Anyone reading about the notorious booze-fueled Pretty Things tour in 1965 might think we had been invaded by guerilla fighters rather than musicians, but on this belated return bout it could only be about the music, their rhythm and blues grounded in the 60s, because original members Dick Taylor and Phil May are 69 and 68 respectively.
After courageously getting a few early classics out of the way (Roadrunner, Mama Shut Your Big Fat Mouth and Honey I Need, all a little perfunctory) they settled in for lengthy set which was remarkable for its confident diversity. From the acoustic interlude with guitarist Taylor playing sublime bottleneck on I Just Can't Be Satisfied and Robert Johnson's Come On in My Kitchen to an utterly tripped-out version of the single-entendre LSD, and with pitstops from their ambitious SF Sorrow and a room-shaking medley bookended by Mona, the Pretty Things Taylor, May and an excellent band delivered with an energy which belied their age.
Yes, there were flat spots (a drum solo is rarely essential, Baron Saturday hasn't aged well and didn't sit right, May not the most distinctive of singers) and the show was disappointingly undersubscribed, mostly graybeards and a smattering of younger people nostalgic for, or curious about, something they never knew. But over the night as the band worked some familiar chord changes, blew bluesy harmonica, shook maracas and pulled out classic songs (Cry To Me was number one in New Zealand according to May, did we have charts back then?) this was nostalgia mixed with unabashed enthusiasm.
A prior engagement meant I missed the local openers (I arrived at 9.15pm and they were all done) but reports were unanimously favourable.
But in 2012 who would have thought to hear the still great Don't Bring Me Down, Buzz the Jerk and Rosalyn in their own hometown by these infamous creators? And the Pretty Things may just revive the role of the maracas and tambourine in rock.