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Greg Johnson & Mel Parsons Together & Alone Review

Words/Photo Wal Reid

If you haven’t heard Southland singer Mel Parsons sing My Friend then you probably haven’t heard the best of Mel Parsons. Don’t get me wrong, I like her in full-throttle band mode, but tonight was her opportunity to turn out as she called it a “sad” song in tonight’s set of bouncy feel-good numbers. After seeing her earlier this year at Auckland’s Galatos, I’m inclined to feel a little nostalgic.

She came armed with a Lorde story (or two) and with the talented Greg Johnson in tow, a dynamic duo of New Zealand’s musical landscape, a musical marriage that just made good bloody sense. Him, a prolific singer/songwriter and a damn good raconteur, Johnson’s knack at writing a good catchy tune didn’t go unnoticed during the 90s, and together with singer/guitarist Ted Brown and millennials, drummer Jed Parsons and Josh Logan on bass, gave the timeless hits a 21st century rejuvenated kick in the arse.

The affable Mel Parsons was on form. I love her bling dresses (does she not wear pants?), her relaxed story telling heeding to her melodic nature, her set list flowed seamlessly, as if birthed for this occasion. A couple of moments in the set seemed a tad stilted, maybe from traipsing the same musical territory, but never waning.

Her music enveloping the audience in waves, with the faithful few dancing up the front, even I was surprised by how many songs I recalled from her previous gig. Greg Johnson joined her on stage for the closing numbers, whipping out his trumpet got the crowd back to its feet, bobbing their heads in time with the music, the band solid and visually enjoying the dynamic of Johnson’s presence.

Johnson also had his time to shine, as the onstage banter flowed thick & fast, Johnson was quick to retort with the band as he jived with Mel’s rhythm section, singer/songwriter Ted Brown was invaluable, backing with his tight harmonies and guitar finesse. At one stage the subject of Christchurch’s Wizard popped up with Johnson asking if anyone knew where he was, even suggesting bassist Josh was his son. It was all done in jest and added a light-hearted vibe to the night.

Mel’s end of year tour with Greg Johnson is the perfect way to take in a night of good healthy dose of MOR (middle-of-the-road), Johnson on keys and a penchant for a good melody, while Mel’s catchy acoustic tunes seem to hit it off together. Go see ‘em at a town near you, it will be a bloody good night of dance and song from these two creative muses.

Greg Johnson & Mel Parsons Together & Alone Review

Words/Photo Wal Reid

If you haven’t heard Southland singer Mel Parsons sing My Friend then you probably haven’t heard the best of Mel Parsons. Don’t get me wrong, I like her in full-throttle band mode, but tonight was her opportunity to turn out as she called it a “sad” song in tonight’s set of bouncy feel-good numbers. After seeing her earlier this year at Auckland’s Galatos, I’m inclined to feel a little nostalgic.

She came armed with a Lorde story (or two) and with the talented Greg Johnson in tow, a dynamic duo of New Zealand’s musical landscape, a musical marriage that just made good bloody sense. Him, a prolific singer/songwriter and a damn good raconteur, Johnson’s knack at writing a good catchy tune didn’t go unnoticed during the 90s, and together with singer/guitarist Ted Brown and millennials, drummer Jed Parsons and Josh Logan on bass, gave the timeless hits a 21st century rejuvenated kick in the arse.

The affable Mel Parsons was on form. I love her bling dresses (does she not wear pants?), her relaxed story telling heeding to her melodic nature, her set list flowed seamlessly, as if birthed for this occasion. A couple of moments in the set seemed a tad stilted, maybe from traipsing the same musical territory, but never waning.

Her music enveloping the audience in waves, with the faithful few dancing up the front, even I was surprised by how many songs I recalled from her previous gig. Greg Johnson joined her on stage for the closing numbers, whipping out his trumpet got the crowd back to its feet, bobbing their heads in time with the music, the band solid and visually enjoying the dynamic of Johnson’s presence.

Johnson also had his time to shine, as the onstage banter flowed thick & fast, Johnson was quick to retort with the band as he jived with Mel’s rhythm section, singer/songwriter Ted Brown was invaluable, backing with his tight harmonies and guitar finesse. At one stage the subject of Christchurch’s Wizard popped up with Johnson asking if anyone knew where he was, even suggesting bassist Josh was his son. It was all done in jest and added a light-hearted vibe to the night.

Mel’s end of year tour with Greg Johnson is the perfect way to take in a night of good healthy dose of MOR (middle-of-the-road), Johnson on keys and a penchant for a good melody, while Mel’s catchy acoustic tunes seem to hit it off together. Go see ‘em at a town near you, it will be a bloody good night of dance and song from these two creative muses.

