It’s on nights like these that I’m prompted to the heresy that Covid has been a blessing. Because out from the Light and Shadow and behind This is War -drobe and up the "Slippery Creek" emerge New Zealand’s hidden talents, too often relegated by the power of an international brand to a brief support option.
But here we are at Anthology with the curtains cracked open ('that’s how the light gets in' – Leonard Cohen) for a glorious evening of folk and folk rock and beer and bonhomie with three class acts who could and have headlined in their own right, but tonight two out of three are supporting their friends from Hamilton who are Looking For Alaska (which is the place you can see Russia from) and who release their sophomore album and that’s a reason to celebrate.
So, before we find Alaska, it’s the Red Earth girl from Papakura, Kendall Elise, who takes the lonesome set, first up in a noisy and boisterous lounge, and first live gig for several months. But Enter Soundman, and amplify the strings, the voice will follow, and as clear almost as silence would allow, here is Kendall Elise Todd sharing some new songs from the 10 or so which herald her own sophomore to come. And the new songs are as good as the old songs, and portentous and first up to whet our whistle, a little swing, and a real whistle, and some Courtney Marie with a touch of Emmylou with “Something’s Gotta Give” and “You’ve Gotta Be a Little Mad” not to like this. And a sombre “Dancing in the Dark”, with Bruce in the backroom and then some classics from the debut album and she’ll love us all much more when we’re all dead, so there…
Kendall Elise setlist:
- Between Hello and Goodbye
- Something’s Gotta Give
- You’ve Got To be A Little Mad
- Dancing in the Dark
- Red Earth
- Slippery Creek
- Heart Full of Dirt
I reviewed This is War last year, but as far as live is concerned I’m an Albi virgin, so much anticipation as Albi and his two Wolves quickly take the stage and we are off on a high octane swirl, well not straight away, we’re “Holding On” for a bit before we get wound up in a “This Is War”. And then, the song which announced the existence of Looking For Alaska to me off the album, the beautiful “I’d go Anywhere”, and what’s more here is Amy, fresh green hair, and now I know where I found them. Amy’s presence heralds a night of interchange between the two bands which indicates much mutual respect and friendship. It’s an old-fashioned hoe-down, as Pascal Roggen fires up his fiddle and bares his fangs and looks like a befuddled Jerry Goodman from the early 70s Flock and Mahavishnu Orchestra but that’s because he is befuddled with painkillers.
It’s Pascal on painkillers and Albi on sore throat and Michael Young looking serene and smiling on big bass and the Wolves are wounded but not wrecked and the music wins and we swirl and we jig and we drink. Albi’s sore throat constrains him somewhat but there’s a a solution in the form of Tom Dent, his younger cub, who knows the songs and once he overcomes the jiggery jitters leads the vocals very well indeed. But “It Ain’t Easy”, and Pascal sings this one with “One Eye Open”, all the while with fiddle poised to break out into unbridled frenzy and Grappelli.
There’s no question that Albi & the Wolves are a happy, joyful, jamboree of a live act and must be seen. Back comes Tom the wolf cub for “I will Not Be Broken” and the final “Story” has Aaron Gott joining on keys and vocals and it’s a wrap.
Albi & the Wolves Setlist:
- Holding On
- This Is War
- I'd Go Anywhere Ft Amy Maynard
- Light After the Dark
- All I Am
- Settle Down
- Lonely Boy
- Fall With You Ft Tom Dent
- It Ain't Easy
- One Eye Open
- I Will Not Be Broken Ft Tom Dent
- Story Ft Aaron Gott
Looking for Alaska are not a geographical exploration but a couple from Hamilton called Amy and Aaron and tonight they have their band Regan McKinnon on guitar, Stephen Daniell, bass and Marc Tunnicliffe on drums.
The band strike up before Amy and Aaron join and it sounds like soul on “Where Have You Gone” before the dark-folky nature of their new album comes through and from here on it’s no longer Amy but The Voice as she totally captivates with her range and depth and emotion. They play the new album as well as a bunch of songs from their debut, which are also so good I buy both CDs and I listened to them all day yesterday.
Looking for Alaska
The first album has a bit more bounce a bit like Mumford & Sons swimming Over the Rhine, and the new album takes us in a darker, more sombre direction not unlike the Cowboy Junkies in church during the Civil Wars. But strip back the band, and imagine a duo in an acoustic setting, and you have the Voice with subtle harmony from Aaron and it’s very special indeed. And that’s not to take anything away from the band, who add the spark and jig to the evening which maintains the theme already established, especially when Pascal arrives “In The End” and adds the fiddle and we have another hoedown. Huia (Hamon) pops up as well in vocal support.
And then there’s an encore with the fabulous “Calling Out” before they call out to Albi & the Wolves to do an impromptu “Superstition” jam and we have both the joy of fine music but fine musicians playing together in heartfelt collaboration and a special night comes to an unwelcome end. Does it really have to stop?
Looking for Alaska Setlist:
- Where have you gone
- All the broken people
- Whole again
- Fall into you
- Hine Atarau
- No love lost
- In the end
- Take me with you
- Hey you
- All I ever wanted
- Where have you gone (reprise)
- Calling out
I’m beginning to enjoy the Anthology lounge, it works for a variety of genres from jazz to folk to rock but you need a good sound man and the ever busy and bouncy Tom Tyer-Drake does a superb job. My hat is off, Tom !!
Radio 13 thanks and credit Trevor Villers for all the images in this review.