It was a family affair at Elemental Nights music festival last night with music couple Kody Nielson and Bic Runga showing off their wares both new and old.
Nielson was resurrecting one of his much-loved solo projects Opossom for the first time in eight years, while Runga was debuting her new project King Sweeties with Cass Basil.
Hosted at the glorious but underused Hopetoun Alpha, this occasion celebrating New Zealand music royalty was bound to be popular for two reasons. Firstly, the fact live music is back at full capacity after a bumpy year of lockdowns, and secondly, the fact Nielson has unexpectedly bought back Opossom after so long, while his partner is branching off into new musical territory.
Therefore, given this, it was no surprise the audience packed in to see the double headline bill with something old and something new on offer.
First up was King Sweeties. They have already released a handful of singles, but this was their first ever public show.
The minimalistic nature of their set up of Bic on drums and Cass on bass worked wonders for the catchy two-minute groove-based electro-pop songs they displayed across their relatively short but sweet set.
Singles "Lydia" and "Tonight We Could Go Out Dancing" were especially good live leaving the crowd hooked and me very intrigued as to where they plan to take this promising project.
After a short break, it was then time for the reunited Opossom. Dressed in matching white outfits and featuring a four-piece lineup of Kody Nielson on drums, Bic Runga on vocals, Cass Basil on bass and former Mint Chick Michael Logie on keys, the first half of their set was practically a run-through of their one and only album Electric Hawaii.
Suddenly we were transported back to 2012 with Kody and Cass locking in a heavy groove-based rhythm section while Bic and Logie shared vocals. It was like they had never left and the crowd was ecstatic to have them back.
I had never seen Opossom before and it was notable how they adapted their sound to suit a live audience. Gone was the lo-fi production of the album and in its place came a more booming bass-heavy sound, something that was perfect for the fantastic acoustics of the Hopetoun Alpha.
It was also great to see Kody fully immersed in the drums and leaving the others to handle vocals. Nielson really is a terrific drummer and here he showed plenty of swing, groove and flare in what was an outstanding display of musicianship. No doubt his drumming has come on since playing with UMO and it was clearly evident in his display here.
After giving us something old in the first half of the set, the crowd got a massive surprise in the second half with the debuting of new Silicon material.
Nielson has a new Silicon album on the way and this Opossom reunion show saw him decide to debut some of that material, material which on first hearing sounded fantastic.
The band changed into COVID-inspired boiler suits and surgical masks and then proceeded to turn the whole show into a giant rave of Daft Punk-inspired nu-disco.
This was four to the floor electro-dance pop at its very best and the crowd lapped it up in spades boogieing their way to the end of the seat. There was also time for a terrific version of an old Silicon track in the form of "Personal Computer".
If anything, it was the Silicon section of the set that stole the show and definitely left me in a mood of anticipation for when the new album drops, hopefully, in 2021.
In conclusion, this was a triumphant night for New Zealand music with the crowd getting more than they bargained for. You had a reunited Opossom, plus new music from Bic Runga and Silicon. What more could you want?
It is quite the change of direction career-wise for Runga away from her known singer-songwriter status towards electro-pop, but King Sweeties is very promising and it might just work wonders for her.
As for Kody, well he just keeps on being Kody and it seems to be working. Forget about a Mint Chicks reunion for now as he is doing quite well on his own if this show was anything to go by.
All up, a great night was had as live music is back and it is better than ever. The borders may be closed, but who needs international acts when there is this sort of quality within Aotearoa.
Check out Sam Smith's recent interview with Kody Nielsen here
Radio 13 thanks and credits Kate Mills for all the images in this review.