George Ezra was far from what I expected to be doing with my Monday. This much touted singer-songwriter's show had sold out weeks previously so that in itself made for an interesting proposition. Unlike 99% of the audience in attendance at the Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, I knew next to nothing about the headlining artist other than Shotgun and Budapest being blasted from passing cars and workmates YouTube djing. So walking into a packed Spark Arena... my expectations were not really existent.
NZ singer songwriter Paige bound passed her band to promptly start her opening set... ripping into a washed out Kiwiana reggae influenced RnB sounds. This new comer, completely unknown to me, was well received by the impatient audience. Bouncing around the stage, she was a stark contrast to her band who seemed rooted to the spot, clearly worried about letting this young star down.
After working through a loose set complete with jokes about the uncles at the bbq, Paige hit the song everyone had waited to hear at the end of her 30 minute set, Alignments. This summer single had the crowd moving... clearly understanding the same reason which caused Billie Eilish to resonate and promote this youngster from South Auckland.
What seemed like an eternally long 45 min break between acts... with a playlist consisting of everything from The Stones & Sting to Beyonce keeping the family and die hards fans roused for the main event.... George Ezra and this band took the stage.... enigmatically chorused by a thunderous round classical music to set the tone of what was to come. The band laid out in flying V matched the light show above and left Ezra illuminated front and centre. From the get go, it was clearly shut up and play the hits mode.
With his entire catalogue gaining a cult like status, the crowd echoed his every word through the first three songs. Musically taking influence from everything from salsa, ska to the more obvious Dylan and Guthrie, the crowd was truly in the palm of this young man’s hands. He moved agilely around the stage clearly showing his apparent good nature. The band however seemed to be fairly subdued whilst clearly enjoying themselves, no-upstaging was to be had…
Charging their way through this veritable garden of top 10 singles, a real party energy emanated from both the crowd and stage.... sometimes drowning out Ezra’s famously deep baritone and his 6-piece band, horns included.
Punctuating the hour and a half set were Ezra’s cute Ted Xesk anecdotes. Referencing the origin (often hangover related) of his golden back catalogue.
It wasn’t until the last song though where the crowd really let loose. It seemed almost like a flood gate had been left holding the anticipation laden punters from really breaking out. With the the simple precursor of “As we’ve said everywhere on this tour we’d like you all to join us for one final party” - Ezra. Pulling the pin on the audience, Shotgun resonated with not a single person in the room still.
For the majority of the audience, it was a night of bliss and everything the could have dreamed of. However, after recently seeing an artist Ezra’s is so commonly compared with - Marcus Mumford - it made the whole arena show seem contrived. Whilst faultless, the precision left you feeling like you were listening to a record rather than watching 7 humans grind it out on stage. That being said, all in all, you really can’t go past how tight the performance was nor can you deny the obvious hit making talent that flows freely from the fingers of one George Ezra. Simply put, it did exactly what it said on the box.