Two worlds collided at The Civic Theatre last Tuesday night creating a rich tapestry of Kiwi pop classics sewn together by the classical and contemporary.
Mixtapes are not a new thing. In fact, creating one was always a personal passion as a kid (and still is today). It was as close as I could get to being cool amongst my peers, picking the right songs for the next party or celebration. There is quite an art to creating a memorable mixtape and the audience at The Civic got to enjoy the live version of one. The NZ Mix Tape brought to life songs that were part of the soundtracks of our lives and are cemented in Kiwiana music history.
There is nothing like seeing a full orchestra on stage and, as the stars of the show filed onto stage, there were a few glances at each other, acknowledging the enormity of performing in front of one of the most professional and largest backing bands in the country.
Anna Coddington kicked off proceedings with one of the best songs of the night, Anchor Me by the Mutton Birds. It’s one of my all-time favourite songs and the orchestral arrangement was simply amazing. Anna’s vocals delivered a heartfelt rendition of the classic track and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra provided an excellent backdrop to the song, which I’m sure would have brought a tear to the eye of the great Don McGlashan if he had been there.
Liam Finn was up next with a brilliant interpretation of Pink Frost by The Chills. It sent a little shiver down my spine, as I suspect it did for many others, and again was delivered with great gusto, if not a little trepidation from Finn. And why not: trying to give the respect the song deserves with a full orchestra behind you and a nearly packed house would give most seasoned professionals a case of the jitters.
Nadia Reid delivered a wonderful version of Four Seasons In One Day by Crowded House. Her voice, sometimes angelic, seemed to lift the song even higher above the orchestra and it was a beautifully arranged version that had many of the punters singing along to the chorus.
All three artists provided a range of singing styles that suited the sometimes eclectic playlist, mixing Prince Tui Teka’s E Ipo and Straitjacket Fits’ She Speeds both sung by Anna and highlighting the diversity of our musical popular culture.
Nadia Reid also chipped in with a moving and atmospheric version of Drive by Bic Runga, along with an emotive rendition of Beside You by Dave Dobbyn. Both songs were delivered with warmth and love and a wonderful tribute to two of the greatest singer-songwriting artists of our time.
Liam chipped in with his own classic track Gather to the Chapel, off his album I’ll Be Lightning. It’s a very moving song and, again with the string instruments leading the way, it almost felt we were in a church filled with a congregation of the faithful. Liam also talked about one of his most favourite songs, which he wished he’d written but was glad that he didn’t have to, being Andy by The Front Lawn. A moving story about death and loss, which was ironically bought to life by the delicate arrangements and APO behind him.
One of the most adventurous arrangements of the night was History Never Repeats by Split Enz, and it sounded like it had Eddie Rayner’s hands all over this one. The orchestra was a tidal wave of sound threatening to crash over Anna as she belted out the chorus... However, she surfed the musical wave like a professional and led the song from the front. For me, it was one of the real standouts of the night.
Nearing the end Liam gave a nod to his uncle by singing Stuff & Nonsense, an early Split Enz classic. Feeling more relaxed Liam delivered a heartfelt rendition that would have made his uncle proud. I couldn’t help thinking how many times he must have heard that song around the wider family dining table and how proud he must have been to bring it to life once again in front of a live crowd.
Then it was all but over with a special mention and incredible nod to the late Malcolm Black from The Netherworld Dancing Toys, singing For Today. All three artists contributed to the Kiwi feelgood classic and finally got a number of the audience up out of their seats to sing along and, dare I say, dance just a little to finish the night off on a high.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again there is nothing better than seeing live music creating a little bit of history for those lucky enough to be part of it. And while this mixtape can’t be played again it was a wonderful fusion of classical sounds and contemporary pop, celebrating New Zealand music at its best.