It has been 11 years and 3 studio releases since Opeth last played a show in New Zealand. And from the excitement outside Auckland’s Powerstation, we can definitely assume that they are long overdue.
19:00 The line outside stretched well over 100 meters as we came waltzing up to the gig, prompting a quick detour to Galbraith’s pub across the road for a pint. Once inside we were hit by a strong wave of B.O courtesy of the black t-shirt brigade. High spirits and freshly poured beer in hand helped to focus our remaining senses. We did, however, move outside just in case, meeting up with many well socially lubricated excited fans with tales of sold out shows and the hunt for extra tickets.
20:00 Doors open and the black sea crashes through the gates. Once inside, the merch booth is already pumping out t-shirts. Its only competition is the beer flowing from glass bottles and into plastic cups. One gladly partakes.
Caligula’s Horse: Beckoning the Crowd
Having seen them just one day prior at Wellington’s Valhalla, I was keen to see what Brisbane Prog-rockers Caligula’s Horse could bring to a larger venue. Playing with a true sense of passion executed with precision, their Brisbane sound translates well to a house packed with Kiwi metal heads. Soaring vocals and blazing yet nuanced dueling guitars showed Caligula’s Horse’s professionalism and judging from the crowd’s reaction they will most certainly be welcomed back to our shores.
Too much of the creature made us lose track of time but the short break after Caligula’s Horse four song set sent us one more time back to the bar rubbing shoulders with the ever-increasing sea of people. I managed to secure a great spot right next to the sound desk ensuring that I would make the most of the acoustics of the venue. And it provided easy access to the bar. Standing in the crowd empty-handed just did not feel right.
From Darkness comes Light
Opeth walked onto the darkened stage greeted by the deafening cheer of the crowd. Crimson and silver lights flashed. Little dampened the sound of the audience as Opeth ripped into the title track off their latest release, “Sorceress”.
The well-rehearsed set is filled with a mix of old and new continuing with “Ghost of Perdition” – a personal favourite of mine – before moving on with “The Wild Flowers” (also from their latest release). Not a band famous for an overly energetic performance, the set is highlighted with Mikael’s dry humour, often followed by sensible chuckles from the rest of the band and audience alike. A well-balanced sound is at points dressed up with some silky smooth lead guitar tones (Frederik is unmatched for the night).
Frederik is ripping it up!
The one low point of the night came when it was time for Mikael to announce their last song for the evening. A large portion of the crowd started to boo but was quickly turned into a cheer when they were told that it was bad form. The set ended as it quite often does with a perfectly performed rendition of the song “Deliverance” from the album of the same name.
All in all a fantastic night was had by all. Our night ended on Auckland’s Queen Street, where we were treated to a show by a 17-year-old male who was taking a joy ride in a forklift that he had stolen. We filmed this young man and sent a video through to stuff which can be viewed here.
You’d think that with the amount of trouble I get into, I’d have learnt by now not to underestimate my ability to get lost in another city. But unfortunately I still find myself in situations like that today, in which I managed to get stranded on an island.
After an exciting day of exploring old army bunkers on Waiheke Island, I found the winding roads too hard to navigate, and managed to narrowly miss the ferry I needed to catch back to Auckland in time for the gig.
Sadly opening act Barracks had long finished their set by the time I got to the Powerstation, and Alexisonfire were already half way through their second song as I entered the venue.
I was kicking myself for showing up so late, but my excitement meant that I was soon caught up in the moment and forgot about the stress of trying to get there earlier. I’d been looking forward to this show for many months, and after an eventful drive up from Wellington I was finally here – albeit slightly late.
Alexisonfire are five piece post-hardcore act from Ontario, Canada. They released four albums between 2002-2009. One point of difference they boast is that they have three singers: George Pettit fronts the band on unclean vocals, Dallas Green sings clean vocals as well as playing guitar and piano, and Wade McNeil provides backing vocals whilst also playing guitar. In 2012 the band disbanded, with each singer going on to front other projects.
