20 Dec 2018
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Sons Of Zion - Sons of Zion @ Powerstation, Auckland

05 Sep 2018 // A review by Steve Shyu

Otium

The team of five fresh-faced lads from Whangarei wasted no time in setting the pace for the evening by laying out a slow-grooving rhythm and a rolling bassline in that all-familiar sound of Kiwi reggae. After all, this is what the rest of the night is about!

They moved quickly into their main single Curious, an extremely danceable mid-tempo number that featured a great keyboard solo and a three-way vocal breakdown between the keyboardist, drummer, and the lead singer.

What initially started out as a slow, lounge groove, oozing with Barry White vibes, quickly became recognisable as Stayin’ Alive by The Bee Gees. This was an impressive head-turning tribute, and was welcomed to claps and excitement, with majority of the upper levels singing the chorus, and the bouncing crowd boogying to the disco-hybridised throwback.

One couldn’t help but notice how strongly the danceable disco feel remained throughout Otium’s set, even for someone who ordinarily never dances. Between sliding funk rhythms and rigid four-on-the-floor beats, spiced with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Boney M and Aotearoa’s own Kora, there was a little something new with each song.

Each member added to the band’s sound in distinctively different ways; each proficient at their instrument, and some even doubling their input. Almost all members of Otium provided vocals, the lead singer adding great falsetto in all the right places, the keyboardist adding tasteful melodic backing both in vocals and his instrument, combined to become as potent as his gyrating musical hips. 

Special mention must go to the drummer (in my eyes, drummers never get enough recognition), who not only sung backing vocals and held the rhythm section nice and steady, but also rapped succinctly nearing the end of Otium’s performance.

Closing with one final hype to House of Pain’s Jump Around, the band thanked the audience and exited, leaving one craving his next Otium fix. 

With a vibrant summery outlook, impressive vocals and a tight, well-rehearsed set, this is definitely one band to add to your “Look Out For” list. As the frontman meekly pointed out, “Some people spell our name as O.T.M., but it’s actually OTIUM...”. Be sure to jot that down.

Rei

Second act Rei brought forward the hip-hop side of affairs. Largely a solo project, backed by a DJ providing samples and additional vocals, the second performance was solely RnB and rap, a sharp change from the funk and groove of the opening band.

With great confidence and modest energy, Rei delivered good rolling verses, crossing topics of relationships, pills and – of course, it’s not hip-hop without it – partying.

In honour of his heritage as well as paying tribute to New Zealand hip-hop, Rei performed a handful of songs in Te Reo, quickly followed by a Te Reo version of Scribe’s hit Not Many. This was warmly received by the now medium-sized audience, and a welcomed experience; being a language that is making a comeback, it is still largely under-represented in New Zealand’s scenes, and thus, adds a refreshing perspective.

The energy of the crowd ebbed for majority of the performance, save those in the front-centre of the stage. A valiant effort was made at a brief cover of Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl, and though generally a fail-proof song to get people dancing, without a distinctive personal touch – say adding a rap verse – the karaoke-like venture left many puzzled.

With a bit of banter between Rei and the DJ, they beamed into his main single “Good Mood”, which was greeted with excited cheers. This peak of Rei’s set rounded off the ending of a mostly out-of-place performance, causing one to wonder if the opening band would have been a better candidate to lead into the headlining act.

Sons of Zion

To a countdown from a deep, augmented disembodied pre-recorded voice, the six-piece group took to the dimly-lit stage to a large cheering audience. The set began with an impressive blues-rock guitar solo, with strobing stage lights creating a highly dramatic entrance.

The pace of the spectacular entry braked to a deep groove of reggae, recognisable as the tour’s namesake song, Vantage Point. At once, the live performance is already more impressive than on the album, with the full band sounding bold, and clear soulful vocals filling the entire venue. The triumphant anthem, with added rock riffs in the pre-chorus, declared to the audience “with the world at our feet” driving a mission statement to prove they’re as strong as ever.

The band drew upon another new tune from the latest album, Leave With Me, a faster-paced tune with bouncy energy, with lyrics bearing a somewhat club-like quality, detailing the advances of a lad unto an attractive lady. Regardless, with the infectious positive vibes and the irresistibly song-a-long chorus, this one was an easy highlight.

A personal pick of the setlist was the dreamy and atmospheric-sounding performance of So Bright. By far the slowest song of the entire night, the relatively stripped-back sound of keyboards and vocals completely hypnotised much of the audience – myself included. As the choruses flowed forth, the rigid and heavy snare sound emphasised the emotive value, and the smooth vocal layers captivated and gently lulled the audience. Matched with moody stage-lighting that echoed the liquid dynamics of the song, this made for an unforgettable visual and aural experience, even if the song was unlike most of Sons of Zion’s discography.

Of course, no reggae show is complete without at least one nod to the iconic Marley family. Sons of Zion treated the entirety of the venue to a faithful cover of Is This Love by Bob Marley & The Wailers. There was not one person in the audience who did not recognise the melody, delivered by the smooth vocals Sons of Zion have always been famous for.

Sensing that the set ought to be drawing to a close, the band finally pulled out their hit of the upcoming summer, the acoustic pop single Drift Away. The lead vocalist announced the track had gone platinum as of that day, with massively enthusiastic applause and cheers from the audience. Even though the song sounded similar to many acoustic guitar-based pop hits dominating airwaves of recent years, judging by the tremendous response, one is sure to hear this single plus its various remixes playing at bars and other public spaces over the next six months!

This is one band that has a large, loyal fanbase, and good stamina to pull off a long setlist for spectators. Like in studio recordings, Sons of Zion’s music is very much vocals-driven, propped regularly with reggae vibes courtesy of guitar, bass and keyboards. Judging purely by this performance, even though the band have adopted a new pop music approach and aesthetic, it appears this move have served them very well. Showcasing the new songs they’ve put together and testing them out on tour to such great reception, it seems Sons of Zion can do no wrong.


Review written by Paul T Gheist

 

About Sons Of Zion

With their fusion of reggae, heavy rock, dub and funk, the Sons of Zion are a six piece crew based in Auckland. Their live stage presence has captivated audiences all over the country with their infectious sound, a mixture of reggae groove with melodic vocals, phat dubb bass lines and heavily distorted guitar rifts… there’s something for every musical taste within their original set.

Since their 2007 New Zealand Music Month debut, the Sons Of Zion have continued to build momentum in the NZ music industry and have stamped their unique sound locally at festivals such as Parachute, Native Noise Waitangi Day, Maoriside Tour and the 2008 V8 Super Cars just to name a few.

Although the group are fairly new on the roots scene they’ve already been scouted out to share the stage with some of the country’s best loved roots acts including Kora, Katchafire, The Black Seeds, Cornerstone Roots, Opensouls and House Of Shem.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Sons Of Zion

Releases

Vantage Point
Year: 2018
Type: Album
The Jukebox Suite
Year: 2017
Type: EP
Universal Love
Year: 2013
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Sons Of Zion
Year: 2009
Type: Album

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