There's an unwritten rule that critics must become cynics. That over-exposure to mediocrity must wear us down, make us jaded to all but those artists with enough incandescent talent to make the scales fall from our eyes, and leave us kneeling and weeping on the road to the Powerstation.
If there was ever a gig to prompt me to ready my cynic's quill, it's the reunion of an early 00s nu-metal band, put on by a commercial radio station, just in time for this weird too-soon surge of nostalgia for a genre that was a corporate cash grab from the very start. I don't have a particular emotional connection to Blindspott, remembering them mostly for that heavy song with the swearing that I liked at 13, and that mellow song without the swearing that nowadays you mostly hear at Countdown. They were never my favourites even in my teenage nu-metal phase, so there was no nostalgic loyalty urging me to cut them a break.
Damn them, but Blindspott blew past my low expectations without so much as a glance. There goes my jaded pot stirring.
While a blip on my personal radar, Blindspott's self titled debut was a huge chart topper, and the crowd last night was a reminder of that. Not only would the hardcore fans up the front prove to know every word, as the lights dimmed there sounded a throaty call and response humming, a tongue in cheek “singalong” to the ambient intro of Mind Dependency.
As the band emerged and launched into the song proper, the first thing to catch my ear was that Damian Alexander's voice was sounding in fine form. His style relies a lot on lengthy held notes and drawn out syllables, and there wasn't a flat note to be heard across the night.
The rest of the band were equally on point- the material isn't the most technically astounding you'll hear, but it was performed flawlessly.
Most importantly, the band seemed genuinely enthused to be on stage performing these songs. Authentic hype flowing to the audience from the artist themselves is a hard thing to fake, and Blindspott's energy whipped up a grinning, pogo-ing, moshing and dancing crowd. Just a few songs in and the happy vibes had washed away my fears of a soulless cash grab.
The music did, inevitably, become repetitive. Blindspott have a clear formula, one that didn't even originate with them, and by now it's fairly dated.
Listening before the show, a friend became honestly confused that the song playing was Nil By Mouth and not Linkin Park's Numb. You can try this at home, if you want: swap in some vocals from Numb to the verse (But that just won't doooo / Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow). So some points do have to be shaved off for a bit of monotony and a less than original soundscape.
Blindspott had ability, they had authenticity, they had passion.
I found myself quite happy to hear one of the slower songs like hit single Phlex, as not only did they add some dynamism they were the tracks where Blindspott's songwriting had the most individual flavour. One of these ballads, Lull, got a very personal intro from Alexander.
Near the middle of the setlist, he paused to address the elephant in the room; the decade-plus feuding and legal strife with drummer Shelton Woolwright. Speaking frankly about the pain of fighting with childhood friends, he concluded: “so if it's been two years since you've talked to someone you care about, pick up the phone and apologise for being a dick.” The ensuing song saw staunch looking men with every style of messy haircut flinging arms around one another and singing “Things won't stay the same / Tell me it's alright now.” It was one lovely moment of a generally loud and aggressive show, but I credit Blindspott's projection of emotional vulnerability and fraternity with elevating the mood above any negativity or hyper-machismo.
Fellow Kiwi multi-genre eclectics Kora got a tribute thrown in, with Blindspott jamming an extended instrumental gradually into a cover of reggae tune Politician. This was warmly received, and considering Blindspott's close relationship with other New Zealand acts of their time, like the Deceptikonz, I think they deserve more of a local legacy than I had initially thought.
So what of cynicism? A show like Blindspott put on last night proves that it's not necessary to be a world-shaking trailblazer, musical genius, or even that original to overcome scepticism. Blindspott had ability, they had authenticity, they had passion. That's enough to make a crowd feel something real, and that's enough for me.
More photographs further below!