The Powerstation was well packed for a Monday night, with a generous turnout to see the newly reformed Canadians back in action. Here was a band that was most relevant a decade ago, but could still attract a decent audience on a work night.
And after seeing them play, I could see why. This was one of the more intense shows I’d been to in a while. The driving drums, high energy riffs and powerful roars all blended together to create a visceral experience. I’m surprised that the mosh pit wasn’t more wild, between the music, Pettit shouting at us to “Fuck this place up” and McNeil telling us to punch Nazis in the face.
To be honest they could have said just about anything and the crowd would have lapped it up. People even tolerated Green’s request for us to sing “Happy Birthday” to one of the roadies. In fact, if I remember correctly, he also asked us to sing “Happy Birthday” to his guitarist when City And Colour last played in Wellington as well. In my experience this seldom goes down well when a musician pulls this. But everyone was having a good time. People cheered when the band announced that the venue was a safe and tolerant space. People cheered when they heard that former local act The Bleeders lived near the band in Canada. People cheered when Pettit said he could see us all clearly after having had laser eye surgery.
The band covered a great cross section material, with tracks pulled from all four albums – predominantly 2006’s Crisis – and even the title track from their 2010 Dog’s Blood EP.
It was a dynamic set. The band ripped through popular hits and offered an all-out assault at first, but towards the end of the set they changed it up by introducing meandering instrumental sections and tender sing along moments. Encoring with some songs from the older two albums was met with favour, with many people noticeably running to the front to get closer during their old-time favourites.
Although the band’s punk pedigree was a big draw card, their slow burners and more melodic moments stood out. Green has enjoyed a fine career with his solo side project City and Colour, which is more folk/singer-songwriter styled. His strengths lie in vocal melodies and this was more than evident tonight, with his voice being far louder in the mix than the others. His voice is fantastic, and although he strained at times, his singing sections provided standout singalongs that brought balance to George and Wade’s double teamed shouting.
It was a brilliant gig. Varied, dynamic, and featuring all the expected hits. The band not only played their songs, but they put on a show. Nostalgia for well-written old songs were enough to draw the punters in, and excellent delivery kept them wanting more.
Like similar acts Tenacious Dand The Beards, Steel Panther are comprised of some very talented musicians who choose to centre their band on parody. By channeling late 1980’s LA rock giants like Mötley Crüe, Guns n Roses and Skid Row, Steel Panther bring the excess of hair metal forward thirty years, with a generous dosage of tongue in [between] cheek.
It’s all-out assault on decency, with every song guaranteed to offend. If it’s sexual and lewd, than you’re likely to find a Steel Panther song on the topic. I dare say it’s an assault on the environment as well, with the amount of hairspray the band uses surely responsible for a large part of our ozone depleting.
Arriving at The Powerstation on a Sunday evening, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I have seen some of my favourite bands play this venue [Rise Against, Biffy Clyro, Jimmy Eat World], so I know it works well as a tightly packed intimate setting. The rest of the crowd, however, seemed to have a fair idea of what they were in for. Glancing around I saw countless fishnet tights, neon pink outfits, and luscious long locks flowing from underneath bandannas …. And that was just the men!
Kiwi rockers Blue Ruin kicked off night with their own blend of rock and punk. They recently opened for Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie, and the Runaways influence is obvious on the all-girl five-piece. In fact, they’ve had a good run of slots opening for various acts recently, including Buckcherry and The Misfits, both of whom they covered during tonight’s set. They did OK and looked the part, but it was pretty apparent that they need a few more band practices to tighten up their act. Blue haired front woman Jessie Booth appears set to fill Jennie Skulander’s boots if she keeps up what she is doing, especially with that roar of hers.
