Singer-songwriter Finn Andrews enthralled the audience at the sold-out Auckland Town Hall Concert Chamber last night with songs from his new album, One Piece at a Time along with a sampling from The Veils' discography for the fans who turned out in force.
Before we got Finn, we were treated to a performance from another extraordinary talent, the peripatetic Reb Fountain. Reb has been around a while, with a couple of albums ten years or so ago, and also as an integral component of Adam McGrath’s The Eastern (and it’s hard to upstage Adam). But mostly this past decade, she’s been a solo mum, until bursting out again in 2017 with two great releases, Little Arrows and Hopeful/Helpless.
And then last October, we were in awe at The Tuning Fork during their mini Americana Fest, when Reb brought out most of Marlon Williams' band to support a bunch of new songs... and even though the band had just rehearsed, Reb just shrugged the rustiness off with an amazing and powerful performance. Just the right amount of whiskey to help channel Lucinda Williams, Patti Smith as well as Nick Cave. It was, several of us agreed, one of the outstanding shows of 2018. Read more about Reb Fountain's Americana Fest show here.
Tonight, we hear a bunch of those same new songs, but this time softer, folkier versions with the multi-faceted Dave Khan in support on guitar and piano (the Steinway piano which is bigger than the stage…well…. almost). And no whiskey tonight, not yet, Reb's on stage the whole night...
A slower version of Reb Fountain's current single, Faster is the opener and recently released as a teaser for her forthcoming new album. Followed by Round The Bend, Strangers and another new song which I didn’t get from the hastily scrawled set-list which Reb gave to me after the show. Doesn’t matter, it’s a cracker! Lucinda, Patti, change is good. Reb is blooming.
Crowd favourite Gold, the single from Hopeful/Helpless comes next and then the delightful Blue Smoke, which I now discover is a legendary New Zealand folk song (we have these??) written in 1940 on a troop ship off the coast of Africa. In 1948, Blue Smoke became New Zealand’s first wholly produced record, from composition to pressing. Well, now, every day’s a school day!!
Don’t You Know Who I Am is big, ballsy and bold. Reb should offer this song to Nick Cave when he’s next in town. And the short set closes with Lighthouse, a song which firmly anchors Reb Fountain in the broad Americana church.
Reb’s a star.
And the new album is imminent. Can’t wait. Must get.
After a short break for the audience to mingle, I am yet again struck by the loyalty and community of Auckland’s finest musicians on hand to support our artists. A big bunch of them are here tonight, without counting the ones I don’t know!
Ok, time for the main act and the stage fills up with the supporting orchestra (well, we are in the concert chamber!). There’s Reb Fountain on backing vocals, Dave Khan again on violin, Emily Giles on cello, Mike Hall on upright bass and there he is, yes, that’s him, Joe “Longhair” McCallum on drums.
We know Finn Andrews of course as the singer/songwriter for London based, half kiwi alt-rock band The Veils... known for their brooding angst-ridden songs which remind us of Roxy Music, the Verve with a touch of Suede. Bernard Butler has produced them. Great band, 5 albums, where to next?
Finn is also half kiwi, and he has been back in home town Devonport this past year or so working on his solo album, which was actually completed last year but only released last month. Why solo? Because there had been a bunch of songs hanging round in varying stages which just didn’t fit The Veils sound, and it just seemed right to get away from London for a while, chill out in the more relaxed New Zealand environment, reconnect with his childhood roots, and make some spontaneously great music.
The set opens with The Spirit In The Flame arranged on the album by Victoria Kelly (who is in the audience), followed by the album opener Love, What Can I Do?. Wait a minute, are we in Marlon territory? Is this another story of love, loss and abandonment? Well, almost, but not entirely, as the subsequent songs bear witness. But this one is a Marlon ballad, with a touch of babysitter Bowie in there as well. Definitely not a Veils song. Very sweet.
Stairs To The Roof, however, could be Veils, maybe on Valium, but a love letter to London, and you can imagine this song being darker, heavier in a band environment. And the next two songs are definitely Veils as we begin what turns out to be a six-song sampling from all five albums, starting with Swimming With Crocodiles from Total Depravity, and then Birds from Time Stays, We Go.
Back to the present we go for three songs, the poppy A Shot Through The Heart, the baritone Rise & Fall, (but without the childhood reference to Al Pacino), and Hollywood Forever, another beautiful song, so my notes tell me (must be true, I was there!) And then the unmistakeable discordance of the Total Depravity opener Axolotl.
Time to introduce the band, which he does confidently and fluently, in contrast to his predominantly introspective normal speaking tone, as he launches into the bluesy, dark Americana of Not Yet (from Nux Vomica), a song which would fit perfectly into the Ryman in Nashville.
Finn now pays homage to veteran soundman Rikki Morris, the first man to record him in Devonport as a schoolboy, and now working his magic in the paradoxically challenging sound environment of the Chamber. One Piece At A Time, the gospel title track from his album, is dedicated to Rikki.
Bloody good Rikki, you’re also a star! New Zealand music would not be the same without you!
One For The Venom closes the set, a song based on forty-seven ways to die, and loosely based on the nursery rhyme about the old woman who swallowed a spider, and so on, and so on…
Two Veils songs for an encore, the hour-long set is over, and we are warmed to the very cockles of our heart by a magical performance of magical songs.
Every artist who leads a band arguably needs a contingency plan. A solo plan. Freddie Mercury tried it, but it didn’t work out. Finn has now tried it, and it most definitely works. One hopes it also works to rejuvenate the band... inject it with renewed purpose and the certain knowledge that Finn has a Plan B. Long live The Veils!!
But perhaps the real question is: do we have room in New Zealand for two angst-ridden heartthrobs? Marlon and Finn?
Answer: Bring it on!
FINN ANDREWS' SETLIST
- The Spirit In The Flame
- Love, What Can I Do?
- Stairs To The Roof
- Swimming With The Crocodiles (from Total Depravity)
- Birds (from Time Stays, We Go)
- A Shot Through The Heart
- Rise & Fall
- Hollywood Forever
- Axolotl (from Total Depravity)
- Don’t Close Your Eyes
- Not Yet (from Nux Vomica)
- One Piece At A Time
- One By The Venom
- Scarecrow (from Sun Gangs)
- The Tide That Left & Never Came Back (from The Runaway Found)