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L.A.B. - Gig Review: L.A.B. @ Spark Arena, Auckland - 3/07/2020

05 Jul 2020 // A review by kongfooey

First off, congrats to L.A.B and Loop for selling out Spark Arena in Auckland; a career-high I'm sure, and as pointed out by the band's singer Joel Shadbolt, tonight was the first arena gig on the entire planet! And for the punters attending a sold-out arena concert again after the lockdown restrictions, tonight was the perfect release.

We arrived in time to catch opener Troy Kingi's set. Unfortunately we had missed the first act The Leers, but from what I heard, it was a great set.

Troy provided the perfect flavour to open and he played a great set, although the first few opening tracks suffered from low volume, especially the vocals. Once the volume was lifted, the band really hit their stride and it was quite a treat.

Troy was dressed in a leather jacket and wide-brimmed hat with his trademark shades on, wielding a guitar throughout the entire set, He was backed by a tight band of session musos, and together they warmed up the audience with a great selection of tracks. Of note was the brand new track All Your Ships Have Sailed, a catchy funk reggae-infused concoction that would be a great single come next summer.

Now for the main event. Anticipation in the crowd was high as the lights were dimmed. Joel Shadbolt took centre stage with his guitar as the opening solo from She's Gone from their first album rang around the arena. With its Pink Floyd vibe this was a perfect intro to the show.

The large video screens filled with bright orange lines that slowly morphed into the shape of Joel and his guitar. He then cleverly appeared underneath, a very impressive mapping effect that talented VJ Tim Budgen utilised throughout the sweet visuals for most of the night. Once the tune kicked into gear the entire stadium was in their hands, two very enthusiastic guys next to us knew every word and were smashing out their dance moves big time, people were clearing space around them while they went buck wild, it was great to see people having fun.

Rocketship from L.A.B. 2 was up next with its heavy opening keyboard refrain that gave way to their trademark funk reggae style; both of these opening tunes were a great way to start the night.

Next up was the one-two funk punch of Fashion Dread and Personify. Brad and Stu's influence from their previous band Kora came to the fore here. I especially enjoyed the track Personify which I had reviewed before, and they played a rousing rendition of this song tonight.

L.A.B. are really hitting their stride now and are playing this show like they have performed arena shows a dozen times before. The impressive lighting and visuals combined with the bands super-tight playing and big crisp sound were simply sublime. The beautiful soul-inspired track For The love of Jane got the phone torches swaying. Joel's impressive vocals shine on this track, I was also really impressed with this man's sharp guitar playing, a true talent. The passing of my friend Aaron Tokona was on my mind tonight, knowing that he would have loved this band's buzz and I could feel his wairua in the room. So, it was all class that the band dedicated the song Controller to him. Feeling myself well up a little as Joel opened the track with just his vocals and guitar before the whole band joined in on what is one of my favourite tracks of theirs; this was a stunning tribute that was beautifully executed.

They ended their very impressive set with The Watchman which was clearly a crowd favourite as the audience danced hard out to this one. With its heavy funk reggae chorus, this was the perfect song to finish the evening.

Encore time and Heat kicked things off nicely with an acoustic intro reminiscent of Metallica's One. As soon as this song kicked into gear with its distorted funk rock-infused chorus the entire arena was on its feet.

2019's number one hit In The Air was up next and the band nailed it, the entire room singing along in unison, a very catchy song with a lovely soul flavoured vocal delivery - this tune was always going to go off tonight.

Just when you thought the vibe in the room couldn't possibly get any more electric, Joel introduces Brad and Stu's brother Francis Kora onto the stage and they bust out one of Kora's anthems Drop Dead Killer. This song takes the encore to another fever pitch level with its fun space-funk groove and huge chorus - this song went off with the audience big time.

To keep the party rolling and finish the set L.A.B. throw down a heavy house-inspired dance instrumental called Into the Dance and that's exactly what everyone in the arena did. I thoroughly enjoyed L.A.B's set tonight and what a way to spend a cold winter Friday in Level 1. Over the last 3 months, the pandemic has taken its toll on the local entertainment scene, and with the borders shut to international acts coming in it's great to see the turnaround in people investing their money and Aroha in the awesome New Zealand bands we sometimes take for granted. Awesome buzz!

Photos by Chris Zwaagdyk / Zed Pics 


About L.A.B.

The pedigree and musicianship of L.A.B. is undeniable.

L.A.B. was founded by the legendary Kora brothers Brad (drums) and Stu (guitar, keys) and quickly engaged the extraordinary talent of Joel Shadbolt on lead vocals & guitar and Ara Adams-Tamatea from the mighty Katchafire on bass.

The L.A.B. sound is one which has seen them quickly become a fan favourite on the New Zealand live circuit – trademark Kora grooves combining with Adams-Tamatea’s reggae/dub experience, and Shadbolt’s blues roots to create a sound entirely their own. Each member brings their own individual styles to the table, and the result is an eclectic mix of reggae, electronic, blues, funk, and reggae, even heading into country at points.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for L.A.B.


Year: 2024
Type: Album
L.A.B In Dub
Year: 2022
Type: Album
L.A.B. V
Year: 2021
Type: Album
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Year: 2018
Type: Album
Year: 2017
Type: Album

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