Marlon Williams Review “Harmonic Bliss”

Words/Photos Wal Reid

I always appreciate musician Marlon Williams’ monastic outlook on Love and Life, his lack of hedonistic aspirations in song and lyric, both, strike a chord with me. Unpretentiously honest, cutting through the twee bullshit prevalent on todays radio airwaves.

Tonight’s gig at the strange but Kiwi-as venue, the Point Chevalier RSA a fitting setting for Williams and band, who looked ‘chomping at the bit’ ready to fire-up and stroke the eager audience with his Country styled alternative songs.

Williams looked remarkably spritely and composed revealing finding comfort in hearing “Maori words” being spoken at the airport while pushing around his cart after arriving back here. His presence strong onstage attired in trademark tie sans hat, he performed uninhibited, guitar at the fore, appearing as if in auto-pilot mode while channelling the muse within.

Opting to play a heap of new songs like the very catchy What’s Chasing You or his newbie Nobody Gets What They Want the new single with Aldous Harding. Perennial favourites Hello Miss Lonesome or Strange Things were noticeably missing but they didn’t seem out place or phase the sold out RSA crowd.

With the freakishly musical wunderkind Dave Khan adding finesse with fiddle, guitar & keys, Gus Agars was solid on drums teaming up with Ben Woolley on bass providing backing vocals & beefing up Williams’ unique dulcet tone – harmonic bliss. Woolley also seemed to have his own entourage who vocally expressed themselves at different points in the concert, especially when he filled in for Aldous Harding on Nobody Gets What They Want.

Williams voice transports the listener to an era when music seem untainted almost pure, his soft lilt given a workout on rockier numbers Dark Child and latest single Vampire Again, his voice almost styled on vocalist greats like Lennon or Reeves while stamping his own on Party Boy is one reason he’s has been garnishing attention from mainstream media.

Muttering to the crowd “We’ve got time for a couple of more” much to the delight of the audience, the group left finishing on Love Is A Terrible Thing and a Screaming Jay Hawkins cover Portrait of a Man, it was definitely a high-note and great climax to see one of the most understated musicians from this country perform before he embarks on his World Tour next year.

Let’s hope those pesky Australians don’t claim him for themselves, otherwise, we may have to get ‘Cindy’ to go deal to them.

Marlon Williams Review “Harmonic Bliss”

Words/Photos Wal Reid

I always appreciate musician Marlon Williams’ monastic outlook on Love and Life, his lack of hedonistic aspirations in song and lyric, both, strike a chord with me. Unpretentiously honest, cutting through the twee bullshit prevalent on todays radio airwaves.

Tonight’s gig at the strange but Kiwi-as venue, the Point Chevalier RSA a fitting setting for Williams and band, who looked ‘chomping at the bit’ ready to fire-up and stroke the eager audience with his Country styled alternative songs.

Williams looked remarkably spritely and composed revealing finding comfort in hearing “Maori words” being spoken at the airport while pushing around his cart after arriving back here. His presence strong onstage attired in trademark tie sans hat, he performed uninhibited, guitar at the fore, appearing as if in auto-pilot mode while channelling the muse within.

Opting to play a heap of new songs like the very catchy What’s Chasing You or his newbie Nobody Gets What They Want the new single with Aldous Harding. Perennial favourites Hello Miss Lonesome or Strange Things were noticeably missing but they didn’t seem out place or phase the sold out RSA crowd.

With the freakishly musical wunderkind Dave Khan adding finesse with fiddle, guitar & keys, Gus Agars was solid on drums teaming up with Ben Woolley on bass providing backing vocals & beefing up Williams’ unique dulcet tone – harmonic bliss. Woolley also seemed to have his own entourage who vocally expressed themselves at different points in the concert, especially when he filled in for Aldous Harding on Nobody Gets What They Want.

Williams voice transports the listener to an era when music seem untainted almost pure, his soft lilt given a workout on rockier numbers Dark Child and latest single Vampire Again, his voice almost styled on vocalist greats like Lennon or Reeves while stamping his own on Party Boy is one reason he’s has been garnishing attention from mainstream media.

Muttering to the crowd “We’ve got time for a couple of more” much to the delight of the audience, the group left finishing on Love Is A Terrible Thing and a Screaming Jay Hawkins cover Portrait of a Man, it was definitely a high-note and great climax to see one of the most understated musicians from this country perform before he embarks on his World Tour next year.

