Two decades of beautiful pop

By Peter White

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It seems hard to believe but it is 20 years since the ageless Greg Johnson hit the New Zealand charts with his first catchy single, Isabelle.


To celebrate those two decades of producing beautifully written and clever pop songs, Johnson is coming home to play nine gigs and will hit the outstanding outdoor venue at Brewers Bar, Mount Maunganui, on Friday, November 23.

The tour will also promote his 10th album, Exits, which was recorded at his own studio in Santa Monica, where the enigmatic singer and piano player has been based for 10 years. The record oozes class and features collaborations with some of Los Angeles' finest, including famous soul producer Richard Rudolph on the super smooth McCartney-ish You Are Meant To Be Mine.

Johnson is looking forward to the tour, which kicks off in Hamilton on November 14, and says he can't wait to get back to the Mount, which he is reminded of daily in California. "People ask me what LA is like and I tell them it is kind of like a giant Mount Maunganui," he says.

"It has the same vibe, with beaches and low rises and good food. It has that summery feel to it so I can't wait to get back there."

In recent years Johnson has played at various venues in the Bay of Plenty, including churches and theatres with his acoustic set. Now as worthy as that was, and his songs are so good that they effortlessly convert to stripped back versions, it is heartening to hear he is bringing a full-on rock 'n roll band this time.

"The live show we are doing now is really, really great and I am excited about the band I am bringing to the Brewers. It is kind of the best band I have ever had, a five-piece with two electric guitars, everyone sings, and an amazing drummer in Wayne Bell. There is a good collection of material to draw off now, too."

Long-time fans can expect to hear all his best loved songs like Two Feet Off The Ground, Save Yourself, Don't Wait Another Day, Liberty and Now The Sun Is Out, but he is also slipping in some early songs he has never played live before and a smattering of new material.

Johnson is the original late-night party rocker, but with the birth of his first child Ruby a few months ago he has a lifestyle change that he absolutely loves.

"It has been a big change and everything has taken on a bit more significance, including my songwriting. It is going to be hard to be away for three weeks but it also the first tour when I will get more sleep than I do at home."

Tickets are available from Ticketek, ph 0800 842 538

- Bay of Plenty Times

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