24 Feb 2018

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Gig Review: Paul Kelly @ The Civic, Auckland - 1/12/2017

12 Dec 2017 // A review by Andrew Smit

I last saw Paul Kelly in 1987 at the Dee Why Hotel and was eager to hear him again 30 years later, I was confident he would sound awesome, as he is a proven song writer and musician who has not stopped performing and creating beautiful music since 1978, in a stellar career that continues to impress both at home in Australia and abroad.

Mr Kelly simply strode to the large stage and started playing his guitar and sang some new songs from his 21st album Life is Fine, they were 3 new songs that are wonderfully fresh, but still typically Kelly songs with his customary sweet melody flowing under his distinctive lyrical comments on life. His voice has not changed, and he proved he still has a surprising range and melodic ability.

After the small solo set his band joined him, bass, keys, drums and electric guitar, and two backing singers, stating that he would indeed be doing songs from the late 20th century and together they brought Kelly’s songs to life. It was beautiful, and it felt so warm and uplifting, the sound was truly exquisite music that you know you only get when you’re hearing it live. We were all lifted when he boomed into the song that first got me hooked back in 86’ with Before Too Long and boy it sounded good, just like they had written it yesterday.

The beautiful harmonies that are littered throughout Paul's songs were gloriously enhanced by the Bull sisters; Vika and Linda, who are stunning singers in their own right, and thankfully they both had cameo moments and solo songs that were a wonderful treat to the senses, their range and clarity was a superb sound to experience, and they were well acknowledged by the loud and enthusiastic audience applause.

Paul's story telling was not only prevalent in the songs lyrical content, with Paul also adding background information to some of the songs subject matter giving them extra meaning and resonance, like the fishermen who continued fishing after finding a dead body in So Much Water So Close To Home or the unexplained jailing of Ned Kelly’s Mother in Our Sunshine.

Many old classics were played, To Her Door, Careless, Look So Fine, Darling It Hurts and Dumb Things, all were songs that I knew well, and so did the capacity crowd judging by the amount of people singing along. Kelly and the band looked genuinely impressed to be playing at the Civic, with Paul commenting that it’s great to play our last night of the tour in such a beautiful venue. With 3 encores they really did put on a show, they mixed it up with country, folk, rock, a spine tingling accapela song and even a Shakespearean Sonnet!

Earlier we were warmed up a treat by The Eastern, a folk-rock ensemble from Christchurch with the gregarious lead vocalist Adam McGrath leading the way, he looked and sounded a bit like Joe Cocker, mixed with a bit of Bob Segar and Bruce Springsteen. With a whoop and holler they ripped into their music and the audience were hooked and soon we were clapping along happily. Adam enthusiastically declared “You can take the band out of the bar…” and then set about getting the crowd to learn some lyrics and sing along, which we all did wholeheartedly.

A wonderful night of music with genuine admiration from both sides of the stage, to have some bands plug and play at what is normally set up for major theatrical productions was very cool to see, and it suited the Civic very well, hopefully we will see more bands plying their wares at the Civic in the future.

Review written by Andrew Smit

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