In between sets one wild-eyed individual approached my friend and I to chat. He had long curly hair, a thick black beard and glasses, giving him a white nerdy Jesus look. I think he decided to chat to the two of us because we both had beards as well. He was saying about how much he loved Steel Panther, and how he has been unsuccessfully trying to convince his son to listen to them as well. My [Swedish] friend has seen Steel Panther three times already, and was telling the guy that he was in for a fun night. Upon hearing my friend’s Swedish accent, the guy mistook him for American and began professing his undying love for Bernie Sanders to us, despite my friend explaining that he isn’t actually American. After a few minutes of hearing all about the virtues of the Bern, the guy produced a small joint and began to offer it around.
Kicking off the night with the panther growls that introduce song “Eye Of The Panther”, Steel Panther showed us what we were in for. Hot off an Australian tour with Black Stone Cherry, the band was in fine form. They sounded seriously good. Parody act or not, they knew how to play. They had the image down-pat too. Everything the band wore was lycra and leopard print, and they all had long flowing hair and bandannas.
Bass player Lexi Foxx puts the glam component in glam rock, preening himself in front of the mirror, spraying hairspray and applying lip gloss between most songs. Aerosmith have the song “Dude Looks Like A Lady”, and although I thought it was about Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil, it could very well have been written about Foxx instead. Foxx was on the receiving end of many of the band’s jokes, being portrayed as the “retarded bass player”.
Frontman Michael Starr was the “slightly fatter David Lee Roth”, or “slightly skinnier Vince Neil”, depending which way you looked at it. Either way, he could sing just as well. They band told of how he had received vocal lessons from Judas Priest singer Rob Halford, and Starr even came onstage dressed like Halford during one song, rocking aviator sunglasses and a bright red sparkly sequined coat.
Guitarist Satchel provided one of the highlights of the night with a ripping extended guitar solo that included a medley with nods to classic rock bands like Van Halen, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Guns n Roses, Iron Maiden and even a song from The Sound of Music made it in there.
Drummer Stixx Zadinia had little to say throughout the night, but he had complete control over his monstrous red DW kit. Throughout the set he would play around by throwing drumsticks to the band and crew, then catching them when thrown back and playing on without missing a beat.
The band’s real strength lay in how well they could improvise. There was plenty of stage banter, and although not all of it could have been original, much of it was. They interacted with the crowd, cracked jokes and brought girls up onstage to dance around.
One such girl was Asian, so got the dubious honour of being the centre of attention for the song “Asian Hooker”. Later in the night two scantily clad twins wearing studded bras got onstage and the band composed a song for them, each member ad-libbing couplets while Satchel strummed his acoustic guitar. It was a bit concerning seeing two sisters so desperate for attention that they would hook up with each other onstage, and even the band seemed slightly uncomfortable with it. Soon enough the stage was full, with girls being pulled up left, right and centre. It was undeniably crude, but that is all you would expect from Steel Panther. And that’s where the genius of their joke lies, because although they go all-out to shock with their content, it is hardly any different to the “serious” that they are spoofing, making the act believable.
At the end of the band started to throw items into the crowd: guitar picks, water bottles, empty hair spray canisters etc… One drumstick was thrown very close to where I was standing so I put my hand out to catch it, but it was just out of reach. The person who caught it raced to the back of our venue so I turned to see who it was, and lo and behold, it was none other than our Sanders-loving stoner friend from earlier in the night. Needless to say he was completely ecstatic with his prize.
Steel Panther put on an incredibly entertaining performance. It wasn’t just a concert, it was a show. A funny, absurd, inappropriate and improvised rock show. And it was awesome.
I am a huge Foo Fighters fan. I saw them put on three-hour show across two stages at Vector Arena when I was 16 years old. It was (and is likely to remain) the greatest concert I had ever been to. The second time I saw the Foos the crowd collectively triggered an earthquake by jumping up and down to the music.
Since then Dave Grohl and his cohorts have released two great documentaries with fairly weak soundtracks (Sound City and Sonic Highways). This tour is the first in New Zealand to have not sold out in the past decade. Ticket prices have been lowered to less than a third of what they were to entice more people to the show. This all begs the question: have the Foo Fighters lost it, or are they still as brilliant as they ever were?
