Black Barn Amphitheatre, Havelock North, Thursday, January 7
Reviewed by Mark Story
Fans filled Black Barn amphitheatre's fairy light-lit terraces well before Trinity Roots hit the stage on Thursday night.
In addition to the famed vocal trio of frontman Warren Maxwell, Rio Hunuki-Hemopo and drummer Ben Lemi, the entourage also included a trio horn section, keyboard and two extra backing vocals on stage.
The 700-odd crowd was treated to familiarity to start, with two of the group's best-known hits - the ethereal "Aotearoa", followed by upbeat song "The Dream".
But the purist in me turned sceptical in the few singles thereafter, which came across appreciably more reggae than roots, at least compared with how those songs are presented in their original forms.
I feared the extra brass and backing vocals made things overly busy, marring Trinity's glorious pared-back sound.
It wasn't until the middle of the set that I started to relax as the brass section hit its straps and seemed to integrate better with the known tone. The group's acclaimed trance-like psychedelic elements began to seep back on to the stage and thus, hello bliss.
Unsurprisingly, the throaty but smooth voice of Maxwell stole the show. He remained seated with his electric six-string for the entire set and quipped easily with those swaying at the front.
The paradox of a seated frontman is what he's known and followed for - a casual musical freak who performs as if he's singing for a few mates in his garage.
His only gaffe was stating how stoked he was to be playing in "Napier", but given we could see the port's lights flickering 20km behind the stage, he was close enough.
The fans flowed easily across the grassy terraces, with the odd illicit whiff punctuating the trip between drinks stations and ablutions.
This smallish boutique venue made for queue-less access to drinks and ablutions, and that's gold for any punter.
My one gripe about the presentation was the crowd spotlighting. Said stagelight/spotlight hit the audience squarely in the eyes too frequently, blinding those it hit each time. Strange and unnecessary, but an easy fix and by no means a deal-breaker.
The perfect conditions got even more so when light drops of rain fell for the last three songs, including the hit Home, Land & Sea, a real, reassuring and resonating final narrative to a beautiful soundscape which, frankly, is as indigenous as it gets.
This trinity and their extras were a triumph of tone in the New Year. Come back soon.