Let’s hope those pesky Australians don’t claim him for themselves, otherwise, we may have to get ‘Cindy’ to go deal to them.

MARLON WILLIAMS SOLD OUT NZ TOUR + NEW ALBUM & VIDEO

New Zealand’s Marlon Williams will release his sophomore album, Make Way For Love, on February 16th via Caroline Music. Known for his effortlessly distinctive voice, Make Way For Love marks Marlon’s exponential growth as a songwriter. Throughout 11 original songs, he explores new musical terrain and reveals himself in an unprecedented way in the wake of a fractured relationship. In conjunction with today’s album announcement, Marlon announces an international tour and shares the album’s penultimate track, “Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore,” a duet with Aldous Harding, recorded via a late-night long distance phone call, plus an accompanying video filmed in New York City.

While Make Way For Love draws on Marlon’s own story, it captures the vagaries of relationships we’ve all been through: the bliss, ache, uncertainty, and bitterness. Like the best breakup records, Make Way For Love doesn’t shy away from heartbreak, but rather stares it in the face, and mines beauty from it. Delicate and bold, tender and searing, it’s a mightily personal new step.

Make Way For Love was recorded with producer Noah Georgeson and his backing band, The Yarra Benders, in North California’s Panoramic Studios after several weeks of pre-production in his native Lyttelton with regular collaborator Ben Edwards. The finished result moves Marlon several paces from “country”—the genre that’s been affixed to him more than any in recent years, but one that’s always been a bit too reductive to be wholly accurate — with forays into cinematic strings, reverb, rollicking guitar and at least one quiet piano ballad, on his most expansive work to date.

Currently in the midst of a sold out global preview tour, to support his stand alone single Vampire Again, next year will see Marlon take his captivating live show to 46 cities around the world for his largest ever headline tour.

WATCH VIDEO FOR LEAD SINGLE “NOBODY GETS WHAT THEY WANT ANYMORE” (DUET WITH ALDOUS HARDING)

MARLON WILLIAMS SOLD OUT NZ TOUR + NEW ALBUM & VIDEO

New Zealand’s Marlon Williams will release his sophomore album, Make Way For Love, on February 16th via Caroline Music. Known for his effortlessly distinctive voice, Make Way For Love marks Marlon’s exponential growth as a songwriter. Throughout 11 original songs, he explores new musical terrain and reveals himself in an unprecedented way in the wake of a fractured relationship. In conjunction with today’s album announcement, Marlon announces an international tour and shares the album’s penultimate track, “Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore,” a duet with Aldous Harding, recorded via a late-night long distance phone call, plus an accompanying video filmed in New York City.

While Make Way For Love draws on Marlon’s own story, it captures the vagaries of relationships we’ve all been through: the bliss, ache, uncertainty, and bitterness. Like the best breakup records, Make Way For Love doesn’t shy away from heartbreak, but rather stares it in the face, and mines beauty from it. Delicate and bold, tender and searing, it’s a mightily personal new step.

Make Way For Love was recorded with producer Noah Georgeson and his backing band, The Yarra Benders, in North California’s Panoramic Studios after several weeks of pre-production in his native Lyttelton with regular collaborator Ben Edwards. The finished result moves Marlon several paces from “country”—the genre that’s been affixed to him more than any in recent years, but one that’s always been a bit too reductive to be wholly accurate — with forays into cinematic strings, reverb, rollicking guitar and at least one quiet piano ballad, on his most expansive work to date.

Currently in the midst of a sold out global preview tour, to support his stand alone single Vampire Again, next year will see Marlon take his captivating live show to 46 cities around the world for his largest ever headline tour.

WATCH VIDEO FOR LEAD SINGLE “NOBODY GETS WHAT THEY WANT ANYMORE” (DUET WITH ALDOUS HARDING)

TAMI NEILSON TO OPEN FOR ROBBIE WILLIAMS IN DUNEDIN

“A great big canyon of a voice.” – DOWNBEAT

One of New Zealand’s most beloved and dynamic songstresses, Tami Neilson, will join global pop phenomenon Robbie Williams for the Dunedin concert of his Heavy Entertainment Show World Tour.

SATURDAY 17TH FEBRUARY – FORSYTH BARR STADIUM – DUNEDIN

ticketmaster.co.nz

The critically acclaimed artist who is as prolific at writing award-winning songs as she is at collecting them (including the prestigious APRA Silver Scroll), Tami Neilson is also renowned for her impressive and commanding live shows.

Neilson’s dynamo performances can really pack a punch and combined with consummate entertainer Robbie Williams’ glittering hit-laden set-list, this will undoubtedly be an evening full of showmanship and rollicking good times.

