Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Concert review: Unstrung Heroes

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The Black Quartet
The Black Quartet

They've played with everyone from Kanye West to Six60, and Ladyhawke to the APO, but last night the stylistically diverse Black Quartet got to curate their own show, bringing in special guests Lawrence Arabia (James Milne), Tiny Ruins (Hollie Fullbrook), and Rob Ruha, whom they've performed with in the past.

It was an evening of charming variety, ranging from the greatest classical hits medley with which the quartet opened (Vivaldi, Bach etc), through the dreamy originals from Lawrence Arabia and Tiny Ruins, the slightly reggae-inflected more political works of Rob Ruha, and on to some wide ranging covers, from The Beatles to AHA and Jimi Hendrix.

Woven between the modern classics were pieces by Philip Glass and Ravel, arranged to incorporate recent hits like Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know, which was a pizzicato delight, and a tribute to Bowie.

The easy groove of Lawrence Arabia's Travelling Shoes, and a new song, which he dubbed "a meditation on the temptations of bourgeoise living" were well suited to the string arrangements, creating a hazy, winsome effect.

Tiny Ruins tracks Me At The Museum, and Kings County were equally evocative, her distinctive vocal tones entwining beautifully with the strings.

More strident and driving were Rob Ruha's songs, which integrate English and Te Reo, taking their inspiration variously from an 1888 haka (which was written in protest of government legislation and seems equally poignant today), facial moko, and love.

Arabia's Early Kneecappings also upped the drama, fuelled with rising tension and distinctive arrangements, and Tiny Ruins delivery of Hendrix's Purple Haze injected a rare tenderness to the track.

The Eleanor Rigby-Take On Me-Apple Pie Bed finale felt like a fitting end to an evening which blended all sorts of musical influences.

It was a winning experiment, and although possibly a touch on the polite/restrained side for a late evening event (which is understandable when you don't have a rhythm section to help make things more raucous), and occasionally losing some momentum in the chopping and changing between performers and styles, each song was delivered with perfect style and grace which deserves to be showcased.

What: Unstrung Heroes
Who: The Black Quartet, Lawrence Arabia, Tiny Ruins, Rob Ruha
When and where: Spiegeltent, Aotea Square, Thursday March 10


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