Russell Baillie 's Opinion

Russell Baillie is the Herald’s entertainment editor

Concert review: The Classic Hits Winery Tour, Matakana

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Dave Baxter. Photo / Supplied
Dave Baxter. Photo / Supplied

And so it begins - the month in which many vineyards of the nation rock'n' roll out the barrel as outdoor music venues.

The Classic Hits Winery Tour - featuring what proved to be a surprisingly complementary line-up of Gin Wigmore, a Mutton Birds reunion and Avalanche City - is one of two package tours criss-crossing the country's palatial spreads of plonk.

Then it's the turn of Rod Stewart to decant his venerable vintage at Hawkes Bay's annual Mission Estate bash.

But as witnessed on the second sold-out (3000 in attendance) night at Matakana's Ascension Estate, this show is already looking like the gold medal winner.

Its all-local line-up offers four hours of brilliant fun, with the three acts connecting to the all-ages audience, as could be seen by the kiddy stampede when Avalanche City struck up Love, Love, Love; the dads with daughters on their shoulders offering cute, two-part harmonies when the Mutton Birds played Nature, or the general adulation that greeted headliner Wigmore.

Ms Gin's expletive-laden, pre-song banter probably proved a little too PG for some. To extend the wine metaphor beyond breaking point, she was a bit tart on the lips.

But she did apologise, kind of, for her potty mouth while blaming her poor mother who was in attendance."I f***ing love you, mum," she said, undoubtedly a phrase that a few pre-teens in attendance were trying out on their poor hungover mothers yesterday.

But if she failed as a role model, Wigmore otherwise excelled in a performance of sassy energy. She did occasionally play it sweet, like on the ukulele-ed ballad I Do (with its Somewhere Over the Rainbow bookends), and These Roses from her debut EP.

Her performance, though, peaked on the hip-shakin' big rumbling numbers off last year's Gravel & Wine album - such as Man Like That with its swaggering Bo Diddley beat and rampant trumpet; the psychobilly of Kill of the Night; or Black Sheep, with Wigmore's singular voice blasting, part megaphone and part saxophone, across the pounding chain-gang groove.

If her encore finale of Ray Charles' Hit the Road Jack, with Mutton Bird Don McGlashan and Avalanche City's Dave Baxter making up chorus numbers wasn't quite as convincing, it didn't really matter.

Hours earlier, Baxter and his Avalanche City had got things off to a deeply pleasant start, his folky tunes coming richly textured by his band's deft touches of violin, accordion glockenspiel, mandolin as well as piano, guitar, bass and drums. Opener Ends in the Ocean risked Celtic dancing down front and consumption levels out back.

Baxter did quell his set's momentum, though, with a solo ballad Beautiful, but got it back with the dreamy likes of Snow with its dreamy Sigur Ros-like dynamics and the giddy folk-stomp of Slowly Over Me.

The Mutton Birds have reunited for this tour, having called it a day a decade ago. And while McGlashan's subsequent solo albums and live outings haven't been a radical departure from the band, there was something magical about hearing the band's songs being steered once more by the old hands - frontman McGlashan, guitarist David Long, bassist and co-vocalist Alan Gregg and drummer Ross Burge.

Their second-on-the-bill set allowed them just nine songs. But the performances of A Thing Well Made, Dominion Road, Queen's English sucked you back, not into mid-90s nostalgia for the band's heyday, but into the stories within.

Cinematic it was, but they rocked too. McGlashan added fresh levels of euphonium euphoria to The Heater, and borrowed classic Nature scorched its way across the landscape before Anchor Me proved them a vintage act of robust and complex flavour but a delightfully sweet finish.

MUSIC

What: Gin Wigmore, The Mutton Birds, Avalanche City
Where: Ascension Estate, Matakana.

- NZ Herald

Russell Baillie

Russell Baillie is the Herald’s entertainment editor

Russell Baillie has been writing about entertainment since shortly after entertainment was invented. His first music review was of five whalers singing around a piano which got him run out of the town of his upbringing, Whangarei. Along the way he discovered writing about moving pictures with sound was just as rewarding as his coverage of gramophone products and musical ensembles. Eventually he found a home at the Herald, as the founding editor of the TImeOut section, where has won prizes for editing, reviewing and feature writing.

Read more by Russell Baillie

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