Live Review: Living Colour at San Fran, Wellington

Doug Wimbash Living Colour San Fran Wellington
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Living Colour were my stand out band of 2017. I managed to interview drummer Will Calhoun early on in the year (one of the highlights of my blogging career). Their Auckland show at Powerstation was incredible – easily my favourite gig of the year. A few months later, when travelling in America, I was fortunate enough to catch guitarist Vernon Reid put on a Chuck Berry tribute night in New York. And then in September they dropped the awesome new album Shade.

So imagine my pleasure when they announced another tour which included a Wellington date. I would have happily flown up to Auckland again to see them, but managed to save the money on flights and accommodation, and got to see them at a more intimate venue!

Curlys Jewels San Fran Wellington

Curly’s Jewels opened the night with a bang, launching straight into the set with plenty of energy. They’re exactly as I remembered them from when they opened for Skinny Hobos in June, with colourful singer Jel Pollock injecting plenty of character into the show. I noticed that the crunchy guitar tones sounded especially good at times, and should come to the forefront more. There were a few slight hiccups, but they managed to deliver with their brand of fun rock music.


This tour marked the 30th anniversary of Living Colour’s landmark debut album, Vivid. It’s an album that still stands the test of time, both musically and thematically. I remember discussing the political nature of many Living Colour songs during an interview with Calhoun last year, and he suggested that the human rights issues that the band writes about will always need to be fought for – regardless of  which government is in power. Issues like discrimination, racism and gentrification are still just as prevalent in society now as they were decades ago.

And of course, the music is still excellent. It’s fascinating how the songs have evolved as the band have played them over the years – speeding up parts, adding different fills and flourishes, adding and extending some sections, and breaking down other segments. Its only natural that the band would change how they play things over such a period. Heck, in a hilarious recent interview with May The Rock Be With You, guitarist Vernon Reid confessed that he plays completely different solos in different pressings of the same song.

Vernon Reid Living Colour San Fran Wellington

Singer Corey Glover is phenomenal, no doubt about it. He can switch from soul to hip hop to hard rock with ease, and this was most apparent during “(Open Letter) To A Landlord”. He really broke the song down, showing off his impressive vocal range with powerful trilling. The crowd reciprocated towards the end, loudly singing the chorus back at the band. It sounded great.

Vivid was the name of the game, but that didn’t stop the band from visiting other albums. They played two tracks from last year’s Shade: “Freedom of Expression”, and my favourite from the record: “Come On”. It’s a shame that the cover of Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya?” got dropped from the set, because their hard rock interpretation of the hip hop classic is fantastic.

Living Colour San Fran Wellington

Not only did Glover have vocal chops, but good banter too. He had many comical exchanges with Reid throughout the night, the two of them sniping at each other like an old married couple. This is the third time I’ve seen the two of them together on stage, but it’s still just as funny now.

“These are old songs” Glover shared. Reid shot him a look. “No, they are,” Glover continued, “They’re really old and that’s the truth. Some of y’all weren’t even born when these songs came out.” I had a little giggle at that one, seeing that the statement applied to me.

At times it felt like the band verged on overplaying, to the point of doing a disservice to the songs by being too flashy. I guess it’s hard for musicians of that calibre to hold back when they have such talent they can draw upon. But they came here to put on a show, and they sure succeeded in doing so.

My highlight of the set was Doug Wimbash’s bass solo. Wimbash boasted the biggest pedal board I’ve ever seen a bass player use [ironically, master bass player Thundercat has the most minimalist bass pedal setup I’ve noticed]. He dedicated his song to his wife and the lovers in the crowd before launching into sounds I didn’t even think possible from a bass guitar. He created layers using a looping pedal, building it up to an expansive track that swept us away. It was fun to watch too, because he would act out the sounds as he played them, sweeping from side to side as he used his wah pedal, or mouthing the sounds as he accented certain notes.

