19 Dec 2018
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Thomas Oliver - Gig Review: Thomas Oliver @ The Powerstation, Auckland - 25/05/2018

28 May 2018 // A review by Alex Moulton

Last seeing Thomas Oliver at the Tuning Fork, the Powerstation seemed like such a drastic upgrade in venue, when you consider that it has triple the capacity. Yet when I arrived just before the doors opened, less than 20 people were lined up waiting. As 8:30pm swiftly got closer and it was almost time for the opening act to begin, the Powerstation was looking uncharacteristically vacant. Patrons lined the couches along the walls and the step along the edge of the standing floor area, but few people were standing on the floor, and nobody bar the photographers were within metres of the front barrier.

It was really heart-breaking to see such a low turnout for the support act. Regardless, right on schedule, Solomon Crook and his band walked on stage and started to play. Coming up from Wellington, Solomon Crook and his fellow musicians make up a six-piece band comprised of a keyboard, drums, 3 guitars, and a bass. With a musical style that could be best categorised as bluesy soul music, Solomon Crook has a profoundly deep expressive voice. Deep and smooth to the point that his lyrics are at time indistinguishable as anything but comforting low frequencies. The stage bathed in a single colour of light, from red to blue, a white spotlight tracks the focal point about the stage, predominantly with Solomon himself, but switching to his fellow band members during their solos.

The music has a reasonably simple musical composition, often just a two-chord repetition, but it creates a soft ambience and relaxed vibe. I solid performance from the lighting and mixing table that night, with only slight feedback issues which were promptly dealt with, and attention to detail, such as reducing the lighting when Solomon’s lyrics literally say, “turn the lights off please”.

The crowd that is present on the standing area of the venue were dancing from the first song, and it speaks to the musical quality of the artist, especially with such tracks as Smoky Lips, which has some fantastic vocal harmonies. Unfortunately, just like the crowd that was yet to turn up, most of the crowd that were lining the couches showed little interest in the music and talked loudly throughout the set. By the end of the set, the crowd had doubled, and Solomon Crook received well-deserved applause as they exited the stage.

Checking the set times, and the headliner was due on stage, but nothing. The intermission music would stop halfway through a song, but as people pushed towards the front, another song would start. This tease would continue for another ten minutes before Thomas Oliver took to the stage and the stage lights switch on as they jump straight into Shine Like The Sun. The beams of light bounce off Oliver’s well-polished acoustic guitar, as he croons to the crowd with his high falsetto vocals. Supporting Oliver is his band, which appears to be the same as musicians as last time I saw them, Ed Zuccollo and Bella Florence once again gracing the stage.

At this point, the ground floor of the Powerstation is getting packed, and it is quite easy to see why the Tuning Fork was not going to be big enough. Throughout the night, Oliver switches from acoustic to the lead electric guitar (an instrument that he has been known to purposefully avoid in the past) and he plays as naturally and organically as if the guitar was a part of him. From acoustic to electric, to slide guitar, Oliver transitions between them with ease, and his confidence is palpable. His entire demeanour in the last year has changed from that of a quiet, shy talented musician, to a self-assured, organic

Musically, the band are good at what they do. The bass rumbles throughout the venue, and you can feel every note deep within you. My only disappointment was that Bella Florence’s backing vocals were far too quiet and we lost some vocal harmonies that I have very much enjoyed in the past. The setlist was rather short, consisting of only 10 tracks, including the encore performance of Let It Be This One, and an unexpected cover of Al Green’s Take Me To The River. However, time-wise it was the usual length. Padded out with his extended version of Bad Talkin’ Man, it’s the polarising track of the set. Arguably his most popular track, but if you have a dislike of extending songs and crowd participation, then you may have some distaste towards this 20-minute version. A glance through the crowd would tell you that they loved it, however, and as the night drew to a close, there was many a smile to be seen on the faces of the crowd as they filed out.


Review written by Alex Moulton

 

About Thomas Oliver

Thomas Oliver is internationally recognised as one of the leading players of the Weissenborn lap-steel guitar and a multi-talented guitarist, songwriter and singer.

In 2013 Oliver released the first full-length, all instrumental, all Weissenborn album, titled Beneath The Weissenborn. The album debuted at #6 in the NZ charts, received 5* reviews and sold out shows across the nation.

"He joins Leo Kotke, Ry Cooder and Michael Hedges as someone who has made buying a guitar album a must "– ***** Stuff.co.nz

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Thomas Oliver

Releases

Floating In The Darkness
Year: 2017
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Beneath The Weissenborn
Year: 2013
Type: Album

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