Live reviews + concert photos

Some of these reviews feature photos by Garry Brandon, a concert and commercial photographer. All such images copyright Garry Brandon, whose website is here.

These reviews don't simply recount the set list with a few adjectives thrown in but take different perspectives.

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CHRIS ISAAK, REVIEWED (2024): Turning the starlight on

25 Apr 2024  |  5 min read  |  1

In the years before Covid we would sometimes go to the opera. Just one a year and when my rock'n'roll friends asked me why I'd glibly say, “it's important to know what your enemy is up to”. I was joking of course and went to the opera out of curiosity. Let it be said I know very little – extremely little – about opera. But in advance of the performance would read... > Read more

MERMAIDENS, REVIEWED (2023): The arc of their covenant

9 Dec 2023  |  4 min read

Recently I interviewed Mermaidens' Gussie Larkin and Lily West for an extensive AudioCulture profile at the time of their fourth, self-titled album. At one point singer/guitarist Larkin said, “Our audience has got older, more of a Radio New Zealand crowd, and we’re just leaning into that”. By that she meant that audience which -- in the absence of print media coverage... > Read more

WAR ON DRUGS, REVIEWED (2023): Thunder but no hurricane

3 Dec 2023  |  6 min read  |  2

If there's a recession, then no one told Auckland's “squeezed middle” out looking for entertainment this weekend. On Friday there was the Hansel and Gretel ballet at the Aotea Centre (music by Claire Cowan), the Others Way festival which took over various venues on and around K Rd, Lloyd Cole at the cathedral in Parnell and Kraftwerk at the Spark Arena. The following night... > Read more

NILE RODGERS AND CHIC, REVIEWED (2023): Everybody in the house say yo

19 Oct 2023  |  4 min read

About 15 years ago I took one of my sons – a Beatle fan in his 30s – to a touring tribute shows, either the Let It Be show or that by the excellent Bootleg Beatles. Either way, they played the Beatles' career chronologically and after a couple of songs – probably She Loves You and Can't Buy Me Love – my son said in a stage whisper, “Play something we all... > Read more

RATSO, REVIEWED (2023): Gimme a smile . . . shut your face

10 Jun 2023  |  5 min read

The Warners used to do that, said Greg who was working the door at Big Fan. A lot of people did, I said and we both laughed. I'd actually been laughing with delight for most of the night when Ratso were playing, they were delivering their disciplined, outrageously enjoyable and very familiar flat-tack adrenalin-fuelled rock'n'roll to a small but enthusiastic audience... > Read more

ROD STEWART, CYNDI LAUPER, JON STEVENS. REVIEWED (2023): All the hits, the misses and the final lap

10 Apr 2023  |  6 min read  |  1

In this Age of Bitterness And Rage where many people take themselves far too seriously (expecting other to do the same) and humour seems in short supply, it's encouraging to know that 78-year old Sir Rod Stewart is still out there enjoying himself and bring happiness to others. As he wrote in his hilarious autobiography published more than a decade ago, “I never thought . . . the... > Read more

THE VEILS, REVIEWED (2023): Upon this rock music I will build my church

2 Apr 2023  |  4 min read

Should anyone doubt the capacity of popular music to achieve the spiritual, they only needed to have been in an audience when Leonard Cohen sang Hallelujah. Or when an audience sang a hymnal “push the sky away” to Nick Cave like a holy reverie. Cave, of course, can and often does, go the other way, back to the Old Testament as a fire and brimstone declamatory preacher... > Read more

SIGUR ROS, REVIEWED (2022): Strangers from a strange land

8 Aug 2022  |  2 min read

Among the many remarkable things about the Icelandic band Sigur Ros is you can't understand a word they say in their songs because frontman Jonsi sings in Hopelandic (a made-up language) and his native Icelandic (spoken by fewer than 400,000). Also of interest is, on the evidence of their concert at Auckland's Spark Arena, the four-piece were largely indifferent to their audience until the... > Read more

GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY, REVIEWED (2022): The lonesome organ grinder cries . . .