Doug Wimbash Living Colour San Fran Wellington

Calhoun also had a solo later in the set. You can probably already tell I’m a big fan, but he deserves the praise. First of all: he’s just a fantastic player. He’s all over the kit, tastefully colouring in the sound with all percussive means at his disposal, and throwing in plenty of metal blast beats just to mix things up. Secondly: he’s innovative. He has all manner of weird and wacky custom cymbals, drums and hardware that he helps to design, but his solo takes him beyond drumming when he uses electronic hand drums and modulators. During his solo he took time out from behind the kit to lay down an electronic track with looping pedals, before returning to the drum set to play over the music he’d just formed. A truly next-level musician who thinks beyond the constraints of his instrument.

For the encore, Reid was about to launch into a spiel, but caught himself and just offered: “You’ll know when you hear the guitar line”. Sure enough, he played the recognisable chords to Soundgarden’s “Blow Up The Outside World” and nothing more needed to be said. Chris Cornell’s death impacted rock fans around the world, so this rousing tribute came as no surprise.

It was their second cover of the night, the other being “Memories Can’t Wait”, by CBGB’s contemporaries Talking Heads.

Doug Wimbash Living Colour San Fran Wellington

They finished the night reinforcing just how diverse and able they are, transitioning from the furious thrash metal of “Time’s Up” to the infectious funky call and response of “”What’s Your Favourite Colour?”. Both songs were extremely fun to dance to in their own ways.

I watched the crowd disperse after the show and noticed that a number of notable NZ musicians had been in attendance, such as Rhian Sheehan, Steve Bremner and Jakob drummer Jason Johnston. To me, that’s as good as any indication that Living Colour have got the goods – if some of the best in the game show up for the gig.

And it was damn good. Sure, there were a few technical hitches, but Living Colour are some of the best musicans I could name. I’m still shocked that they came to play a small bar in Wellington, but I’m stoked that they did.

Living Colour Set List San Fran Wellington
The set list. 

Words and photos by Joseph James

“The Punk Rock Kids Of Post-Rock”- An Interview With The End Of The Ocean

The End Of The Ocean dunk
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I befriended some of the members of The End Of The Ocean at dunk!USA  when I was touring with the band Ranges last year. Their set was standout for a variety of reasons, but I’ll share a story of my personal connection.

I was at the front of the stage in the photo pit, taking pictures. Trish and Tara were both head banging as they played and I was trying to capture some shots of their hair flicking about. Tara got a bit too into it, and somehow lost balance, knocked her keyboard over, and fell over herself. I jumped up to help her reset her instrument, at the same time worried that I’d get in trouble for going onstage.

Tara was super grateful, and bought me a lot of drinks when we came through her home town of Columbus a few nights later. In all honesty, I can’t remember the all of exact details from Columbus, but I think I became a bit of a handful after too many beersies. I’m told that I got kicked out of a pizzeria, with someone from one of the bands carrying me away over their shoulder, quoting Lord Off The Rings while doing so.

So anyway, I think that The End Of The Ocean are pretty cool. Their music is great, and they’re fun to hang out with. After a long break, they’re back with two new singles, an upcoming album put out through the label Equal Vision, and an upcoming tour with my friends Tides Of Man.

What follows is an interview that probably contains too many stupid in-jokes, but I hope it illuminates who The End Of The Ocean are, and gives you insight into a great band with a great sense of fun.

The End Of The Ocean dunk!USA

The End Of The Ocean at dunk!USA 2017. Image: Will Not Fade

Joseph (Will Not Fade): What inspired the video clip for “bravado”? Slipknot’s “Before I Forget“?

The End Of The Ocean: We compiled a list of wacky ideas and randomly selected three elements that we liked. Our original idea for the video was to have a food fight in our animal masks whilst blowing firecrackers at each other (firecrackers are a normal staple in our van when we’re on tour.) Kris Herrmann, the videographer and director for the “bravado” music video, had a less messy vision in his head with a lot of fantastic suggestions, including a stylistic nod towards Slipknot’s “Before I Forget” video. We are very pleased with how the music video ultimately turned out.

Does your music have a message?

Of course. And it’s up to each individual to decide what that message might be.

What sets this new music apart from your previous output?

During the writing process we accepted that we could not bear the burden of fans’ nostalgia from our previous releases, which left us unafraid to probe our inner space and musical capabilities more freely. Individually, we were all dealing with a series of blows that life threw our way. The emotions and growth we all experienced forged a different fury and wonderment that we hadn’t tried to express musically before. Our new album is a bit more straightforward in some parts, angry, hopeful, even a little playful, and peppered with enough blast beats throughout for every man, woman, and child.

