Icehouse frontman Iva Davies tells TimeOut's David Skipwith about a life-changing night at a Split Enz gig and why he loves Aotearoa.
Icehouse famously sung about their home being the Great Southern Land, but frontman Iva Davies says nothing compares to New Zealand.
Surprisingly, the legendary singer and multi-instrumentalist explains that the iconic Aussie rock and synth-pop band have enjoyed greater support in Aotearoa than anywhere else throughout their 43-year career.
"New Zealand's actually statistically at the top," Davies tells TimeOut down the line from his home in Sydney.
"I was the one that actually drove the initiative to get back to New Zealand because the fact of the matter is, apart from always having a fantastic time there, we've actually had more success in New Zealand per head of population than any other market in the world."
Icehouse are returning to our shores for the first time since 2017, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the group's first singles Can't Help Myself and We Can Get Together and their debut self-titled album.
The six-piece outfit will play in front of a sold-out crowd at Auckland's Aotea Centre next Thursday, before hitting Selwyn Sounds in Christchurch on March 7.
Icehouse's affinity with New Zealand goes back to a memorable Split Enz show in Sydney, Davies explains.
"One of the pivotal concerts that I went to during my youth, was their very first show in Australia, at Bondi Lafesavers," he says.
"It was a lightbulb moment for me and introduced the whole idea of the theatre of a show. It was an extraordinary sight to watch this collection of musicians.
"It was an incredible experience. I've got a very vivid picture in my mind of watching Tim Finn in his make-up and the antics with all of the guys."
He also says he's long admired Kiwis' open-minded appreciation of different musical styles.
"Andy Partridge from the English band XTC once said, 'New Zealand has got the most interesting charts - it's the only place in the world where XTC is ever had a number one album'.
"I just thought that's incredibly interesting and a bit of a mystery, but it does explain in part why New Zealanders produce such amazing bands."
After forming in 1977 as Flowers, the band changed their name to Icehouse in 1981 having made a name for themselves among Sydney's thriving pub rock scene.
Davies recognised the key to holding an audience was keeping the girls dancing and his pop sensibilities would steer the group towards a succession of hit singles and records.
Icehouse's second album, Primitive Man, won over the masses and helped earn them a support slot on the European leg of David Bowie's Serious Moonlight tour in 1983.
"We had a number one song in Europe, called Hey Little Girl, at the time, and this is what alerted David Bowie to our presence.
"It also alerted Peter Gabriel, to our presence as well, and we had an incredibly unfortunate situation. The dates conflicted and I actually had to choose between touring with Bowie and touring with Peter Gabriel.
"But because of the enormous success that Bowie was experiencing with that particular album, the biggest album he ever had, I was curious to see what life was like at the top basically."
Their status continued to grow before they achieved worldwide success with the acclaimed 1987 album Man of Colours winning them a new set of younger fans. Davies can still recognise the generation gap that divides fans at their live shows today.
"When I meet people that have been following us for a long time they seem to fall into two quite distinct categories.
"When we started out they were 22-year-old university students or people just riding along with the wave of what was the punk movement.
"By the time Man of Colours came along the band had changed into something slightly different and a whole lot of people who were 12 or 13 joined our audience at that point, because we had two American hits with Crazy and Electric Blue."
Davies never anticipated achieving the level of success he has enjoyed with Icehouse. He remains grateful he wasn't accepted into a prestigious music school in the late 70s - a move that would have spelled the end of the group before it even started.
"The surprise is that I'm still doing this and that those songs have survived in the way that they have for so long.
"Had I have got into that course, that would have been the end of the covers band Flowers. I didn't get into the course, and the rest we can say is history."