Spark Arena was transformed into the Auckland pub scene of 1979 as punters of all ages poured into the 5 iconic bars replicated around the base and drank DB from plastic jugs and wobbled and gyrated and fell and swooned as memories were made and memories came back.
Backed by The Sound and from the desk of Brent Eccles, the biggest pub gig in the world didn’t lack pretension right from the first note from Brent trickled out a few short weeks ago. And the cut-down Spark arena was almost full but not too full that you couldn’t get a beer or three and a glass of wine but no shots (and whoever treated Jamesons as a shot?) but never mind even pubs had rules and no doubt back in the day shots were allowed and shots were fired, but still the punters came to pay homage to the bands who made themselves and their audiences happy back in the day at the Windsor Castle and the Gluepot and other prestigious pisspot watering holes.
Hammond Gamble opened the proceedings and made us remember that he is probably the best blues guitarist in the country and could well be considered New Zealand’s John Mayall, except he has never been as ruthless and single minded as Mayall needed to be to continually refresh his band and shrug and sigh and recover when the talent moved on. But who knew that Brent Eccles used to be in Street Talk with Hammond? Tonight’s Hammond Gamble Band were just brilliant and tight and we don’t hear Chicago blues like this very often plus a touch of Sam Cook thrown in and it was short but sweet and warming plus it sounded great, even in a pub.
Hello Sailor arguably ran out of wind when Dave McCartney (2013) then Graham Brazier died in 2015. But they persevered with the Hello Sailor 40th anniversary tour in 2015 with Harry Lyon, original drummer Rick Ball, new guitarist Jimmy Taylor, and Paul Woolright. Did you know? Did you know that Rick Ball and Paul Woolright were part of legendary early 70’s band Ticket? They were the greatest thing during my University days, along with guitarist Eddie Hansen. So, here they are with the keyboard player who is also well known but not to me and already played with Hammond Gamble. They get right in to “New Tattoo” and the audience is rapt. But somehow the spark is not as strong or maybe the sound is unkind. Harry Lyon does a masterful job covering all the vocals for his old mates and Jimmy Taylor cavorts like Keith Richards or Ron would and plays a very mean guitar, but the sails are not billowing as they once did. Not to worry, we get “Gutter Black” and we get “Blue Lady” and the crowd is ecstatic and the beer flows. It’s pub rock, and it was never perfect.
Citizen Band was hard work for Brent Eccles. Hard to convince, according to his letter. But somehow he won them over, and the four originals are back together tonight for the first time since a one off reunion in 2015 which was the first time since 1979ish. New Zealand’s first supergroup, and here is Brent Eccles, our intrepid promoter, revealing himself to me as a member of both Citizen Band and Space Waltz, along with guitarist Greg Clark. Everyday is a school day! Split Enz’s first split involved brothers Mike and Geoff Chunn who started the Chunn Brothers which became Citizen Band. Was there a watch company involved? Yes, according to my seated neighbour but that may be fake news.
Anyway, they did two albums and then moved to Australia (without Mike) and then were no more. But tonight they are back, and from the opening track “Hold Tight” ( Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich) there’s an edge. A tight edge. A punk edge. A touch on the dark side. And tight. Did I say tight?
This is fresh, even though old, it’s as fresh and relevant as it once was, and the songs flow, and the fans glow, and Citizen Band prove to be the outstanding act on the night. Hands down. No question. A triumph herald, with no rust in their car. Post punk with “I Feel Good” and a slow one, probably “S.O.S.” 7 songs, should have been 17.
It’s a hard act to follow, and the Jordan Luck Band, which let’s face it, is for tonight a proxy for The (Dance) Exponents, even though the band has a pedigree all of its own, with ex members of Dead Flowers and D4 and someone called Joe Walsh (but not the eagle). And again we get all the crowd pleasers like “Victoria” and the anthem “Why Does Love Do This To Me” but I’m still hyped by the Citizens and somehow Jordan doesn’t scale the same heights but it doesn’t matter, the crowd go wild and have another beer. And an old lady (which means about my age) topples over the seats and falls to her death if it weren’t for railing, and so my mate helps her up again and she’s back at it, dancing and cavorting like there’s no tomorrow, there’s only forty years ago and nothing has changed. And that’s what love has to do with it. And an ounce or two of Luck.
And by now it’s 10.45 and pumpkin time approaches. So we have another beer and then on comes Th' Dudes. It’s hard to believe that I never saw Th' Dudes in their heyday (I never saw any of these bands in their heyday, because I was overseas) and now I see them for the third time in just over twelve months and the second time in three weeks. Now there can be no surprise tonight; these guys have been on the road and done several shows and this is their last ever and so they are not only tight they are inspired and they don’t fail to impress. And second time through is even better than the first, maybe because the songs which are not anthems are becoming so, maybe because this will be the last time, it may be the last time, I don’t know. But it’s certainly the latest time, and with an early start beckoning I sneak out after hearing the last song I want to remember them by, the super great “That Look In Your Eyes” and I’m off into the scrum of beckoning taxis and home. I can only assure you that the rest of the show was equally magnificent and shit hot.
But did I tell you that Citizen Band stole the show? They did, they stole the show. There, I’ve told you.
Radio 13 thanks and credit Chris Zwaagdyk for all the images in this review.