It was the first gig of his release tour for the third of his ambitious journey of ten albums in ten years covering different genres.
Holy Colony Burning Acres was released on July 12th and was earlier featured in a 4-star Radio 13 album review by Sam Smith. Check it out here.
But tonight, it’s live at the Tuning Fork, and a big crowd assembles in boisterous anticipation.
Up first is Ed Waaka, just him and his guitar at first, as he starts his 8-song set with a journey back to the beginning of his songwriting career, and Back to You. Ed has a day job at the Auckland Museum, where he spends his time walking backwards into the future, surrounded by history, something he never tires of contemplating. Must be a great environment for composing in the mind.
He has a soulful voice, silky but raspy, and the songs are very accessible, as are the lyrics, whether they be old fashioned love or discomfort at the gentrification of his old Auckland neighbourhood, or suppressed anger at the statistics which plague Maoridom in New Zealand. Or, as he reflects on climbing through an old skylight at a dingy apartment he once inhabited in Parnell, there is still comfort in the classics as he croons through the Drifters great song Up On The Roof. Carey Garland joins him after three songs and adds texture to the soul. The audience is pleasingly quiet and respectful, and I wouldn’t have bet on that, so thank you Troy’s crowd.
Ed Waaka, silk and sandpaper. Reminds me of Terence Trent D’Arby or better known by his own name today, Sananda Maitreya. He knows him. I urge him to add another cover next time. Check him out. There’s an EP imminent (no pressure Ed).
Shout out to Aidan on sound!
DJ Francis warms us up from the back of an equipment filled stage, lit up by a backdrop of light and image. It’s a different Tuning Fork tonight. There are statements to be made. And none more than the pounding reggae beat which Francis pours out through the PA. Now That We’ve Found Love reggae. Third World reggae, not Marley music. Takes me back nearly 40 years. There are a few folks who can say that in the audience, but most could not.
Just past 9pm, the stage fills up with Upperclass folk, looking decidedly not. Well, who knows, class is a state of mind ok? I’m assuming that these guys are the same as on the record, because Troy’s introductions are not resoundingly clear, so we must have Hani Totorewa (Katchafire) on keys and trumpet; Guy Harrison also on trumpet; Trey Liu on drums, Marika Hodgson on funky bass, there’s an additional percussionist whose name I can’t find (apologies!) and Nina and Rachel, in berets and fatigues, up in front and ready for a fight on backing vocals.
The background canvas is filled with the album cover, featuring Father (priestly) Troy and two presumably Papuans, but the Troy who ambles on stage is all Bedouin Sheikh, in kaffiyeh and dark glasses, at the risk of crashing the metaphor. Maybe it’s just staunch. Doesn’t matter, it’s a spectacle, and let the music talk.
And off we go on a journey, through the album for sure, but also through the past mingled with the present, as the backdrop fills with psychedelic, funkadelic images which might take the mind somewhere else. It’s been a while since I have seen such a sound and light extravaganza. Mesmerising. And someone has already voted in the referendum, but probably in defiance of the Tuning Fork’s no smoking policy. But it wouldn’t be retro, it wouldn’t be reggae, without a certain sweet smell. Wish it was me.
We get through 9 songs from the latest album, 3 from Shake That Skinny Ass All The Way To Zygertron, 2 from Guitar Party at Uncles Bach, and I think two covers, Bob Marley’s Pimper’s Paradise for sure, and another song, Heading in the Right Direction, which might just be a Rene Geyer song co-written by Mark Punch. Could be wrong on that one. Domingo Candelario, from Cuba, gets up to do the spoken word intro to Babylon Grows, one of ten such introductions which feature on the record and give authenticity to the global nature of the songs and lyrics.
But it’s seamless, one track flowing smoothly into another, a few spoken intros, but mainly just a cascade of reggae, soul and funk, and the audience are rapt. And so they should be.
Question: what do you do when you’re by the sound desk, but the vocals sound a little flat? Answer: Stand behind someone important. That’s what I did. ‘Cos after a few songs this dude in front of me leans over into the sound desk, conveys a certain message and, magic, the sound moves from ok to perfect and we can hear Troy and the girls clearly now and all is perfect. Turns out its TeMatera (Matt) Smith, the album producer. I say to him after, you fixed it man! He tells me who he is, like I’m the guy who ought to know what it should sound like!! And so you are.
Troy Kingi and his band are making a big statement on the Kiwi roots and reggae scene, and of course, that only begs the question, what is he going to do next?
Thanks to Sam and the Tuning Fork crew, and Josh on sound (small glitch forgiven).
ED WAAKA Setlist:
1. Back to You
2. So Good
3. The Heart
4. Up On The Roof
5. War on The Street
8. Enemy of Mine
TROY KINGI Setlist:
3. Colour of my Skin
4. Born of this Earth
5. We Were Once Kings
6. Glass Eel
7. Heading in the Right Direction
9. Golden Shoes
10. Bird of Paradise
11. Pimper’s Paradise
12. Babylon Grows
13. Mighty Invader
14. First Nation
15. Just a Phase
16. Missing in the Mist
17. Grandma’s Rocket Poem