6 Jul 2022  |  4 min read

For an investor, theatre is the cruelest of the arts: you simply don't know if the expensive production is going to work until it's in front of an audience. And by then it is too late. Broadway has taken down some very big names, and the financial backers with them. Paul Simon's folly The Capeman – which occupied him for seven years and had a script by Nobel-prize winning novelist... > Read more

TEEKS, REVIEWED (2021): Soul to soul, heart to heart

6 Jun 2021  |  4 min read

Sometimes when we're on a long journey we can be so distracted by what's around us that we forget to look back and see how far we've come. So it might be said of this sold-out concert by Teeks at Auckland's Civic Theatre which drew an enormously wide demographic from young Maori and Pasifika to the middle-aged, and even older, Pakeha. Some in that latter group could look back and... > Read more

MARLON WILLIAMS, REVIEWED (2021): Music, art, performance and quiet drama

28 Mar 2021  |  2 min read

Some New Zealand artists have understood the power and importance of presentation when it comes to a show – Split Enz being the most obvious – while others simply get on stage in what looks like they got up in that morning and do the bare business. At it's most dull it can be the head-down, studied indifference of the so-called indie or alternative bands. The... > Read more

TH'DUDES, REVIEWED (2020): Right first and last time

27 Nov 2020  |  4 min read

A few weeks ago at a family function I was talking with Daniel, the bass player in the Auckland rock band Racing. We were bemoaning – among other things – the fact that somewhat vacuous soul-funk-reggae pop has such a foothold on the local scene and that there weren't as many rock bands as there once was. And Racing are a rock band. A second generation rock band at that.... > Read more

THE BETHS, REVIEWED (2020): The sheer pleasures of certainties

7 Nov 2020  |  4 min read

The group of about 10 excitable teenage girls – probably age 15, dressed to party, one with a large love heart in lipstick on her cheek – were sitting on the ground outside the Auckland Town Hall. They were there early to be first in the queue and at 7pm they certainly were. The Beths, the award-winning and increasingly acclaimed Auckland four-piece, weren't going to be on... > Read more

GRAMSCI, REVIEWED (2020): Sobering thoughts for staging a show

17 Oct 2020  |  4 min read

Many weeks ago during the second Covid lockdown in Auckland, Paul McLaney – mainman behind his Gramsci project – spoke via Zoom to my third-year music at Auckland university. I first met McLaney at some time in the late Eighties/early Nineties when, as a singer-songwriter under his own name, he launched his extraordinary career which has seen him follow that thread but also move... > Read more

PAT METHENY, REVIEWED? (2020): Uber killed the taxi curb-car

12 Mar 2020  |  4 min read  |  3

The exceptional American guitarist Pat Metheny played one of those gig which jazz aficionados love . . . and those who don't “get” it just hate. I fell between the two. But first let me tell you about just getting to the gig because that may have some bearing on what and how I experienced it. Before the show at the Auckland Town Hall as part of the Auckland Arts... > Read more

QUEEN + ADAM LAMBERT REVIEWED (2020): Doing a time warp again

22 Feb 2020  |  2 min read

Beneath today’s creative, often innovative music across the spectrum lies a bedrock audience that prefers the comfort of the familiar. Witness Sir Elton John on his three-year victory-lap-cum-farewell tour, playing to capacity crowds hits that are almost half a century old. The suggestion of a new Abba album this year – almost 40 years since their last –... > Read more

ELTON JOHN REVIEWED (2020): Still a Captain Fantastic, despite everything

17 Feb 2020  |  5 min read

Back at the dawn of recorded time, 1971 in fact, I saw Elton John's first New Zealand appearance when he played at Western Springs. And there were a few worrying moments last night at Mt Smart when I thought I might be seeing his last. Fresh from playing the Mission Estate show the previous night Elton and his crack band – dark suits, white shirts, skinny black ties – took... > Read more

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE, REVIEWED (2019): Sit back and let the evening go . . .

29 Jul 2019  |  3 min read

Because their music created such a disruption in popular music when they appeared, the Beatles were impossible to ignore. Almost immediately there were parodies and sniping (the Howard Morrison Quartet's I Want to Cut Your Hair) but also serious artists recognising there was something in what Lennon-McCartney wrote which was worth exploring (Ella Fitzgerald's take on Can't Buy Me Love... > Read more

THE MONKEES REVIEWED (2019): The last train to Pastville

10 Jun 2019  |  4 min read  |  3

Two days after telling a friend I was a bit over all the touring nostalgia acts – not the least the UK punk-era bands trotting themselves out again – we went to see the Monkees at the Auckland Town Hall. Well more correctly, Mikey Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and their five-piece band (plus two women backing singers) in a concert announced as the “Mike and Mickey... > Read more

LITTLE STEVEN AND THE DISCIPLES OF SOUL (2019): The rock'n'soul missionary

28 Apr 2019  |  3 min read

The best gigs, shows, concerts and events have a sense of occasion, something almost transcendent where the artist and the audience somehow create something bigger than just a performance. Anticipation was certainly high that Steven Van Zandt – of Springsteen's E Street Band and many solo projects – and his big rock'n'soul band would do that. From the opening salvo of Sweet... > Read more