Tell me about working with Mike Watts. How did this partnership come about?

Mike is the man. His previous work speaks volumes on it’s own (producer for The Dillinger Escape Plan, Glassjaw, As Cities Burn, Hopesfall, etc.) and we were lucky enough that Equal Vision could hook us up with him. Mike was super intuitive to how we wanted this new album to sound, and he hit it out of the park.

The End Of The Ocean dunk!USA2017

The End Of The Ocean at dunk!USA 2017. Image: Will Not Fade

I’m intrigued by the album name -aire, could you explain the meaning of it?

The concept of our album stemmed from examining and discussing our humanity, what a strange trip it is to be alive, and the intense elements of our experiences that make us who we are. -aire is a suffix that forms nouns denoting a person characterized by or occupied with that named by the stem. We thought this suffix communicated all of these questions we were asking ourselves beautifully and abstractly.

Also, one of our bandmates is obsessed with the John Wick series and got part of the inspiration for the album name from one of those movies.

How have fans reacted to the two singles (“Bravado” and “Desire”) so far?

Our fans have always been ridiculously generous and supportive of our music. The response so far has been super. (Thanks, dudes!)

How has your approach to writing music changed since you started The End Of The Ocean?

This is the longest held lineup we’ve ever had in this band. So, basically, we argue less during practice and writing?

Generally speaking, we write most of our music together and historically that’s how our band has always done it. Not much has deviated from that.

I think that it is so awesome that you have two women in the band. What message have you got for any girls wanting to get into music?

Trish: Go for it. Just do it.

Tara: There’s nobody holding you back but you.

Do not enter this musical world with a victim complex. It’s boring and will only make you a sorry sack of excuses for not putting in the work.

If you’re a woman, you already know how many opinions and stereotypes with which you have to contend on a daily basis. Transcendence is harder than resigning yourself to other people’s’ opinions, but it makes you mighty. No wilting. No whimpering. Jump in head first and get ready to laugh at yourself often!

From Tara and Trish: If you’re a woman at one of our shows, please feel free to approach us if you’d like. We’re constantly in the midst of a sausage party when we’re doing band stuff, and it’s nice getting small breaks from all that. Sisterhood, unite!

I remember hearing that you’ve signed to Equal Vision when I was in Columbus last year. Has it been hard keeping this a secret?

We pretty much told all of our friends immediately. The only thing we didn’t do was post about it online until the label gave us the green light for the official announcement. Heh.

The End Of The Ocean dunk!USA

The End Of The Ocean at dunk!USA 2017. Image: Will Not Fade

In the past you’ve done DIY packaging for making your CD’s. Do you think this has helped you forge a closer connection with your fanbase? Do Tara and Trish really kiss the tshirts and CD’s?

It was a cool feature, but we aren’t aware of it making a deeper connection to our fans. Ultimately, the DIY packaging set the stage for us to develop minor carpal tunnels syndrome, watch cool movies together while folding and stamping the sleeves, and for Tara to make fun of Kevin for how much Type O Negative he listens to on a regular basis.

Tara and Trish do not kiss any merch. Sorry, guys and ghouls. They have, however, accidentally sneezed on or briefly worn some of the merch. Who doesn’t like laughing hysterically at a child-sized woman trying on a XXXL shirt? (Obviously referring to Trish. Tara is sizeably more like an average-sized man.)

Are we ever going to hear a split release with The Ocean Collective? Or We Lost The Sea?

Who?

Kidding. We’d bet $5 they’d probably respond the same way about us.

How about a HIM or CKY split, yeah?

I remember during your soundcheck at dunk!USA you promised Nickelback covers. Have you ever followed through on such threats?

Don’t be afraid. Keep coming to our shows to find out. Maybe we’ll throw in some Creed too.

It was a fantastic set that really stood out. I loved the extra touches, like throwing beach balls into the audience and the Walking Dead sample. At a post-rock festival like dunk!, many of the bands sound similar, and struggle to appear unique. How do you come up with ideas for making your shows interesting?

