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Mitch James - Gig Review: Mitch James @ The Powerstation, Auckland - 28/09/2018

29 Sep 2018 // A review by butch181

Auckland weather was rather tepid for a spring Friday night, and as such the people were out on the streets happily checking out what was going on around town. On such event was a sold-out show at the Powerstation. An all-ages show, there were minimal lines, but a fair amount of confusion as to how to get in, with an odd assortment of doormen moving around handing out wristbands for the over 18’s, and minimal communication with the punters; but once through the doors, the night simplified immensely.

Before the show got started, the venue was absolutely pumping, with so much youth and energy flowing that the social vibe is incredible. There was a reasonable turnout for the opening support act, with the upstairs All Ages area having fans packed in along the barrier, while the downstairs section held a veritable mass of people in front of the stage and lined up along the perimeter.

As 8:30 approaches the downstairs crowd slowly compacted themselves towards the stage as they awaited the opening act. The supposed time for the set to begin came and went, and after 15 minutes of the crowd cheering at the end of every single track being played over the PA, the band finally stepped out onto the stage without any front lighting and prepped their instruments. Starting with some soft keys, the vibe was instantly set to "chill". Alayna entered the stage and took her spot centre-stage and warmed into her vocals, as the rest of the band joined in with a throbbing bass line.

An interesting mix of sounds, with the vocals only just slightly louder than the instruments, blending the two facets together into one solid meandering, relaxing sound. At other times though, the vocals came across very clear; with minimal if any vocal effects, there was quite a variance in volume dependent on whether she was cooing or projecting the extremes of her range. Alayna showcased an amazing range, though she could work on projecting power through those lower octaves. Great control with the undulating vibratos, and she has the look and sound of a sultry lounge singer.

While the sound was enjoyable, and really shone through when the bass is dialled back and the keys had more control of the instrumental side of things, but her performance could do with being a bit more polished; she sung more for herself and not for the crowd, looking rather static on stage. Perhaps due to much of the crowd continuing to converse and chatter loudly throughout the set, though those that were paying attention were very much vocal, cheering loudly between each track. Alayna did take a slight stab at the disinterested crowd that were more interested in taking selfies, during the banter prior to her final song demurring that she "enjoyed playing for you...all 3 of you". It was a scene somewhat to be expected when the sold-out crowd were there to see Mitch James, but such a lack of respect for the opening act was disappointing to see.

The 15-minute delay earlier on carried through, and at 9:45 a low swelling backing track began to play. Before anyone even made it on stage the crowd was already screaming and hollering as loud as they could; the reaction was akin something you’d expect to see for an international artist. With a selection of LED lighting displays surging to life, Mitch takes centre stage alongside. Less than 20 seconds into the set and the crowd are already dancing and singing along. It Ain’t Helping was an ideal track to show off the smooth crooning vocals, and upbeat clean sound that his musical style holds. His confidence and enthusiasm is glaringly obvious to all, and it feeds the crowd who are absolutely pumping and hanging on every lyric that comes from his mouth. Every mention of Auckland yields another scream from the crowd, and Mitch uses it to his favour, grabbing the attention from the audience any time it starts to waver.

The sound desk are having a good night, and the audio quality is top-notch, with no buzz or fuzz, giving full clarity to Mitch’s vocals. Backed by his live band consisting of a drummer and a guitarist/keyboardist Mitch played through a set that consisted mostly from the tracks of his recently released self-titled album. Despite the album releasing less than a fortnight ago, the audience are singing along with nearly every track. The buzz and hold that this artist has on his fans is amazing to watch.

The set included tracks such as Can’t Help Myself, No Fixed Abode, One More, and his next single Old News. He also mixed a couple of covers in as well, playing 1950 by King Princess, as well as Happier by Ed Sheeran as a nod to the artist that he supported on the Dunedin leg of his New Zealand tour. Perhaps fed by the “beers” drunk on stage, but Mitch James loves a bit of banter, and was more than happy to explain the stories behind each track, such as One More being written about his managers brother who was having difficulty conceiving a child (a child that was brought out on stage at the end of the track), and had no issues speaking his mind telling several members of the crowd to “shut the f*ck up” when he was trying to set up the loop for Happier. No Fixed Abode proved a treat; the track about getting arrested for busking in Amsterdam, brought the introduction of Thomas Oliver to the stage who performed with Mitch on stage and had a mini-guitar-duet-battle.

A very Ed Sheeran-esque artist, Mitch James is a storyteller who holds the New Zealand binge drinking culture very close to his heart, with most songs or banter relating to “getting on the piss”, and the crowd ate up every word of it. Even mentioning to the crowd how he felt the song was inappropriate for All Ages, he finished the main set with the crowd favourite, 21Returning for an encore performance with a covers medley, he ended the night with the aptly named track, Move On.

Mitch James has risen through the ranks of popular kiwi artists incredibly quickly, and the levels of adoration that can be seen in the eyes of the audience is difficult of explain, but a sold-out Powerstation show is not an easy feat for an up-and-coming artist, and he has accomplished it with ease. Guest musicians and lighting displays were a welcome surprise, but ultimately not necessary, as the audience were devout and loyal from start to finish.

Review written by Alex Moulton
Photo by Nikita Weir/Antonia Pearl Photography


About Mitch James

In September 2018, Auckland-based Mitch James released his self-titled, debut album. One year on it is certified Gold and features 1 Platinum (21) and 3 Gold Singles (Bright Blue Skies, Old News, All the Ways to Say Goodbye) as well as 3x 1 NZ Airplay Hits. James' talent isn't just being recognised in his home country; he's also collected Gold records in Sweden (No Fixed Abode) and Australia (Bright Blue Skies) and amassed a staggering 120 million streams worldwide.

As well as opening for Ed Sheeran across 3 shows to a combined audience of 160,000 people, he has played NZ’s biggest festivals (Rhythm & Vines, Bay Dreams) and sold out headline shows in both NZ and the UK. His most recent NZ tour sold over 10,000 tickets.

In 2019 he was been nominated for 3 NZ Music Awards – Album of the Year, Best Solo Artist and Best Pop Artist. In 2018 he won MTV’s European Music Award for Best New Zealand Act.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Mitch James


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