Delaney Davidson and his Ghost Orchestra wandered back to The Wine Cellar last night for one of two sold-out shows this weekend. Self-proclaimed travelling salesman, he sold his latest album Shining Day to an experienced Auckland crowd (including broadcast legend John Campbell).
A humid spring drizzle had set in as I arrived a little before 9. A drone of strings drew me past the bar to the stage where Anita Clark (Motte) was serenading a mostly seated audience. With her violin and effects pedals splayed out on a table, she plucked and bowed strings, twisted and pushed buttons, producing a textured soundscape for powerful vocal lines to ring out over. She stuck around on stage as Davidson pounced over the monitors to set-up.
Weirdness is the word. With a healthy stubble, slicked back hair and his grandfather’s tie, he stood tall over the crowd, pulling funny faces for the cameras. Equipped with a Fender Jaguar, a limited amount of pedals and a harmonica microphone on a travelling suitcase covered in worn stickers, he began his pitch of weirdo blues with a joke:
“We are going to have a really good time tonight; whether you like it or not…I will never forget my grandfather’s last words before he hit the bucket “how far do you reckon I can kick this bucket””
Starting with So Far Away, the sound of his limit guitar jerked, whacked and wobbled into a dark driving rhythm that set the tone of the rest of the night. In contrast to the more mellow, piano driven version on the record, it was clear that performing this new album with a band will only add more grit, mud and lividness.
The Wine Cellar was now packed to the brim as second song What Am I Doing Wrong (featuring Neil Finn on the album) came whistling in – literally. Strange dissonant whistles cast a melody over powerful, almost punky, guitar rhythms. Chris O’Connor’s lazy drums stole the song’s timing, swinging the rhythm into different tempos as gurning Davidson forced out howls and moans; his eyes twitching with demonic flair.
Continuing with his sales pitch mid way towards the end of the set, Davidson had a “special treat” for the crowd in the form of a cover of Roy Orbison’s In Dreams. To the crowd’s delight, the instrumentation crept alongside Clark’s hair raising voice, climbing the walls and saturating the room with intense revolving harmonies.
Davidson and his Ghost Orchestra finished up with Lucky Star. Screeching legato violin stretched out over whacky guitar strikes, gloomy la-da harmonies and a simple splashy beat.
Quickly hopping back on stage after an ample encore, the song Strange I Know tied up a wonderfully weird time that will have more people back tonight. Respect to the star cast of musicians who pumped more life into this wandering minstrels more lo-fi album.