Thank you for the generous compliment. We just like to have fun as a band and don’t take ourselves too seriously. Most of our ideas come from us joking around in the van because we’re bored. The props for dunk!USA were a fun idea until the smokers in the band realized the joke was on them and they had to blow up all the beach balls by themselves. Yadda, yadda, straightedge revenge or something? Thanks a lot, Wes and Kevin.

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We made @rangesmusic a traveling companion. #faceoff

A post shared by Man Mountain (@man_mountain) on

Shown above is one of the beach balls from the dunk!USA set. The guys from Man Mountain added some creative touches and gifted it to their tour buddies Ranges.

 

Tell me your coolest nautical related story.

That ferry we took to get to dunk!USA in Vermont was pretty siq.

Wes, what is the secret to keeping your flesh beautiful?

Pringles. Red Bull. And the most diverse array of gas station delectables you could possibly imagine.

(Joseph, it’s hilarious you remembered us mentioning this while we were all hanging out at dunk!USA. Side story to fill everyone else in: When we were on tour a number of years ago, our drummer Wes was sitting outside the venue we were playing in Tempe, Arizona. We didn’t realize the adult bookstore next door was also a known glory-hole hot spot. So, as our sweet little Wesley was killing time by himself before our set, a suspect man approached him from the aforementioned adult bookstore and said with a thousand yard stare, “You have beautiful flesh.” The man, while creepy, isn’t wrong. Wink wink)

The End Of The Ocean dunk!USA2017

The End Of The Ocean at dunk!USA 2017. Image: Will Not Fade

I remember hanging out with Tara and Bryan in Junius’ hotel room after dunk!USA. A few of the guys from Caspian were there too. That was a big moment for me, realising that my small music blog had been a catalyst for travelling around the world and hanging out with some musicians I held great admiration for. Do you ever have moments where you have to step back and take stock of how far you’ve come?

That was a fun night! And yes, we have those big picture moments all of the time. Band life is absurd, so when you approach this lifestyle with a spirit of humility and gratitude, it isn’t difficult to get smacked squarely in the face with awe when stuff gets really meta.

You frequently do the “hardstyle” pose in your photos, and this has begun to spread within the post-rock community. I’ve been in a bunch of said photos with the likes of Ranges, Man Mountain and Cloud Shelter . Do you know where the hardstyle pose originated, or how it became popularised?

Prison. Hardstyle posing was also known as a “prison pose”. The tough guy hardcore scene is a sub-group that adopted this photo pose. And we took it from the hardcore scene and brought it to post-rock.

Our very own Kevin Shannon is also the originator of the #dailyhardstyle hashtag on Instagram. Bless.

What rules do you have in place for staying sane/healthy on tour?

Headphones. Sleep whenever it’s possible. Drink lots of water and juices. Bring a good book and keep feeding that noodle so it doesn’t turn to mush.

What is the best pizza flavour?

Trish – Pineapple

Kevin and Wes – All pizza is good pizza. No slice left behind. (Only it it’s vegan.)

Tara – Your dad’s b-hole

Crazy riders belong in the pantheon of rock mythology, with hilarious stories from the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and Van Halen. That said the greatest rider I’ve ever seen was yours from dunk!USA. Where did you find such inspiration?

One of us was bored one night and just started compiling the list. We wanted David Zeidler [the dunk!USA organiser] to know what he was “in for” when we rolled through town for dunk!USA. If you aren’t laughing, you ain’t living, my friend.

David Zeidler called you the “punk rock kids of post-rock”. Do you think you deserve this title?

We love it. We’ll take it.

The End Of The Ocean dunk!USA hospitality rider

The End Of The Ocean dunk!USA hospitality rider

What have been your career highlights to date?

Definitely playing the main stage at dunk!fest in Belgium. We still talk about it almost every single time we’re all together jamming or hanging out. It’s one of the best festivals out there to date.

And how about the worst moments?

Not having AC in our van for a six and a half week tour in the summer of 2012. Vinyl seats are no bueno in that type of scenario.

As you know, I talk funny because I’m a New Zealander, and Jakob are one of the best bands from my country. Did you befriend them when you both played dunk!festival 2015 in Belgium?

Unfortunately, we never had the pleasure of meeting them. Jakob is great, though!