Rise Against have managed to carve a musical career by blending punk politics, attitudes and ethos with melodic rock sensibilities. In 2008 they signed to a major label and managed to break into the mainstream without compromising their sound and values. I respect them for being one of the few bands played on the radio with messages actually worth taking note of.
Tonight was the fourth time I’d seen Rise Against onstage. I was pleased that almost half their set was older (pre-major label) material. They had large glowing letters spelling out RISE onstage but we all know that it isn’t about how cool the setup looks, it’s about the energy put into the music and delivery. They played with the expected intensity. Guitarist Zach Blair was doing his signature punk jumps all over the stage. The songs “Help Is On The Way” and “Savior” both featured dynamic extended bridges.
Front-man Tim McIlrath invited Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett onstage to join the band. I’m assuming that Shiflett has been friends with Rise Against since his punk days, when he played for No Use For A Name. Together they covered the Jawbreaker song “Kiss The Bottle”
I really like Rise Against
Auckland based opening act Miss June also played well. The drums stood out as sounding especially good. Although at first, they seemed a bit shy and shoe-gazy, after they had warmed up Miss June appeared right at home, delivering a short set of garage punk. Front-woman Annabel Liddell flung herself around the stage channeling Joan Jett. I half expected to hear “Ch, ch, ch, ch, CHERRY BOMB!”
I was confused by the Foo Fighter’s opening guitar line. “Skin and Bones”? Surely they’re not opening with an acoustic song? Actually, no. It was “Something From Nothing”, from the most recent album, Sonic Highways. I swear those two songs have near identical riffs.
“We’re not here to play a two hour set!” Grohl roared “Not two and a quarter, not two and a half! We want to put on the best show we can! I wanna play songs from the first record, the second record, the third record…”
And sure enough, they played for three hours, with a set including material from every album. Every song was a single, save for a few from the new album (that are likely to become singles) so there was a wide enough spread to please fans old and new.
One highlight was “Monkey Wrench”. It started off as usual, but turned into a sprawling psychedelic number come the bridge. The lights slowly dimmed until there was complete darkness, leaving the audience to drink in the sounds without distraction. Another was “These Days”, which grew and grew into a rousing sing along. Songs like these are when the Foo Fighters truly shine, when they turn playing into performing, with musical and visual dynamics.
The moment that they started to lose it was when Grohl walked to the end of the catwalk to play to those at the back of the stadium. This signaled a lull in the set. Those of us at the front couldn’t see anyone playing and the songs were acoustic. The energy had dissipated. People standing around me started checking their phones.
Grohl talked about his promise to play Auckland Town Hall the previous night. Unfortunately that show needed to be cancelled almost as soon as it had been announced. A truck carrying the band’s gear from their previous show in Christchurch had crashed near Taihape on the way to Auckland. “I guess this makes me look like an asshole” he grinned “so I tell you what: if you do something for me I’ll play two shows at the Town Hall next time I come, to make up for it.”
He started strumming “Wheels”. “Last time I made a deal that if you sang along to this song I’d play that Town Hall” he continued, “Well that didn’t work out, so the new deal is if you don’t sing along, then I’ll come back and play those shows.” Of course people still sang along.
“This is the first time I’ve ever told the crowd to shut up, to not sing along. And you still can’t even do it!” Grohl grinned, pretending to chide his audience.
When we first arrived I pointed out to my girlfriend why “the D” (The term used at Big Day Out for the fenced of area at the front, shaped in the shape of a letter D) was split in half.”That’s the catwalk,” I explained, “They run up and down it as they play so that they can get closer to the audience. At the Vector show they actually lowered a second stage from the roof with all the instruments on it so that the band could walk come down the end to play an acoustic set. But obviously that won’t happen tonight, because there is no roof to lower a stage from.”
I was wrong though. Sure, there was no roof to lower a stage from, so they had a secondary stage next to the catwalk that rose up from the ground instead. This was the covers stage, where the band paid homage to bands who had initially inspired them, like Rush, Kiss, and AC/DC. The best was their rendition of the classic Queen/David Bowie collab “Under Pressure”, with drummer Taylor Hawkins taking on Freddie Mercury’s parts and Grohl taking on Bowie’s.
