Dave Dobbyn is one of just a few New Zealand artists that I can honestly say I have grown up with since I fell in love with music as a teenager in Ashburton. From Th' Dudes, to DD Smash, and then onto his solo career, his music followed me wherever I went and whatever I did.
I had always secretly hoped that if his career were to wane just a little it would have been around my 40th birthday so I could get him to play at my party. As the big day drew closer, I took my family to see him at Auckland Zoo and persuaded my son James, who was 10 at the time, to go and see if Dave could make my party and play a few songs. Unfortunately, he was busy that night (he had something else on apparently) but did sign James's Crusaders cap. As an Aucklander that must have been difficult for him, but a wonderful gesture and a memory that is still there today for James and me.
So it was with great anticipation and a true feeling of nostalgia and excitement I was going to see Dave again and relive the songs that are now part of our musical Kiwiana songbook.
As the lights dimmed in the Cauldron (a smaller more intimate section of Spark Arena), the place was pretty much packed to the rafters with old salts like myself and a few other younger generations scattered around the traps, perhaps seeing him for the first time.
The band entered with guitar, bass, drums, sax, keys and trumpet filling the smaller stage, where they set up and waited for Dave to join them. They didn't have to hang around long. He was met with a roar from the crowd as he waved, plugged his guitar in and welcomed the audience by kicking off with "Outlook For Thursday". It was a great way to start and had many of the crowd up on their feet singing along to the chorus.
"Kia ora everyone," Dave said after we got our breath, "this is going to be a celebration of levity and liberty" and he could not have put it better. That was exactly what it felt like. A night of liberty to get out and hear live music again. A night to get out and be in a crowd. For many, like myself, there is nothing better than hearing live music and to celebrate that freedom with a passion to bring New Zealand back to New Zealanders in song made it even more special.
Then he launched into "Whailing", another DD Smash banger. The song has evolved over the years with increased audience participation and the famous Whaling exhale: holding a note that just seems to go on forever and he nailed it again here. Anyone who thought his voice might not be up to scratch was badly mistaken and it was one of the great instruments of the night.
Thinking he had better stop throwing out the big hits, he continued with "Loyal", and "Devil You Know" followed by "Just Add Water". It was clear from the start that he was going to cover all the years with a possibility of even hearing a couple of Th Dudes classics if we were lucky and we weren't disappointed.
"Lap of the Gods", off Twist, which Neil Finn played on, kept the hits coming, then a nod to Bethels Beach with "Blind Mans Bend" to keep the momentum going.
Footrot Flats was always going to get a mention and the wonderful love song "You Oughta Be In Love" was well delivered, as was "Guilty Through Neglect", which nicely slowed things down and gave all the band the spotlight to shine and they did. There is nothing like having a brass section to really fill out a number of the songs and that's what made many of the hits on the night's setlist so good.
From there everyone was taken on a rollercoaster ride through the years with "Language", "Be Mine Tonight", "Bliss" and then to top it all off "Slice of Heaven", which closed the show with a special guest appearance by Chris Mac from six60.
The encore came with "You Get so Lonely", off Harmony House, followed by the haunting "Dawned on Me" and of course, to close, "Welcome Home". Which was exactly what we had experienced. It was a welcome home for all of us and we were lucky enough to be able to share that with one New Zealand's finest.
Radio 13 thanks and credit Trevor Villers for all the images in this review.