with a mass of noise building underneath.

In this show Stevens almost played Carrie and Lowell track for track, this record has been widely acclaimed as his best yet so there were no complaints from me. Rolling out with Death With Dignity, Should Have Known Better, All of Me Wants All of You and The Only Thing all in the row at the beginning was a clever way to hook the many new fans in the crowd right in. These songs are great on record, but seem genius when performed live. They have many layers which were cleverly built up on stage and with such heavy use of synth they really reverberate through you.

Older songs popped up now and again, a real highlight being the slow and haunting piano ballad The Owl and the Tanager and an intense Vesuvius which had me feeling like I was onboard a rocket ship heading for outer space. Also, I have to thanks Stevens for making me feel better about my ‘actions to match words’ dance moves because he is the master of this. I loved his quirky hand movements which he busted out in a rehearsed routine during certain tracks. Not a word was breathed from Stevens throughout the entire first half, but the music spoke for itself. I didn’t need reassurance from him that he wanted us there, I knew he appreciated the crowd by the way he played, sang and moved. When he came out after the encore though, there was no quiet Sufjan Stevens, he shared funny quips and highly intelligent philosophical life messages which give you an insight into his spirituality.

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Big ups to his wonderful band, particularly Dawn Landes who provided haunting harmonies and also put on an opening show to be proud of. The many talents of these musicians was especially evident in the acoustic second half as they crowded around one microphone, and all managed to shine. After the intensity of the Carrie and Lowell half of the show, this stripped back series of songs was magic in a different way. Here Stevens explored his older works and songs like To Be Alone With You and Heirloom were chilling and the much-loved Chicago was the ultimate finale. I sang “all things go” over and over all the way home.

Sufjan Stevens plays Wellington again tonight before heading to Auckland on Tuesday at the Civic. Get your tickets now, this is a show not to be missed.

Concert Review: Elton John


There’s a reason Elton John is still packing out concerts with crowds of 30,000 people. At 68, this music superstar still knows how to put on one hell of a show.

Last night Westpac Stadium in Wellington every attendee would have been mesmerized as he played his Yamaha piano with every bit of fervor imaginable and sang those lyrics we all love so much to life.

The tempo was upbeat right from the get go as we were treated to a nice warm up with Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, before the diamante-clad, sunglass wearing icon burst into Bennie and the Jets and a contagious happiness spread around the crowd. A poignant moment came next during Candle in the Wind when the modern day lighter – people’s cellphone torches – had the whole stadium twinkling like thousands of tiny stars.

 Watching his fingers glide up and down the piano was gripping, particularly in a stripped back version of The One and the always enchanting Your Song.

 We were reminded why his most famous album was named after the song Goodbye Yellow Brick Road as the crowd echoed every word of the epic ballad. I was blown away by how the crowd took over the chorus, it was a moment I’ll never forget.

A similar feeling of overwhelming emotion came as John dedicated Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me to Jonah Lomu on the week of his death. There were plenty of wet eyes around me as the song built in crescendo to a chilling finale.

Elton John has so many hits that his 24 song set list could have featured only number ones, but it was lovely to hear a few random songs from different albums over the years interspersed between the real bangers, especially because you could see the joy he felt in playing them. In saying this, there was one run of big hits all in a row which was particularly fun for the audience to dance and scream along to: Levon, Tiny Dancer, Daniel, Philadelphia Freedom, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Rocket Man – it doesn’t get much better than that does it?

The concert came to a close with a dance party as he energetically sang I’m Still Standing and Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting. Fists were punched into the air as people took on the role of back-up singer and echoed “Saturday” over and over with ridiculous grins on their faces.

Elton John was back on stage in a flash to give us the encore we all wanted and nobody was disappointed to hear Crocodile Rock which was a stellar way to finish the night.

Before the show there were whispers around me that he just couldn’t be the performer he used to be any more. “He’s too old” they said. Well last night Elton John proved those naysayers wrong, he’s still bloody fantastic. The Bitch Is Back.

Concert Review: Robbie Williams

Robbie Williams plays the Basin Reserve in Wellinton.
Robbie Williams plays the Basin Reserve in Wellington.

Robbie Williams wanted to entertain us and that he did.

The naughty English rocker played the Basin Reserve in Wellington last night. This show of singalongs was the perfect way for Kiwis to distract themselves from the nerves of the looming Rugby World Cup final this morning.

I have no doubt big fans of Robbie Williams would have got exactly what they were after last night. His show was typical of his cheeky character and hilariously amusing, it featured hit after hit from the musicians 90s heyday and it was pulled of with an on stage ease.

To love a bit of Robbie you’ve got to love a bit of cheese, and that’s exactly what he gave. He burst onto the stage following a dramatic, NASA-rocket-launch type countdown, teasing us with lyrics from some of his best songs. Immediately the thousands of middle-aged women around us were screaming as if they’d traveled back in time to their teenage years as he leapt around the stage pelvic thrusting during Let Me Entertain You and Rock DJ.

Things slowed down a notch here with a dreadful song I’d never heard before, Me and My Monkey. It was a stupid track to include in a mostly upbeat set list. But it wasn’t long before things were back on track and the crowd was boogying again. He brought out his opening act, boy band Lawson for a lovely version of Take That’s Back For Good and from there came the ones we were waiting for.

Feel was my pick for performance of the night and Supreme was another crowd pleaser. A duet with his black tie wearing “daddy” to Better Man was musically flat but rather cute. I still find it rather ironic hearing him sing about wanting to be a better man when he spent half the show swearing, talking about being “soberish” and singing a tune written for his two-year-old son called Motherfucker.

Robbie Williams and his father perform Better Man.
Robbie Williams and his father perform Better Man.

His real performance nouse was showcased as he brilliantly recited the poem Hello Sir from the album The Ego Has Landed. He wrote this as a ‘look where I am now’ message to his school teacher who believed he’d amount to nothing and took real joy in performing it to his legions of fans last night.

The Basin Reserve proved to be a fantastic concert venue for Wellingtonians, on a stunning spring night it was the perfect setting. A few neighbours cashed in on a free concert and Williams wasn’t going to miss the chance to give them heaps for it. At one stage he had apartment residents flashing their lights on and off to tell him they were enjoying the show. The way he involves his audience is admirable. He chatted freely between songs and it was very well received.

One thing that didn’t work for me were the many covers throughout the set. We heard snippets of Wonderwall, Lorde’s Royals, I Love Rock n Roll and even Hey Jude. Not to forget the cover of Bohemian Rhapsody he led out with in his encore. They didn’t work. His songs were what people wanted to hear and they’re the ones he performs with the most skill. One cover would have been more than enough. I’m certain the crowd would have preferred to hear tracks like Strong and You Win Some, You Lose Some more than these weak replications.

But Robbie Williams did finish in fashion. The show was brought to a close with She’s The One and Angels bringing down the house in true 90s singalong fashion.

Overall, it was a great blast from the past and a fun concert to check out but I’m not sure people will be rushing out to buy tickets if he returns in the next 18 months as promised.