Which bands are your faves for playing/touring with?

In most cases we’d say the heavier, the better. Our live performance is a bit of a tempest, and we just love performing with other bands with similar energy.

Some fantasy tours: Kevin – Bruce Spingsteen, Type O Negative, Bush Wes – Behemoth, NIN, Sigur Ros Trish – Thursday, Thrice, The Story So Far Tara – Bjork, Die Antwoord, The Misfits

Usually a new single signals an upcoming album, and then a supporting tour. What plans do you have in the works?

Our new album “-aire” is coming out January 18, 2019 through Equal Vision Records! We are also hitting the road for a headlining tour with Tides of Man in tow. Check the dates below and we look forward to seeing you guys soon!

The End Of The Ocean

Image: Bee Gats

THE END OF THE OCEAN -AIRE TOUR

WITH SPECIAL GUESTS TIDES OF MAN

JAN 18 COLUMBUS, OH AT ACE OF CUPS

JAN 19 CHICAGO, IL AT BEAT KITCHEN

JAN 20 DETROIT, MI AT EL CLUB

JAN 22 TORONTO, ON AT LEE’S PALACE

JAN 23 MONTREAL, QC AT CASA DEL POPOLO

JAN 24 NEW YORK, NY AT SAINT VITUS

JAN 25 ALLSTON, MA AT GREAT SCOTT

JAN 26 PHILADELPHIA, PA AT MILKBOY

JAN 27 BALTIMORE, MD AT OTTOBAR

The End Of The Ocean Tides Of Man Tour Poster


The End Of The Ocean links:

Pre-order link to the album: https://theendoftheocean.merchnow.com

Website: http://theendoftheocean.com/

Bandcamp: https://theendoftheocean.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theendoftheoceanband/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/endoftheocean

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theendoftheocean/

Spotify: http://open.spotify.com/artist/4AXRViJcT2cJ0x1CxSSldW

 

Joseph James

 

Live Review: Frank Turner at San Fran, Wellington (2x shows)

Frank Turner NZ Be More Kind Poster
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Frank Turner (solo) – Show 2284

Matinee show

San Fran, Wellington

Thursday 29 November 2018

It was April 2015 when Frank Turner last played Wellington. He’s since released two albums, Positive Songs For Negative People (2015), and Be More Kind (2018). That show he played at Meow was #1666, and today was #2284 and #2285, which just goes to show how often he plays.

When first announced, this date was billed as a solo show. I was disappointed, but still planned on going. Then plans changed: The Sleeping Souls were also coming to play with Frank – yay! Tickets promptly sold out, so Turner opted to play a second set for those who missed out – a solo matinee set. Double yay – two Frank Turner gigs in one day.

I’d taken half the day off work to make sure that I could get here in time for the 5pm start. I obviously don’t go to matinee shows much, because I couldn’t get over how bright the venue was in the day. Aren’t bar venues supposed to be dark and dingy? Not that it mattered, because I was about to see one of my favourite artists play.

Frank Turner San Fran Wellington

This was my fourth time seeing Turner play, and it felt different. Dressed casually, and armed with an acoustic guitar, he rewarded his fans by playing a both hits and deep cuts, spanning his solo career. As you can imagine, he drew largely from his most recent album, but he covered the essentials, as well as some unexpected numbers.

I’ve been having a hard time recently, and this set was just the remedy I needed. Hearing Turner open with the gentle encouragement of “Don’t Worry” washed away all the turbulent crap filling my head and eased me into the moment.

And soon I was dancing and singing along to his rousing tunes. His recent albums bore themes of positivity and kindness, which did wonders to bring the mood up in the venue. Turner always encourages participation at his shows, coaching us to sing along with him.

That said, a solo acoustic show is the perfect setting in which to play slower tunes, such as “Song For Eva Mae” and “Journey Of The Magi”. But those moments didn’t last long, with Turner infectiously turning the intensity up throughout the set. I would have loved to her “There She Is” again, having fallen in love with the song when I saw him play it in Vancouver last year, but he did play 18 songs… as a warm up… so I shan’t complain.

