Concert review: Classic Hits Winery Tour, Ascension Estate

By Russell Baillie

Rich, well-chosen offerings of summer tour left impressions of mini-festival.

Fat Freddy's Drop brought the funk at the Matakana Classic Hits Winery Tour.  Photo / Steve Dykes
Fat Freddy's Drop brought the funk at the Matakana Classic Hits Winery Tour. Photo / Steve Dykes

Talk about your rich varietal. The first of this year's package tours of the nation's grape outdoors certainly doesn't lack for a multitude of vintages, flavours and blends - one veteran electro-reggae monster? Check. Two supergroups fronted by three distinguished talents each? Check. One New Zealand's Got Talent winner on her first big tour? Check.

Yes, that combined appeal - and the convivial setting, even if a few in attendance might have mistaken it for the Sevens - was enough to make this Matakana opening night of the 16-date Classic Hits Winery Tour a 3000-strong sellout. And that line-up gave it the scope of a mini festival rather than just a countdown to the headliner, which for this tour is ostensibly Fat Freddy's Drop.

The well-travelled Wellingtonians ushered in the dusk with a set which might have been the longest of the evening, but which probably had the least number of songs, given the septet's urge towards grandly extended dub grooves, which, coming through a big outdoor PA and under a sometimes Close Encounters scale light show, was certainly impressive in a grandly groovy, atmospheric kind of way.

It did have its moments. Guest hype-man Slave and his "Fire! Fire!" toasting might cause alarm in more drought-affected parts of the country but he was an amusingly nutty addition. The song which emerged out of the live-looping of the brass section, harmonica and voices into on-the-fly warped funk brought some spontaneity to the proceedings and the mad dancing and playing of trombonist Joe Lindsay was, as always, a sideshow in itself.

It was also a chance to hear some new material from the perennially forthcoming album Blackbird - this tour having proved not enough of a deadline to get it out - such as its title track then first single Silver and Gold. They were at the beginning of a set which slowly pulled out of the station then chugged merrily along for 90 minutes but really didn't go anywhere. As always, plenty of folks loved them for doing just that.

Many hours earlier, first up was New Zealand's Got Talent winner Carla Van Wel, who remained admirably unflustered by guitar-tuning problems at the start of her short solo set, and showed she's got more of those frighteningly fully realised songs where her show-winning Where Do You Find Love came from.

From the new kid it was over to The Adults, the Jon Toogood-led supergroup which had grafted together the voices and playing of Shayne Carter and Julia Deans among others for a brilliant self-titled record, the many intense moods of which might have scared the horses in an outdoor, daytime, big-stage, all-ages, middle-New Zealand kind of gig.

But the instrument-swopping trio (and drummer) not only defied the usual first rule of supergroups - that such bands are usually less than the sum of their parts - but proved that live, those songs translate just fine.

That was helped by Toogood's natural exuberance combined with his partners' own wry humour. "It's actually a song about The Man," quipped Carter, introducing Short Change, adding to the youngsters gathered down front: " Do you kids know who The Man is?"

That swampy number was the deepest and darkest of their set, which also delivered everything from Pink Floydian-throb to bittersweet duets of Everyday I Wake Up and Anniversary Day, to a final power surge of Nothing to Lose with Deans deftly taking over the album vocal by Ladi6, who later joined Fat Freddy's.

From The Adults, it was to the night's second supergroup - Anika, Boh and Hollie (that's Moa, Runga and Smith) whose freshly minted debut album Peace of Mind is already refreshing the top of the local charts.

Backed by a full and finely drilled band, touting a guitar each and predictably heavily armed with harmonies, they too defied that supergroup equation on new tunes that took in everything from sunny ska of Why Don't We to the anthemic soul-rock of single Beside You.

They also dipped back into their individual songbooks - Dreams in My Head and Running in the Fire for Moa, Part of Me for Runga and for Smith a set-closing, absolutely scorching Bathe in the River.

Review

Who: Fat Freddy's Drop; Anika, Boh and Hollie; The Adults, Carla Van Wel
What: Classic Hits Winery Tour
Where: Ascension Estate, Matakana.

- NZ Herald

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