It’s Hollywood forever in Avondale on Friday night for the much awaited Finn Andrews show, heralded for some time now since his exquisite solo show at the Tuning Fork back in June. Finn Andrews and his band, comprising the everywhere everything talent of Dave Khan on guitars and the Tiny Ruins rhythm section of Alex Freer on drums and Cass Basil on bass. A little supergroup, but before the stars are to shine we are treated to a deep dark existentialist journey into the mind and songs of Ben Tolich, using his moniker Mali Mali, which is two countries in Africa with the same name. Or maybe just one said twice for emphasis.
Mali Mali is a man with keyboards, piano and a loop and the portrayal is of the wandering melancholy minstrel baring his soul, intimations of Nick Drake on top of Robert Fripp progressive and another old alt folk pioneer from the 70s, Peter Hammill (Van Der Graaf Generator). “Kill and Throw” is the second song and I liked “I Was Told to Keep an Eye Out” because there’s a golf course by the sea and who wouldn’t notice that? “Two Truths and a Lie” features heavy piano, and there’s seven songs in all and Ben has had covid and is a survivor and has made three albums and is interesting but probably better in more intimate settings because we’ve come to see Finn.
And here he is, and it’s about “Time” that we saw him again, such is the power of his songs and the strength of his voice and the old-fashioned niceness of the man. “Time” is a lockdown song, it’s a riddle, a tempest and it owes him nothing but we owe it heaps because here he is performing it to us. And off we go, with all but two songs from One Piece at a Time, his solo album from last year and a smattering of new and a smattering of Veils. The “Stairs to the Roof” are crowded but there’s still “Spirit in the Flame” to give us light and hope.
“Birds” represent the ‘physical manifestation of my internal bullshit’ which is the paradox of loving something without trust. Like birds. And it’s from 2013’s Time Stays, We Go by The Veils. We then go “(Dancing Through) Amsterdam" which is another lockdown fantasy with a gloriously World War II ballad feel and avoid the English if you can, even if you are at least by half. “A Shot Through the Heart” is by now so familiar it starts to feel like a Finn Andrews Greatest Hits show and maybe it can be if you only have one solo album? But another new song, “No Limit of Stars” which features Dave on fiddle and reminds one of Cave and also reminds us that there is more to come and maybe everything he writes will be a greatest hit.
‘Hollywood Forever” is not our venue but a cemetery in LA where he subtly suggests a friend is buried. It’s a strong piano night over guitar and of course the rhythm section is tight and concise but “Don’t Close Your Eyes”, “Not Yet”, a fabulous song from Nux Vomica which sets off a trilogy of Veils’ valedictions as we near the end. Dave’s fiddle on “Not Yet” winds the song up for the biggest audience response yet. Veils tragics. “Swimming with Crocodiles” has Cass on harmony and is soft and emotional and so current, while “Axolotl” has a stridency which makes you wonder if there is one Finn or two. “One Piece at a Time” is described as agnostic gospel preached by David Attenborough and finally a song about a snake and a sense of personal growth and so many gigs and so many to come.
But of course, there’s an encore or three and a song which is two days old about the “Rings of Saturn” and hasn’t yet been babysat by David Bowie and tragically never will be and sneak in a little treat like “The Tide That Left and Never Came Back” before remembering the setlist and the softest of tributes to the great Tim Buckley with “Song of the Siren”
Magic. Simply magic. Finn Andrews is New Zealand’s finest songwriter. That’s what someone who should know told me last night so it must be true.
And did he say something about a Veils tour?
Big shout out to Isaac on sound ! Delectable!
- Time (New Song)
- Stairs to the Roof
- The Spirit in the Flame
- Birds (Time Stays, We Go)
- Amsterdam (New Song)
- Shot Through the Heart
- No Limit of Stars (New Song)
- Hollywood Forever
- Don’t Close Your Eyes
- Not Yet (Nux Vomica)
- Swimming with the Crocodiles (Total Depravity)
- Axolotl (Total Depravity)
- One Piece at a Time
- One By the Venom
- Rings of Saturn (New Song)
- The Tide That Left and Never Came In (The Runaway Found)
- Song To The Siren (Tim Buckley cover)
Radio 13 thanks and credit Trevor Villers for all the images in this review.