Turner was as charming as always, dropping funny anecdotes about sitting next to a doomsday prepper on a flight, and screaming at the band Slayer in a petrol station at 3am one morning. Intimate shows like this are a great setting for artists to open up and share the stories behind the songs [another similar one that jumps to mind was when I saw Into It. Over It. in Melbourne].

Frank Turner San Fran Wellington

His voice was sounding fairly hoarse by the end of the set. I know he recently cancelled an instore show in Dusseldorf last week to give his voice a break, which leaves me wondering how he is going to hold up later tonight.

It was a fantastic show, and I’m glad that I chose to attend this set as well as the main one, but something was lacking. Certain songs just needed that extra oomph that only a band could offer. I’m looking forward to the real deal later on.

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls – Show 2285

w/ The Hard Aches and Emily Barker

I walked home to my nearby apartment to grab something to eat, draft up my review and upload the data to setlist.fm, before promptly returning for the second show.

Emily Barker played country/folk with a tinge of danger – similar to Emma Ruth Rundle at times. I was surprised that Turner didn’t come out to reprise his part on Barker’s song “Fields of June” – like he’d done with Jon Snodgrass when playing Buddies material last time they were in town – but I guess that he needed to rest his voice as much as he could. It sounded weird hearing country/Americana styled music from someone with an Australian accent, but Barker pulled it off with no worries.

Emily Barker San Fran Wellington

Emily Barker

I preferred Barker’s countrymates The Hard Aches, a punk duo who boasted an impressive sound for just two people. Royal Blood make way, because The Hard Aches are going to give you a run for your money! Their sound was energetic and fun, with great vocal harmonies. They sounded familiar, without me being able to put my finger exactly on who they reminded me of. Some of their music was snotty punk with strong Aussie accents, but a lot of songs featured deceptively mature songwriting.

The Hard Aches San Fran Wellington

The Hard Aches

You know how I mentioned before that Turner’s first set was great, but lacked something? Well, this time that void was well and truly filled. The Sleeping Souls are a well oiled machine – as you can well imagine after having played literally thousands of shows together. Their collective experience shows because they’re hella tight, and great showmen.

Obviously they were always going to draw heavily from the last record on the Be More Kind Tour, but the entire first half of the set was from the last three albums. I guess they haven’t played in New Zealand since releasing the past two records, so they needed to cover some of that material.

But it’s the older material (first four records) that the crowd really lapped up, singing along to wholeheartedly. Turner openly admitted that he was struggling with his voice by this stage, so welcomed the help from the “Wellington Gospel Choir”.

Turner took on a secondary solo spell for the night, playing calmer numbers “The Lifeboat” (a deviation from the planned set because it was requested and easy to sing) and “Glorious You”. But from there on in it was all go, with crowd favourite sing-alongs and mosh pits. Each song seemed sequentially better than the last.

The first three songs during the encore had also featured earlier in the night during the solo set, but felt fully fleshed out and full of vigor this time. Everyone was whipped into a dance frenzy for “Four Simple Words”

Frank Turner preaches a lot about his idealised punk-rock world, where people care for each other and can tolerate differential viewpoints without resorting to them-and-us politics. Where we can link arms with strangers and sing and dance together despite our differences. And although I’m sure he says virtually the same thing at every show, I think that he genuinely believes in his message of community. During the final song “Polaroid Picture” he substituted a line about London venue The Astoria closing down for Wellington’s own Bodega. This showed his awareness for our local music scene, and that he truly places importance on live music and how it can bring people together. A subtle difference that I really appreciated when I picked up on it.

Tonight I got to see one of my favourite musicians play a whopping 43 songs. And it was awesome. I got to see the intimate, poetic side to him, as well as the road-weathered master showman. And I feel incredibly blessed for it. If you get the chance to see Frank and the Sleeping Souls play, seize the opportunity!

 

Frank Turner San Fran Wellington set list

Turner switched “Long Live The Queen” for “The Lifeboat”

Words and photos by Joseph James

Live Review: Bill Murray & Jan Vogler in Wellington

Bill Murray Jan Volger
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Bill Murray and Jan Vogler – New Worlds Tour

Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington
Wednesday 14 November 2018

Jan Vogler and Bill Murray met each other on a plane ride from Berlin to New York. A friendship formed, and soon the two decided to collaborate. Vogler, being a renowned cellist, and Murray a famous actor. The result is look into fine arts, with particular focus on classical music and American literature.