“Under Pressure” revived the show. And if it hadn’t, “All My Life” certainly would have. By the penultimate song, “Best Of You”,Grohl was clearly starting to lose his voice. They finished off with the obligatory “Everlong” (The rock version, not the acoustic version that they have tended to play live for the past several years).
So to answer my question from before: have the Foo Fighters lost it, or are they still as brilliant as they ever were? It was an excellent show. Three hours from one of the world’s best rock bands is hard to fault. But it did feel like they were going through the motions. They played song after song, but that was it. The extra performance aspects I had come to expect were largely absent. The extended jams didn’t feature too often. There were no guitar duels and long drum solos.
If this was the first time I had seen the Foos play I would be raving about how amazing it was. But I have seen them play twice before, and the third time just wasn’t as good.
Foo Fighters played two sold out shows at Wembley Arena in 2008. I think that is when they peaked. They are by no means bad, but it looks to me that they are resting on their laurels rather than continuing to push the envelope. The documentaries they have released are great, but the new music and the Mt Smart performance fail to inspire me.
When he calls himself Freddie “Gansta” Gibbs you better believe it.
I’ve seen a few rappers in my time, but none seem as thug as Freddie Gibbs.
Gibbs had a DJ providing backing beats, and was also joined onstage by two big black men from his entourage. These two men didn’t seem to have any musical role so I assume that they were bodyguards or security. They spent the whole time drinking and smoking. $10 says it wasn’t tobacco, either.
I swear every song ended with Gibbs saying “Give it up for this motherfucker” and the DJ making an obnoxious horn noise, followed by Gibbs starting the chants “Fuck the Po-lice” and “When I say ES, you say GN!” [Evil Seeds Grow Naturally, the name of Gibb’s début album and clothing label.]
Every. Single. Song.
The dude would give South Park a run for its money in a swearing competition. “Fuck the Police! Smoke yo weed!” he shouted. “Who gets high and shows up for work?” he asked. “That’s what I do!”
This was the first time I had attended a hip hop gig in Auckland. When I first walked into the venue I was impressed. It was nice and big with balconies running around the perimeter of the room. And air conditioning – something that most Wellington venues seriously need to work on.
Gibbs was advertised to start at 9.45pm. I was surprised then, to see a younger rapper come onstage at 10pm. Turns out it was Wellington based support act Name UL.
He did well. He worked the crowd up, as any good opener should. And the once he finished we waited.
And waited. For over an hour. Any hype that Name UL had caused had long worn off.
When Gibbs finally came on stage he said “We don’t have much time for this shit so let’s get going”.
Gibbs then delivered a solid half hour set. His rhymes were tight and his delivery impeccable. The crowd was lapping it up. Many of the songs were from his most recent release, Pinata. Half of what he did was a Capella, making it more impressive in stark comparison.
Then Gibbs left the stage. The DJ started a song and Gibbs ran back to do a song. Then he left. Then he came back. It was very confusing. Was he hoping that we chant for an encore? Clearly I wasn’t the only one confused because the crowd was noticeably thinning.
The DJ proceeded to play about four songs while Gibbs watched from a balcony upstairs. Then Gibbs came down and started dancing. Then he left again.
Was he going to rap again? Why had Gibbs said that he was short on time? If he had enough time to dance around surely he had enough time to rap a few more songs? Is it over?
I showed up to the show around 9.30pm and left at 12.20am. I barely saw an hour’s worth of live rapping during that time. I don’t feel like I got $60 worth. I paid money to see a rapper perform. If I wanted to listen to recorded hip hop I would have played some through my own speakers at home.
There’s no denying Gibbs has talent. He spits lyrics as well as the rest of them. But maybe if he had spent more time onstage instead of making me wait while he smoked weed I would have left with a more favourable opinion of him.