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Tami Neilson - Gig Review: Tami Neilson @ Nelson Arts Festival - 21/10/2019

22 Oct 2019 // A review by jacquiew

Tami Neilson is outrageously excellent. Her voice is full, powerful, nuanced and rich. Neilson is the consummate professional on stage and her command of the audience at last night's concert was a joy to behold. Partnered on stage during her current tour with her younger brother Jay, a very fine musician and singer in his own right, Tami Neilson truly shone in front of a mesmerised Nelson Arts Festival capacity crowd.

Those audience members who came expecting the barnstorming vocals and colour-in-motion explosion that is Neilson with her full band might have been surprised by this more introspective version of the singer, but what we witnessed last night was a beautifully paced love letter to Neilson's musical heritage and an act of gratitude to New Zealand, her new home country.

In a time which seems to be dominated my biopics charting the male musician’s road to success this was the female narrative taking centre stage; dominated by tales of sustained hard work, sacrifice and apprenticeships served, juggling a long-distance relationship and musical commitments, success germinated as a result of the support of other successful women (namely The Topp Twins), and navigating motherhood while managing the demands of her career – with all the judgement, of self and by others, that often comes with that journey.

And throughout it all were the songs, the beautiful songs.

Her rollicking new single Hey Bus Driver kicked off the night and we had our first taste of the siblings’ harmonies. There is always something special when family members sing together.

With tongues firmly in their cheeks the duo then treated us to a gorgeous version of the song that they felt had been most formative to them on their musical journey. I won’t name it and spoil the surprise for those of you who are catching later dates in their tour, but I will say that there were ripples of laughter as the audience realised what it was that they were listening to.

Neilson acknowledged her family’s roots in gospel performing and showcased her harmonica playing before tipping her hat to early country music idol Kitty Wells and her 1952 hit It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels, recorded as a riposte to a fellow musician’s single blaming women for leading married men astray.

Next came Neilson’s Silver Scroll nominated A Woman’s Pain telling the story of her paternal grandmother. This is a fantastic and deeply moving song from Neilson’s last album Sassafrass!.

Several new tracks from Neilson’s upcoming album. Chickaboom!, set to be released on 14 February 2020 were showcased, and judging by what we heard it’s going to be another barnstormer.

There were also poignant covers including the exquisite harmonies of the Neilson's version of the Everly Brothers’ Sleepless Nights.

Big Boss Mama and Neilson’s superlative Stay Out Of My Business were crowd favourites, as was her Sliver Scroll winning song Walk (Back To Your Arms), which was co-written with Neilson’s brother Jay.

Possibly one of the loveliest moments of an evening filled with lovely moments was when the Neilson's performed Cry Myself to Sleep with verses in English and the chorus in Te Reo. Neilson recorded the track entirely in Te Reo as part of the Waiata/Anthems album released last month. For me, the combination of languages during her performance of this song was the perfect representation of how Neilson has now made her home here in Aotearoa New Zealand and how proud audiences here now are to claim her prodigious talent as our own.

Neilson herself became a New Zealand resident only a matter of months ago and we are fortunate indeed to have her choose to live and raise her family here.

The duo’s encore was delivered unamplified and at the foot of the stage – a humble and compellingly beautiful end to an outstanding and highly memorable evening.


About Tami Neilson

With a soulful voice straight from the golden age of country and rockabilly music, Tami Neilson has been described as "A red-hot honky-tonker, somewhere between Patsy Cline and Wanda Jackson with perhaps just a little bit of Peggy Lee sophistication.” - Nick Bollinger, NZ National Radio

Winner of the New Zealand Music Awards Best Country Album 2009, 2010 and 2012

Tami Neilson was raised in Canada, by parents with a closet full of sequined stage costumes and platform shoes.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Tami Neilson


Year: ????
Type: Album
Red Dirt Angel
Year: ????
Type: Album
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Year: 2018
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Don't Be Afraid
Year: 2015
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
The Kitchen Table Sessions
Year: 2010
Type: Album

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