James Reid sat down at the Tuning Fork in Auckland, NZ and belted out some of his own hits and along with a number of others, just as you might expect at a family reunion the night after New Year’s Eve.
The setting at the Tuning Fork was relaxed and almost cabaret-style when I got my wrist stamped at the door. A nice vibe was there and many patrons were already seated and well oiled before the lights dimmed and James climbed up on stage. He was met with the usual ruckus you would expect from mates you have grown up with, but haven’t seen for many years, wanting to talk to you about the good times and capture a little bit of the old days.
Seated in front of a mic and with only an acoustic guitar and some pedals to play with the sound, he welcomed the crowd and opened up with Larger than Life off the 2003 album Playground.
Well, he sort of did: as the lights dimmed over the crowd James stopped playing and wanted them back on so he could see who he was singing to. Not an unreasonable request, all of which should have made the gig even more intimate. Time ticked by, still no lights, and James was calling out Bueller... Bueller, with snickers from a crowd old enough to remember Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, then we finally get back into the groove and a roaring rendition followed.
James lifted things a little more with One World, the title track off the same album and delivered a great version that got the punters singing along, as they did for most of the night, which was very cool indeed.
There was good interaction with the crowd throughout the night and new interpretations of Weapons of War, and The Fear, again both off Playground, were delivered, much to the thrill of the swelling throng.
If there are a couple of things that really kill me when going to a more intimate affair such as this gig, it is the constant bloody loud yapping of people talking over and above the music, and having a vocal punter upfront badgering the artist. Unfortunately, we had both tonight, which led to a slightly more disjointed show.
Soldiering on, James changed track and started strumming the chords for Come Together by the Beatles. Maybe sensing how things were unfolding it was a great song to get everyone back on track and into the groove.
Keeping us on our toes, James stared to strum the familiar chords of Venus, whipping everyone up into a lather. Sneakily he changed tempo just a little and before we knew it he was singing Communicate, as were the crowd, mixed with some laughter as well. Then we snapped back to Venus and had everyone, along with my sad singing self, trying to belt out the limited lyrics I could remember.
Just a great song and hard to believe it came out 21 years ago. I was lucky enough to have interviewed James a month before this gig and this was a topic of the discussion around just how quickly time slips away. Read my Radio 13 interview with James Reid here.
Talking about time, we had reached the interval and a chance to regroup. James was off and mingling with the crowd, which I thought was a very nice touch that added to the informality of the night.
When we kicked into the second half with Fishing With Lisa, it felt like everyone was taken back to the time they first heard this power ballad and James delivered it with passion and feeling, just as if he had written it today.
From there, things slipped back to taking requests and playing a variety of covers mixed with his original material. Landslide by Fleetwood Mac got half an airing, Lep Zep was introduced into Stand Up midway through the song, Cat Stevens' Where do the Children Play was a nice addition and got everyone singing along, and the night was closed off by U2’s With or Without You. Clearly all influences of this talented bugger and a nod to some greats.
So a good night was had by all. Going by the yelling of the crowd there was far more interest in hearing Feelers tracks and I must agree, James has such an extensive back catalogue it was just a little bit of a shame he didn’t spotlight these more.
The great news is we will get a chance to see him again this time with the Feelers and Stellar* on the 12th of December at the Powerstation in Auckland, which should be a hell of a show and one not to be missed. Tickets from Eventfinda.