Image by: Ivan Karczewski
Concert Reviews

Concert Review: Shakey Graves Rocks The Powerstation In Eclectic Fashion

Where: Powerstation, Auckland NZ
When: 24 Apr 2019
Roger Bowie

How we love the Byron Bay Bluesfest! We don’t actually have to attend, just put time aside either side of Easter to catch the warm-ups and spill-overs as the artists drop into Auckland either en route or homeward bound.

This is becoming routine for Austin, Texas native Alejandro Rose-Garcia, more likely recognised as Shakey Graves, born over a campfire at an Old Settlers Music Festival when he and his buddies gave each other Native American guide names.

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Shakey Graves

This is his third visit, and the graduation from Tuning Fork to Powerstation in Auckland, NZ is a testament to his past success, and the enthusiastic, mainly young, crowd respond knowledgeably to the almost 90-minute set of 14 songs. Plenty of time for the band to stretch out a bit... and they do.

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Darren Watson

But first, we are entertained by Darren Watson, a boondocks bluesman from the Hutt. Darren is a name I have read about but never seen, so this is interesting. He first appeared in the 80s, fronting a bunch of a Hutt Valley teenagers crazy about the blues. Chicago Smoke Shop got the awards and supported the big-name tours in a time when I was away from New Zealand. Now here he is, a solo journeyman playing acoustic blues and touring his latest album Too Many Millionaires. An unashamed, but not unwashed, pinko lefty from the Hutt (as he describes himself, only half in jest). Anyway, we get a short set of mostly great songs, from the plaintive blues of 2010’s Saint Hilda’s Faithless Boy and Love Is An Ocean to the more overtly political offerings from his latest record. Rich Man’s War, National Guy (a tribute to Mike Hosking, not), Too Many Millionaires.

Mate, I can’t agree with all your sentiments, but I’d still enjoy a beer with you, and challenge you to reverse the thought. Why not “not enough millionaires”? If we had more, wouldn’t everyone get a lift up? More like the American dream, kiwi style,(without playing Trumps). I reckon Shakey would go with that.

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But you do write great songs, especially Mean Me Right Blues. A song for Dr John. (Right that is, not left). But great to see you live, and the audience agrees.

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But, that said, they have come to see Shakey Graves, his band, and the fifth Beatle, resplendent in suitcase pink, sitting there almost as if Shakey is packed and ready to head to the airport straight after the show. But no, it’s not luggage, it just travels as luggage. The pink suitcase is the accessory to his early success and gets an early introduction to proceedings after the opening track Word of Mouth, a song about bad advice.

Shakey then moves stage left, in front of the case, to try out a different mike (no, just kidding) and play a song which had been requested by some fans who ran into him in the street earlier on. And there they are !! Very excited!

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Stereotypes of a Blue Collar is from the Nobody's Fool and The Donor Blues EP. And now the secret is out, the fifth Beatle is a travelling drum kit, and we are now seeing Shakey as he began, a sort of busking one-man band, not that he wants to be known as such, but you can’t ignore your roots. Americana roots, folk, rock, blues, busk. Award-winning roots. A song about Cops and Robbers, inspired by the big ole taxi driver who looks like Jimmy Buffet advising the young musician that “crime is a young man’s game”. He must have been a fast runner back in the day... 

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Back to centre stage, turn up the guitar, and the band comes on to join the rollicking Rolling Bones which further delights the audience, a song from his debut way back in 2011.

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By now we have a sense of the character of the man, both thoughtful and deep as in the lyrics, but also a funny guy, with a great audience rapport, even if it means “take your shirt off” for the ladies. A stage presence, maybe he’s an actor...

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Big Bad Wolf. Psych rock. Gone are the suspenders and cowboy hat... What’s happening here? Nirvana Americana?

With the band, however, comes a different persona…. Rock n roll, both heavy and alt, and the band are just awesome, letting rip and stretching it out. Oh, and there’s the pop in there, the singalong, the loops, the riffs. We skim through more recent songs from And The War Came and last year’s Can’t Wake Up, a poppier sound which goes heavy real quick in the live setting. Big Bad Wolf. Psych rock. Gone are the suspenders and cowboy hat, and is that a segue into Something In The Way?. Indeed, it is. What’s happening here? Nirvana Americana?

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Well, no, says the actor: “There are many shades and varieties to what I do. As much as I play any character, I don’t want to be a slave to something that isn’t genuine” (taken from my interview with Shakey a few weeks back). Read the interview here

Next we get Counting Sheep, a poppy anthem with just a touch of Yoshi Meets the Pink Robots ( Flaming Lips); Dining Alone, a cabaret, vaudeville-type song about being trapped in a loop of your life; Family and Genus (“to fame and fire, to dame and dandy, to pass away or come in handy”). And finally, the song that the young lady to my left had come to hear, the song that suddenly took off for Shakey Graves, with accompaniment by Esme Patterson, sadly not on tour, Dearly Departed.

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Shakey Graves, with a capital E. That would be E for eclectic. Best word I can think off for prodigious talent.

Is that it? No, one more, but there’s a curfew of some sort in place, a one-hour pre-pumpkin curfew, so the band lope off, and Shakey goes stage right to the suitcase and does a re-entry-less encore with 2014’s Late July.

Great band. Chris “Boo” Boosahda on drums, Patrick O’Connor on guitar and Jon Shaw on bass.

Great sound, right from the get-go. That would be Craig Lawrence on sound and setlist. Thanks Craig!

Great shakes from the man himself and his suitcase.

Shakey Graves, with a capital E. That would be E for eclectic. Best word I can think off for prodigious talent.

Safe travels. Don’t forget the suitcase….

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Radio 13 thanks and credits Ivan Karczewski from Kioui Pix for all the images featured on this article. 

Shakey Graves' Set List:

  • Word of Mouth (West of Calgary, 2014)
  • Stereotypes of a Blue Collar Male (as above)
  • Cops and Robbers (Can’t Wake Up, 2018)
  • Roll the Bones (2011)
  • Perfect Parts (And The War Came, 2014)
  • Pansy Waltz (as above)
  • Mansion Door (Can’t Wake Up)
  • Big Bad Wolf (as above)
  • Something in the Way (Nirvana cover)
  • Counting Sheep (Can’t Wake Up)
  • Dining Alone (as above)
  • Family and Genus (And the War Came)
  • Dearly Departed (as above)
  • Late July (As Per Request, 2014)
Written By: Roger Bowie Roger Bowie has been collecting music since 1964, starting with 45 rpm singles, and then building an LP and CD collection from 1970. 1.8 per week since then. Not a vast collection, but eclectic and occasionally obscure. Roger is a big Americana fan, and regularly attends AmericanaFest in Nashville, held every September. Also, he once played golf with Alice Cooper...

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