21 Sep 2019
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The Narcs - The Narcs Unplugged @ The Jam Factory, Tauranga - 28/06/19

01 Jul 2019 // A review by Corinne Rutherford

It was a chilly evening in Tauranga, but that didn't stop fans of Kiwi music icons, The Narcs from venturing out to what was a sold out performance at The Jam Factory boutique event space in Tauranga.


The Narcs
have been delivering outstanding pop/rock music since 1980, and still appear to have a dedicated fan base today. The unplugged stripped back version of the lad’s songs has perhaps a more mature sound then the “high energy” enthusiastic and catchy melodies of years past. Firm crowd pleasers such as Diamonds On China and Heart And Soul took on a new life and proved to us just how beautiful the arrangement of these tunes are. In my opinion The Narcs unplugged are just as good as The Narcs plugged in.

The three piece version of the band consists of Andy Dickson – guitar and vocals, Liam Ryan – keyboards and Tony Waine – bass. They still managed to deliver a full sound without the addition of a drummer (who currently is Josh Sorensen). These guys have been playing music together for a long time, which was expressed in the ease they performed together and the obvious enjoyment in what they were doing. I love watching bands that have been playing together for a lifetime of memories. It is reflected in their faces.

The crowd appeared completely absorbed by the performance; there were many calls for repeat encores at the end of the set. The popular hit Heart And Soul which peaked the NZ charts in 1984, had everyone singing along. It was a stunning rendition of this song; I even sang at the top of my lungs in between taking photos. It was a tad emotional and rather surreal, as I had these guys on high rotation embedded in my mix tape back in the day.

A few diehard fans had bought in album covers to sign and the merch desk was doing brisk business at the end of the evening. I confess to doing the fan girl thing, chasing the band around at the end of the night to get autographs on my CD.

As a slight diversion from the review of the evening, what I have discovered lately is that there appears to be resurgence in NZ bands that worked and played together in the 1980's. In a different form yes, but providing much loved musical nostalgia trips for those of a certain age, taking us for a big long walk down memory lane. So, I will take this opportunity I have been given to say thank you for the musical backgrounds of our youth.

Back to the task at hand...

It is a brave move to strip back well known classics to their bare bones, but The Narcs pulled this off effortlessly. They played “hidden gems” as well as the hits also including some tracks from lesser known side projects. Summerhill Stone, Lazy Susan, Abandoned By Love and Not Over were included in the set list as well as the aforementioned well known songs of popular appeal.

The Narcs have thrown themselves back into the tour circuit this year, prior to the unplugged gigs and coming hot on the heels of the The Not Over Summer Tour, this performance proved that these guys still have what it takes to pull in the crowds. Calls for encore rang out for a long time after the band had departed the stage for the final time.

This is a group with a rich and interesting backstory which is embedded in our Trans -Tasman musical culture. It was a pleasure to see them perform live again after all these years.

The only glitch in the night’s performance came from the lighting cutting in and out during Heart And Soul, which caused a disjointed strobe effect. It was difficult to photograph in that situation causing me to put down the camera and join in with the audience to sing along to one of my all-time favourite songs. That was probably the highlight of what was a memorable evening.

We were transported back in time a few decades on the cold Tauranga Friday evening in June. It was magical.


Photos courtesy of Corinne Rutherford/Pixel Faerie. 

 

About The Narcs

If you were to look at the New Zealand music charts anytime in the mid-80's Kiwi based band The Narcs were consistently riding high. In the golden age of touring bands, The Narcs filled pubs and concert halls, played numerous festivals and opened for iconic international acts like Queen and Elton John. They toured relentlessly up and down New Zealand and across the ditch with bands like DD Smash, Split Enz, Midnight Oil and Cold Chisel. They were also in the vanguard of bands who made music video hip.

The band started as a trio in Christchurch in 1980, scoring residencies at pubs and nightclubs. It wasn’t long before their hard-edged Australasian influenced rock sound had the band playing regularly to 800 people on Friday & Saturday nights. The trio started regular touring around the South Island where they quickly built a cult following. Their early recordings spawned power pop songs like First Chance To Dance, Over My Head, No Turning Back and Stay Away which helped define the Kiwi pub rock sound that grew with the rise of Hello Sailor, DD Smash, The Exponents and Pop Mechanics.

In 1983 the mainstay trio of Andy Dickson (guitar, lead vocal), Tony Waine (bass) and Steve Clarkson (drums) moved to Auckland and were soon joined by respected keyboardist Liam Ryan. Over the following years the band wrote a slew of radio and video hits including (You Took Me) Heart and Soul, Lazy Susan, Diamonds on China, Abandoned By Love and Missing In Action.

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