Concert review: John Rowles, Bruce Mason Theatre

By Kit Walker

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John Rowles takes a bow at the Bruce Mason Theatre on Auckland's North Shore. Photo / Milana Radojcic
John Rowles takes a bow at the Bruce Mason Theatre on Auckland's North Shore. Photo / Milana Radojcic

John Rowles, the half-Maori/half-Irish Kawerau Kid blessed with a commanding stature and physique, film idol looks, dandy style and that voice, skyrocketed to the top of the world music scene in 1968.

Barely 21, he became part of the Big Three, alongside Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck.

Visiting home at the time, he received a civic reception (Kawerau style) and bought a dream house for his mother. YouTube clips showing him smoking cigars while riding a horse through Kawerau are priceless.

He's made millions, lost the lot, and written songs about his sisters that have become part of New Zealand folklore. Friday night was a celebration of the ups and downs of this national icon.

While most Volume readers may only know him from his doco of a few years back, Wayne Anderson championing him on his, ahem, 'doco', the G-G-G-Gerard advert in the '80s or tipsy aunties wailing his tunes at a family party, his fascinating career has been done his way.

The near sold out show at Auckland's Bruce Mason was a light-hearted journey through that life in Rowle's style. Using a rear projection he paid tribute to family, the likes of Prince Tui Teka and Sir Howard Morrison, and presented many moments from his 47-plus year scrapbook, complete with Vegas tales and a never-ending supply of roses and gifts for the ladies.

His vocal support for Winston Peters and New Zealand First was well received by the senior audience who particularly enjoyed the ice-cream at intermission.

Flexing all his hits during his sweaty two-hour show, Rowles began the encore by strapping on a Stratocaster. Playing lead on a couple of rollicking 12-bar instrumentals was a highlight, harking back to his early days playing twangy guitar in Kawerau and Auckland before he went to Australia in 1965.

Before closing with Cheryl Moana Marie, Rowles summed up the night, and his legendary career: "I'd like to thank you for your support over the years. Look after yourselves. Be good to each other. And remember wherever you go, there you are."

What: John Rowles - The Final Bow Farewell Tour
Where: Bruce Mason Theatre, Auckland
When: Friday, October 28

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