It was cold outside but very warm inside a packed Freida Margolis on Wednesday night. Warm in temperature and affection for one of New Zealand’s finest bands, the perpetually underrated Bads. By New Zealand and global audiences, I mean, because Auckland’s fellow musicians know just how good they are. Tonight, it’s just Brett and Dianne (Adams and Swann) supported by long time collaborator and friend Dave Khan. Unplugged. Well, almost.
I’m a huge fan of this folk rock duo and their various rhythm sections, stalwarts of Auckland’s music scene since returning from a stint in the UK in the 90s as The Julie Dolphin, an indie rock band which faltered on the cusp of success. Close, but no cigar. Reinventing themselves in the 00s as The Bads, releasing four albums and also popping up everywhere as collaborators, Brett notably spending some years in Tami Neilsen’s band. All of this busy-ness, their love of music coupled with the daily struggle to get by, which is sadly the lot of most professional musicians, means we don’t get to see The Bads very often. A barrenness of Bads.
But here they are, cramped up in the make do stage area which can be anywhere in Freidas. Brett and Diane in front, Dave in behind and occasionally using the bar to place his little autoharp. No new music tonight, Dianne tells me, (although I believe she has almost an album of songs waiting for a solo effort), just a waltz though their back catalogue, and what’s wrong with that? These songs don’t get played enough, and as I write this, I’m diving back through the albums myself, seeing Earth From Space and So Alive in new light.
The first song is truly unplugged, Brett and Dianne on acoustics, Dave on mandolin, and back we go to Earth From Space and Carry the Weight. The very familiar intro to Fly Together follows, Dave plucking at his fiddle. Brett goes a little less unplugged with his guitar now plugged in as Dianne explains they are each allowed one cover tonight and Dave goes first, adding vocals to his array of talent as he gives us the John Cale song Ship of Fools.
Next we are off on another view of Earth from Space, this time the spectacle of a Bushfire Sunset from 15 years ago. And then another surprise from the 60’s, a version of Love’s Alone Again Or, the opening track from their classic psychedelic soul album Forever Changes. Magic. Shelter Love, the Unmortal Orchestralish song from Losing Heroes, and then another old one about the guy from the UK who went walking the soles off his feet, this time transported in hoedown country style back to Helensville. Dave and Brett duelling on strings.
It's a slow kind of heartbreak on Heartbreak Beach, and then Brett’s cool little country number from Travel Light, Don’t Forget Yourself. Homage to people like Dave McCartney and Graham Brazier comes through Losing Heroes. Same songs, different setting, different vibe brings out the refresh in everything. So cool. We stay with the last album (2017) and Him and Her, then Brett’s cover from The Last Waltz, the Robbie Robertson song Out of the Blue which didn’t make the album, but did make the 40th anniversary show back in 2016.
Still so cool, and So Alive. The final track of the last album is the last waltz of this magic little night, as Brett takes us on a positive negative journey out West.
But of course, host Mike is not going to let them go without one more, and I’m hoping for Good Lies, the song they played when I first saw them back in 2014 opening for Emmylou Harris. But no, close and this time it is the cigar, as they launch into my favourite Dylan song of all time, the secret gem from The Basement Tapes, You Ain’t going Nowhere.
Let’s hope The Bads aren’t going anywhere except back on stage soon.
Special thanks to Mike Howie from Freidas for shuffling us all in and being, as ever, the genial host.
- Carry the Weight (Earth from Space)
- Fly Together (Travel Light)
- Ship of Fools (John Cale cover)
- Bushfire Sunset (Earth from Space)
- Alone again or (Love cover)
- Shelter Love (Losing Heroes)
- Helensville (So Alive)
- Heartbreak Beach (Losing Heroes)
- Don’t Forget Yourself (Travel Light)
- Losing Heroes (Losing Heroes)
- Him and Her (Losing Heroes)
- Out of the Blue (Robbie Robertson cover)
- So Alive (So Alive)
- West (Losing Heroes)
- You Ain’t going nowhere (Dylan cover)