Image by: SomeBizarreMonkey
Concert Reviews

Concert Review: The Eastern Are Stronger Than Ever

Where: The Great South Pacific Tuning Fork
When: 13 Oct 2018
Radio13
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Adam McGrath and The Eastern rolled into Auckland’s Tuning Fork on Saturday night almost exactly a year after they last played the venue, both times taking part in The Southern Fork Americana Fest.

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Emily Fairlight opened the evening with songs from her recently released Mother Of Gloom album. 

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In another era Adam McGrath could have been a town crier. He's got the voice of a bullhorn. And not only does he talk loud, but he’s got plenty to say.

McGrath comes from a tradition that threads back to the likes of Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie.

Missed out on reading the newspaper? No problem. Spend a bit of time listening to Adam and you’ll be up to date on your current events.

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Over the course of The Eastern’s almost two hour show, McGrath  touched on current hot topics such as Heather Du Plessis-Allan’s demeaning remarks about Pacific Islanders, how the Labour government should spend its newly-discovered surplus (hospitals, teachers and mental health), plus he got a few verbal jabs in at Don Brash, Gerry Brownlee and Mike Hosking’s expense.

Fortunately going to an Eastern concert is a lot more entertaining than reading the op-ed section. For one thing, Adam McGrath is a master storyteller.

Whether he’s recounting his embarrassing close encounter with Jacinda Ardern or a memorable haircut in Te Awamutu, McGrath has a way of putting you right in the picture.

And then there’s the music.

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For this evening, Adam reunited the entire band (they often perform in various configurations) with long-time member Jess Shanks on banjo and vocals, Big John Hopalong on double bass, Krissie Jackson on fiddle, electric guitarist Adam Hardaway, drummer AJ Park and the mighty Reb Fountain on backing vocals… fresh from her own stunning set on the same stage one night earlier.

A year ago, The Eastern’s set was awash in Tom Petty tunes, as the iconic rocker had recently passed away.

This time around, after opening with his Talking Americana Cowboy Yeeha Blues, McGrath led the bad through a feisty version of John Fogerty’s Fortunate Son before concentrating on his own songs.

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Many of them I had’t heard before, such as the liquor-soaked The Trouble With This City (Is The Fact That You Are In In), a tune McGrath wrote one night while on the road in rural Australia after listening to Cold Chisel’s Flame Trees.

Then there was a rockabilly-fuelled The Power And The Glory Of The Shadow And The Story Of The Shoulder To Te Awamutu. And while McGrath maybe could use a subeditor to help with his song titles, his gift for observational humour and his ability to find the humanity in any situation seems to be as keen as ever.

With the fiddle squawking, the banjo plunking and the bass thumping, the band was firing on all cylinders. They even through down a delightful version of John Prine’s In Spite Of Ourselves on the spot with Adam and Jess tasking on the roles filled by Prine and Iris DeMent.

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The evening ended as most Eastern shows do, with McGrath leading the group off the stage and into the audience to belt out a couple last tunes, wrapping up with a spirited version of Waylon and Willie’s Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.  A perfect end to another Americana Fest show.

Sound production of the evening was done by Aidan and stage lighting by Shane Hickmore.

Radio 13 thanks and credits Reuben Raj from SomeBizarreMonkey for all the images featured in this article.

More images from the show are featured in the photo gallery further below.

The Eastern set list:

  1. Talking Americana Cowboy Yeeha Blues
  2. Fortunate Son
  3. Two Ways Gone
  4. I’m Dead And Gone
  5. The Trouble With This City (Is The Fact That You Are In It)
  6. The Union Says See
  7. LA To Linwood
  8. The Power And The Glory Of The Shadow And The Story Of The Shoulder To Te Awamutu
  9. Behind The Line
  10. The Great Society
  11. That Part Is True
  12. Rosy
  13. People Like Us
  14. Not Drinking
  15. In Spite Of Ourselves
  16. I Keep Walkin’
  17. Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys  
Written By: Radio13