From the constant coughing and spluttering to briefly collapsing on stage - just how sick does a singer need to be before a concert is cancelled?

For Wavves front man Nathan Williams, that point came when he doubled over and violently vomited in the middle of the Kings Arms stage during the band's first New Zealand show.

To his credit, the ailing front man had warned the crowd it was going to happen, and he and the rest of Wavves struggled on for another two songs - stretching their set out to just under an hour.

But with Williams' raspy voice getting increasingly strained, there would have been few complaints had they given up and ended it there.

No one expected a perfect performance from the scuzzy San Diego surf-grunge act, who found mainstream success on their hugely enjoyable third album King of the Beach in 2010.

Their shouty rabble-rousing racket is best performed at breakneck pace, as they ably demonstrated on rowdy opener King of the Beach and vitriolic recent single Bug, from last year's excellent EP Life Sux.

And despite the singer's setbacks, the quartet managed to inspire a moshpit for their more frenetic songs, like the Pixies-style quiet-loud dynamics of Green Eyes, and the punk assault of Idiot.

Much of that can be credited to larger-than-life bassist Stephen Pope, with his energetic presence, frizzy affro and shouted vocals becoming the highlight of Wavves' all-too-brief show.

Despite sipping on a mug of lemon-honey, Williams' croaky voice couldn't keep up with his lush Beach Boy harmonies that turn Wavves' grubby antics into summer anthems.

Songs that should have been set highlights, like Take on the World and Linus Spacehead, sounded as flat as a surf lull at Piha.

Let's hope the waves pick up next time they're in town.

Who: Wavves with support from Raw Nerves and Street Chant
Where: The Kings Arms, Auckland
When: Thursday 3 May


- Herald online