Singing her heart out along endless roads and stages, from her days as a young girl in Canada touring with the Neilson Family band, opening for the likes of Johnny Cash, to her full blossoming in New Zealand as a formidable talent in her own right, Tami Neilson has won the Tui Award for each of her past four albums.

The release of her explosive album “Dynamite!” received rave reviews in MOJO, The Guardian (named “Top 10 Best Country Music Album”), climbed to #1 on the NZ Music Charts and won the title of 2015’s “Best Country Music Album.”

Her follow-up album “Don’t Be Afraid” was also released to critical acclaim, and debuted on the NZ Album Charts and the Independent Music Charts at #1, proving that the powerhouse that is Tami Neilson is a force to be reckoned with.

Watch: WALK (BACK TO YOUR ARMS) HOLY MOSES – LONELY (feat Marlon Williams)

“There are singers, and then there is Tami Neilson, for whom the word singer just isn’t big enough.” – HMV

ROBBIE WILLIAMS – THE HEAVY ENTERTAINMENT SHOW – DUNEDIN 2018

Presented by Chugg Entertainment & Café Royal

WITH VERY SPECIAL GUEST TAMI NEILSON

DUNEDIN

Saturday 17th February – Forsyth Barr Stadium

ticketmaster.co.nz

TAMI NEILSON TO OPEN FOR ROBBIE WILLIAMS IN DUNEDIN

One of New Zealand’s most beloved and dynamic songstresses, Tami Neilson, will join global pop phenomenon Robbie Williams for the Dunedin concert of his Heavy Entertainment Show World Tour.

SATURDAY 17TH FEBRUARY – FORSYTH BARR STADIUM – DUNEDIN

The critically acclaimed artist who is as prolific at writing award-winning songs as she is at collecting them (including the prestigious APRA Silver Scroll), Tami Neilson is also renowned for her impressive and commanding live shows.

Neilson’s dynamo performances can really pack a punch and combined with consummate entertainer Robbie Williams’ glittering hit-laden set-list, this will undoubtedly be an evening full of showmanship and rollicking good times.

Singing her heart out along endless roads and stages, from her days as a young girl in Canada touring with the Neilson Family band, opening for the likes of Johnny Cash, to her full blossoming in New Zealand as a formidable talent in her own right, Tami Neilson has won the Tui Award for each of her past four albums.

The release of her explosive album “Dynamite!” received rave reviews in MOJO, The Guardian (named “Top 10 Best Country Music Album”), climbed to #1 on the NZ Music Charts and won the title of 2015’s “Best Country Music Album.”

Her follow-up album “Don’t Be Afraid” was also released to critical acclaim, and debuted on the NZ Album Charts and the Independent Music Charts at #1, proving that the powerhouse that is Tami Neilson is a force to be reckoned with.

Watch: WALK (BACK TO YOUR ARMS) HOLY MOSES – LONELY (feat Marlon Williams)

“There are singers, and then there is Tami Neilson, for whom the word singer just isn’t big enough.” – HMV

Words Leo Koziel

I was I think 13 or 14 years old in the Year of Frankie.

After mowing lawns in our Wairoa backyard on a hot sunny day I’d listen to the faint signal of the “Bay City” radio station down in Napier, and they’d play a weird song called “Relax” that sounded way too sexually suggestive for the times. It was 1984, and things were about to change in the world of Pop and also in the world of Aotearoa. At the same time, folks were living it up in the last days of Disco in downtown New York City. A bonfire of disco records had recently been blown up on a football field full of hooligans in Chicago, the rot of over-commercialisation had set in (Disco Duck, for heaven’s sake), and the shadow of AIDs was about to hauntingly hinder a global age of hedonism. Cocaine had fuelled weekend long insomniac disco dancers, and they were all about to be replaced by coked-up merchant bankers and financiers. Glass towers were about to destroy downtown Auckland, a new socially progressive Labour government was soon to legalise homosexuality and ban nuclear weapons from our shores, but in Wairoa of the 1980s the only window you had to the world outside was a half hour weekly of Ready to Roll (RTR), a smattering of mostly state-owned radio stations and overpriced pop music magazines at the local stationers. And through Frankie, the spirit of disco was reawakening through new electronic beats.