Joining the duo onstage Vogler’s wife, Mira Wang, on violin, and pianist Vanessa Perez. There was also a young man who turned the pages of Perez’s sheet music for her.

I’ve toured across America and some of Europe with the band Ranges during the past year, and have been trying to figure out how I could make a living doing something along those lines ever since.  I think I may have found the answer. Perez employs someone to turn the pages of her sheet music. I could do that! I can become a page turner! I’ll travel the world, hanging out with rock stars, living the dream. I’m willing to risk a few paper cuts for that kind of career!

Bill Murray Wellington

It’s a great concept – poetry and prose with powerful music for company. In the past I’ve extolled hardcore band La Dispute for trying this themselves (their Here, Hear EP’s fuse literature with experimental music). Sometimes Murray gave solo readings, sometimes the band played classical instrumental pieces, and sometimes they all came together, either for songs with Murray on vocals, or for literature with classical backing.

I’ll be honest, this is not my usual style of music. Other than the recent Rhian Sheehan show, the last time I saw a cello in a live context was in Portland, Oregon last year, where I saw cello quartet Apocalyptica play a set of Metallica covers. It was about as far removed from this event as you can imagine.

But although I seldom listen to chamber music, I can still appreciate the talent. As always, Michael Fowler Centre sounds incredible. And you could tell that the trio playing were masters of their craft. They plucked, bowed, strummed and played with great passion and dynamics.

Bill Murray Jan Volger Wellington

We also had some more modern numbers. A rousing short version of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” had everyone in the auditorium joining in loudly. West Side Story, featured a few times (please picture a grown man singing “I Feel Pretty” and running about in excited circles.) Murray downed a tumbler of liquor, because launching into Tom Wait’s “The Piano Has Been Drinking”

As you’d expect, Murray was quite the character. He has someone managed to evolve beyond the image of the standard acting celebrity Internet forums share rumoured urban legends of him showing up to random parties uninvited, or taking over bars to serve tequila to all the patrons, regardless of what they order. Many stories end with Murray telling someone: “No one will ever believe you.”

It is also heavily rumoured that the contracted purchasing agreement between pharma cretin Martin Shkreli and the Wu Tang Clan specifies that Murray is legally allowed to burgle the exclusive copy of the Wu Tang album from Shkreli, should he choose to.

Of course, we are all familiar with Murray’s quirky film characters too. Which made me wonder whether we were seeing the true Murray tonight. Is it authentic, or is it an act?

Either way, he was thoroughly enjoyable. Drawing upon his acting talents, he adopted accent for some readings. And he was wickedly funny, both in dialogue and mannerisms. His singing ability was nothing to write home about – not bad, but not good either – but he injected such life into the performances that songs captivated regardless.

I’d love to sit down with Murray and Vogler to pick their brains, and see why they chose the pieces they did. What kind of narrative or message or theme did they want to share with us?

Bill Murray Jan Volger Wellington

The literature was interesting too. My favourite was Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Dog”. Another highlight was an extended passage of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.

Murray sat down to read (in a Southern hick accent) when one person approached the stage and left placed a small gift bag at his feet. Murray continued to read, but his fan clearly needed some attention. Ushers came down to sit with her, but she actually ran onto the stage and chased Murray later in the show.

At the end of the night, before the last song, someone from backstage came on with a bouquet of roses and handed them to Murray. Murray proceeded to run about the auditorium, pelting members of the audience with said roses. Usually offering someone flowers is a lovely gesture, but seeing a grown man attempting to hiff them up to those seated in the balconies was pure comedy. And our friend from earlier, who had left the gift onstage, received a rose for her efforts too.

All up it was a great night. Some of it was a beautiful look into music and literature. Some parts were more shambolic. But it was all engaging and entertaining, and everyone left with cheery smiles, enraptured with the comedic spell Murray had cast.

 

Words and photos by Joseph James

Live Review: David Byrne at TSB Arena, Wellington

David Byrne American Utpia
Standard

David Byrne – American Utopia Tour

w/ Kimbra
TSB Arena, Wellington
Tuesday 13 November 2018

I’ve never seen TSB Arena set up with carpet tiles. I guess most of the time I’m watching rock bands and the bogans spill beer all over the floor, but still, it added a slight air of classiness to the night.

