The handsome wooden arches and stained glass of Auckland's old St Mary's church would have rarely rung with such a blend of sacred and secular songs as they did when Barry Saunders, Tami Neilson, Delaney Davidson and Marlon Williams brought their collective catalogues into its intimate space.
The show had played the Holy Trinity Cathedral next door on the previous night after dates in Napier and Tauranga.
From the swamp-gospel of Neilson's Bury My Body and a glorious O Holy Night duet between her and the operatic Williams (he singing in te reo) to the spooky loops, delays and scouring vocals of Davidson's treatment of the old country ballad In the Pines, this was a night where all measures of the human condition were explored.
Saunders included a couple of the Warratahs' better known songs (Maureen, Hands of My Heart) and at times Davidson seemed to be channeling the spirit of John Lee Hooker's eerie blues as re-imagined in Sun Studios of the 50s.
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Neilson offered her newly minted classic country ballad Lonely (written in part by her late father and finished by Neilson and her brother) and sometimes tapped the spirit of Peggy Lee (on her terrific Walk with the whole ensemble) as much as Patsy Cline. Williams brought the unsettling Dark Child and State Hospital.
But an always engaging evening emerged out of such diversity.
Often referred to as country artists - Saunders perhaps the most mainstream in that regard - these singer-songwriters explored much more than that: The soaring'n'sandpaper voices of Neilson and Davidson took on the Dan Penn-Chips Moman soul classic Dark End of the Street, Neilson sang her moving ballad First Man about her father ("The first man I ever loved was the first man to ever hold me in his arms") and Davidson took off into to that high lonesome sound of Hank Williams on Please Don't Let Me.
And if the tribulations of love and life were ever-present so was the healing spirit (Get On Your Knees in the encore).
With a small but cracking band (Dave Khan once again Jack-of-all-instruments), clever changes of musical and personal focus, sometimes humorous but brief stage patter and a set of often exceptional originals, this was a concert to treasure.
And an opportunity to applaud the unique, discreet and seemingly effortless talents who brought the sacred and sometimes slightly profane into a place which has doubtless heard all manner of this before . . . but never with so many great songs, brittle guitar or such impeccable bluegrass harmonies.
The Church Tour is at Wellington's Old St Pauls on Monday October 5 and Tuesday October 6; St Michael & All Angels, Christchurch on Thursday October 8;The Cardboard Cathedral, Christchurch, Friday October 8; Knox Church, Dunedin, Saturday October 9.