Review: APRA Silver Scroll Awards, Auckland Town Hall

By Joe Nunweek

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Steve Abel and Gin Wigmore perform Hello Sailor's  Blue Lady . Photo / Milana Radojcic
Steve Abel and Gin Wigmore perform Hello Sailor's Blue Lady . Photo / Milana Radojcic

This is only my second Silver Scrolls, but you're starting to see the trends: the tawdry versus the special, the lame and predictable versus the daring and subversive.

MPs mingling with record industry execs mingling with several generations of musos. An occasional sense of forward momentum, tempered by cloying nostalgia.

So, not to repeat myself/everyone but: bloody hell, hasn't Karl Steven been a good curator for this? The real sell of the Silver Scrolls is the radical interpretations of the nominee songs, often by unlikely artists.

This time around, all five of the main nominees are actually improved (the SOUNZ Contemporary and Maioha award winners also receive fitting, remarkable tribute).

To wit, there's a phenomenal steamroller adaptation of The Adults' Nothing To Lose (Scratch 22), a reupholstering of Bachelorette's yawn-some blanket to a fractured electroacoustic racket by Orchestra of Spheres, a zippier version of Delaney Davidson's Little Heart that hits right when things are lagging care of Cut Off Your Hands, a stellar* (*not the band) take on Unknown Mortal Orchestra's FFunny FFriends from Home Brew, who effectively outdo the best nominee, and Avalanche City's Love Love Love recast as a sweaty, gregarious Balkan wedding (or funeral) song, care of the Benka Boradovsky Bordello Band.

And then it wins, for God's sake. Great cover, but the award concerns the original product - and what a tame, anesthetised thing it is.

Young Blood isn't my favourite song ever, but you can appreciate its exuberance, the ferocious boldness with which it goes for 'youth anthem stakes'.

It has obvious strengths. Love Love Love has precious few, apart from its bland safeness in uncertain, precarious times. If you consider that a strength.

It's the crowning glory of a ceremony that plays it too safe when it's not playing it strange, that tips the balance from reverent (the tear-jerking elegiac performance from Lyttelton's The Harbour Union that observes the devastation wrought to that beautiful town, the recognition of Hello Sailor's legend status), to unpleasantly cosy.

We see Don McGlashan talk with a straight face about how we have laws that protect copyright and artists (what, the Three Strikes law?) to rapturous applause.

We see the night end not by celebrating our young and creative future, but by corralling half of it to line up behind the silver fox that is John Rowles, vacant, obedient and strumming.

Fun times, but we have a relatively brief musical past and a precipitous musical future.

Shouldn't we be shoring up our glorious, daring, and fleeting present?

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