Kimbra seemed a suitable choice as opener tonight. Quirky, and very percussion-based, her unique brand of pop shares many commonalities with Byrne’s. Kimbra stood centre stage, fitted out in a glittery caped outfit that Rob Halford would be proud of. She was flanked by two other musos, mostly playing synth, but using a number of other instruments too. The mix sounded muddy, with excessive focus on the low-end, which sadly made Kimbra’s voice harder to hear. I didn’t enjoy it to start with, but towards the end of her set things started to improve.


On of the key figures in the CBGB’s scene – a New York club from whence the seeds of punk and new-wave grew – David Byrne came to prominence fronting Talking Heads, which in turn provided a springboard for his solo music career. Tonight drew heavily from his recent album American Utopia, with a few covers and Talking Heads numbers thrown in for good measure.

In a live setting there are bands that play music, and bands that put on a show. There was never any doubt that Byrne falls into the later category.

Byrne sat on a chair at a solitary desk situated centre stage. Stark lighting illuminated draped strings that hung around the perimeter of the stage, acting as curtains that could easily be passed through at any point. He held a fake brain up as a prop, pointing to different sections as he sung his song “Here”. Screens either side of the stage showed this from a bird’s-eye perspective, giving an oddly surreal feel.

He wore a crisp all-grey suit, with all three blazer buttons done up. But his bare feet and shock of thick white hair gave the impression of someone slightly eccentric. Although how small is the divide between eccentric and genius?

Some band members came on stage to join him, a couple backing singers, a keyboard player, guitar and bass. They all dressed uniform: barefoot in grey suits. This is when things started to get impressive. The music was captivating, but all the performers danced and moved around in sync. Hats off to the choreographer, and to the performers who had to memorize and execute the nearly two-hour long set most nights.

It was infectious too. The entire event was seated, with no general admission option, but you could see by the third song that a mass migration was well underway, with punters abandoning their allocated seats for dancing space within the aisles. It makes me wonder why they even bothered setting up chairs in the first place, knowing the kind of music Byrne would play.

There were 12 musicians in total. Some had distinct roles – like the singers and keyboardist, but many changed instruments depending on the song. And did I mention that they all moved about the stage? That’s right: no stationary drum sets, no keyboards on stands; everyone danced about the stage and played flawlessly while they were mobile. Byrne himself took to guitar on a few songs too.

I can’t even name all the instruments I saw. There were lots of drums and percussive instruments. The final song featured melodica solos. And it was all live. Byrne explained that although many people suspect backing tracks and samples, everything was coming from the 12 people onstage or in the wings. It was hard to believe, but he broke down one track, allowing us to see for ourselves as each musician began to join in sequentially.

The stage set-up changed slightly for each song. Usually it was all under stark white lighting, but they made use of spotlights and shadows to highlight certain elements. My favourite effect was a harsh floodlight at the front of the stage projecting shadows of the players against the rear wall. The musicians would march on and off stage at certain points, providing visual dynamics to match the wonderful music.

As you can guess, some of the songs that garnered the best reaction from the crowd were the bigger Talking Heads hits, such as “Once In A Lifetime”, “Road To Nowhere” and “Burning Down The House”. One of the best songs took me by surprise though.

I had expected them to close with “Psycho Killer”, on of the more iconic Talking Heads songs. Instead, they finished the night with an electrifying cover of called “Hell You Talmbout”. Byrne explained that he’d seen Janelle Monáe play it at the 2015 Women’s March, and had become completely taken with the song.

And I can see why. First of all, it made use of the many talented percussionists and drummers in the band, providing a compelling primal energy. Secondly, the political content provided a righteous anger to help everyone get fired up. And finally, it is repetitive, which helped everyone fall under the spell of the infectious groove. What an incredibly powerful song.

It was a sensational night. Fantastic music, impressive showmanship, great stage set up, brimming with fun energy, and completely original. Byrne demonstrated exactly why he’s managed to have such a long and critically acclaimed career. If you get the chance to see this show, do not miss it!

 

Joseph James