23 Sep 2018
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Gig Review: Marley: NZ All-Stars @ The Trusts Arena, Auckland - 30/11/2017

13 Dec 2017 // A review by Alex Moulton

Heading to the Trusts Arena, I was rather surprised to be able to get parking right out front. The line of people waiting to get in, only adding up to around 50 people. For a venue that can hold nearly 5000 people, and a show line-up with some of New Zealand’s biggest stars, I was expecting a bit more excitement. Perhaps having a large-scale event on a Thursday evening was not the best idea. With Auckland traffic, making it on time for doors opening at 7pm when you have work isn’t always feasible, so it makes sense that there would have been a much better turn out if the event had been on a weekend.

Inside, the bleachers had been brought up to the halfway mark, reducing the capacity of the venue, as well as providing seating for those that wished to rest and watch in comfort, rather than stand in front of the stage. The stage was a reasonable size, but appeared small, due mostly to the large number of instruments on stage; with two full drum kits, 6 microphones, and at least 3 keyboards, there was undoubtedly going to be a very full stage.

Opening act were Whakatane act, L.A.B.; consisting of Kora Brothers Brad and Stu running the drums and keys, as well as Ara Adams-Tamatea on bass, and fronted by Joel Shadbolt. Opening their set with some brilliant guitar work, Shadbolt gives off some serious Pink Floyd/Dire Straits vibes on the guitar. L.A.B. provide a more hybridised style of reggae, with rock, lounge, and jazz influences present. The role of the guitars in the songs is what breaks them apart from other reggae/dub acts, with technical guitar solos and synchronised movements when Stu joins in on the guitar, the level of skill is impressive and adds to the clarity of sound. Vocally and lyrically, the songs are diverse and prevents the music from falling into the trap of becoming overly monotonous and repetitive as is easy to do in a genre characterised by a slower tempo and staccato guitar and piano riffs. 

Taking a short break, the crowds had started to turn up, with several hundred now in attendance, and more entering by the minute, it was clear to the see that the early start had in fact had an effect on the attendance.

It wasn’t long before the musicians took to the stage, including the L.A.B. boys and opened up the night with Could You Be Loved, sung by Laughton Kora. Straight away, the majority of the crowd that had been seated in the bleachers moved up to the stage and the dancing and singing along began. Laughton remained on stage to supply vocals for Concrete Jungle, before making way for Joel Shadbolt, who while providing his skills on the guitar for the All-Stars, sung a worthy rendition of I Shot the Sheriff. Boh Runga, Annie Crummer, Anna Coddington, and Ria Hall were all present on stage as back-up vocalists, taking on the role that the Wailers would have had for Marley himself, and took turns to go from supporting vocalist to the main singer, Boh taking on Stir It Up, and Is This Love, Annie dancing her way through Waiting in Vain and Iron Lion Zion, while Ria took onZion Train and Natural Misfit. Anna Coddington managing to get some of the more mainstream and well-known Marley tracks, No Woman No Cry, and 3 Little Birds.

Che Fu, Tiki Taane, and Logan Bell (from Katchafire)all made their own appearances, getting three songs each, and Fran Kora got three of his own when he wasn’t on musician duties switching between the guitar and bass. While it was interesting to see which Bob Marley songs each vocalists would take on, the band was the part that really kept my interest throughout; with a constantly rotating schedule, up to two drummers at once (not including the percussionist), the musicians showed off their natural abilities, swapping instruments from track, whether on bass, guitar, keys or vocals.

The sound clarity was exceptional, and the musicianship was spot on. Every song sounded as it should, with no technical issues, it was a well-run ship. There were a wide range of songs on display, from wildly popular Buffalo Soldier, and Get Up Stand Up, to the lesser known So Much Trouble and Them Belly Full. And the personalities of the singers wildly varied too, from Annie Crummer’s energetic swinging, to Laughton Kora’s passion, Tiki Taane’s constant moving about set, Anna Coddington and Boh Runga’s seductive tones or Logan Bell’s calmer crooning, there was a style to appeal to every Bob Marley fan in the house. The crowd loved every minute of it, singing and swaying along, cheering every time they recognised the next song being played, it was a jovial and friendly atmosphere. After completing their 27 song set, Fran Kora and Annie Crummer came out to do an acoustic rendition of Redemption Song as an encore, before everyone returned to the stage for the final tracks One Love and Exodus. Everyone on stage were equals, everyone played their part, and it was a fitting tribute to the one and only Bob Marley.


Review and photos provided by Alex Moulton

 

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