In the Year of Frankie, “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” somehow magically appeared under the Christmas tree for me, so I took it camping at Mahanga for three weeks. I played it on rotate on my Walkman. The whole time. It blew my little 14-year old mind. Opening track “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” is a 14-minute opus that takes near on 5 minutes to even approach a chorus. All the hits were there: “Relax” and “Two Tribes” and “Power of Love” but it was the snippets of spoken word and weirdness and randomness that intrigued me the most. “The World is my Oyster” intones Holly Johnson throughout the album, in homage to Coleridge and Kublai Khan. I dreamt of a utopian sex-filled Shangri La as I listened to a faux Prince Charles intone how orgasm has become a most mystified state of feeling and a faux Ronald Reagan muses on war and what “Frankie” has to “Say.” The album as a whole was trippy and weird, a terribly heady mix for a 14-year old mind, a Rubik’s cube of ideas and sounds and images with mysteries somehow to be unlocked.

Which somehow brings us to Auckland in 2017, and the terribly heady mix presented to a 40-something me at the “Pleasuredome,” a new stage show that has somehow popped up in an out-of-the-way suburban warehouse. The stage show Disneyland for grown-ups that is “Pleasuredome” is the brainchild of Lucy Lawless and husband Rob Tapert, a hedonistic, gay-friendly, audience-friendly musical extravaganza that like recent hit musical “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” is destined to find legs in far-flung shores. Expect to see it in the West End. Soon. And Vegas. Las Vegas.

Like “Priscilla” the musical the whole storyline is held together with a mish-mash of classic 1970s and 1980s tunes. The premise of the show is relatively simple, almost paint by numbers: find a story loosely based on the “Death of Disco” and closure of famed “Studio 54” in New York City; get the rights to a number of 80s and 70s hit pop songs; weave it all together on stage in an immersive “videodrome” type environment. The show is presented “in the round” so there are no backdrops or sets, per se, but the huge warehouse space has allowed for seven massive video walls cleverly used to make an immersive show: the skyline of New York City is all around you, elevators rise and fall and you drift down dark, sleazy Manhattan streets all while the show takes place centre stage and on a massive catwalk from the rear of the hall.

Going into the show, I tried to research what songs were included in the musical, but the promoters have (cleverly?) kept any available images and video of the show to a minimum. The house was packed on a Sunday night, so the show is clearly a success from word of mouth as well as the usual promo and advertising. So, I sat at my cabaret table and let the show wash over me. Some of the 70s and 80s hits “remade” into the musical worked really well. “Thieves Like Us” by New Order was woven excitedly into the storyline, as was Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” Others get lost in the reversioning: “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is presented as an angry, capitalist rant and misses the dystopian sweetness and irony of the Tears For Fears original. Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” turns into a fierce conversation between lead character Sappho and her drug of choice, which she’s trying to “break up” with. I missed the original’s electronica beat, but sat in wonder at its new incarnation. The same goes for “Relax” – the Frankie anthem gets hot and heavy and becomes a trippy pansexual headrush of 2010s love in all its permutations (as well as remaining an anthem to delayed ejaculation).

Lucy Lawless as Sappho is the star of the show, but the award for best vocals goes to Australian import Ashleigh Taylor who soars on Godley & Creme’s “Cry” and Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “The Power of Love.” I’ve yet to mention the New York street that’s presented as the lobby to the show: it’s fantastic, though its recent history as “Mainstreet USA” in “Ash Vs Evil Dead” means it feels more like middle America street rather than Times Square circa 1980 (the furniture store sign was the giveaway). Which was fine by me, as the randomness of a New York nightclub located on a middle America street is the same as the randomness of the show’s soundtrack: funk, rap, gay disco, new wave, electronica, bubble-gum pop, new romantic, post punk, rock, house, hyperballads and AOR soft rock.

Go and see this show, you won’t regret it. I’ve never been to a show before where the whole audience gets up and dances at the end for two songs and then goes out into the “lobby” and boogies down for another hour or so afterwards! It is simply great to see such talent coming out of Aotearoa, and its simply great to see Kiwis having such a great time. I think there was a time when “cultural cringe” meant kiwi talent was always seen as second rate and Auckland audiences as less than open minded. It’s either a generational shift, or the marked talents of the likes of Lucy Lawless, but things aren’t the same as they were anymore. The crowd cheered at the gay lovers and booed at the homophobe. The lyrics of the songs soared and you could see in the audience how people were touched to reawaken memories of their youth, be it Frankie Goes to Hollywood or Wham! or Chaka Khan or Godley & Creme’s “Cry” (the show stopper).

A one of a kind show better in many respects than any other in the world is somehow hidden away in a West Auckland warehouse. And that’s the simple reality of NZ in 2017.

Go see it. You’ve got until Christmas. Just go.

Frankie Say Go.