23 Oct 2021
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BENEE - Gig Review: BENEE @ Spark Arena, Auckland - 16/10/2020

17 Oct 2020 // A review by Ben Ruegg

As I got to Spark Arena for the first time since February this year, I couldn't help but notice how many families were there with smiling kids, and parents alike, all waiting for doors to open. BENEE has become quite a superstar over this past year which has been awesome to see. Having followed her since hearing Soaked and being so impressed by how clever it was as a pop song on the radio, I also was very excited and interested to see her at Spark Arena. Only last year I had seen her at the Powerstation, and now, here she is on one of the biggest stages in Auckland.

The opening acts Tom Verberne and Muroki entertained the crowd with contrasting sets and sounds. The first was more of a pop/indie/rock outfit which really energised people and set the scene. Muroki, on the other hand, was way more chill but in a great way. Together, these acts help build that anticipation of seeing BENEE.

As the stage was being cleared I strolled around and was just smiling the whole time. Kids of all ages were wearing their newly purchased hoodies, jumping up and down with excitement and it truly was infectious. The arena had been set up to allow anyone to go and either sit down in the lower bowl or stand in the GA area. Either way, it was certainly a family-friendly environment and I applaud that.

As the show began, the huge white sheet that had been set up to hide the stage started to light up red, the subs booming and literally rattling the phone in my hands as I took notes. I was down the back behind the sound desk in the lower bowl. It was loud, but wonderfully so. BENEE ran up on stage in front of the sheet and immediately interacted with the crowd who moments ago had been so excited and amped up via a Mexican wave that had preceded the beginning. With her voice wonderfully mixed and delivered with perfection, the first two tracks Tough Guy and Wishful Thinking were mellow and vibing. Although, during the end of Tough Guy the band (including BENEE) were silhouetted before it dropped, showing a very minimal stage of just the band (drums, guitar and bass) along with two trees, no leaves, just branches.

Behind BENEE was a huge display, one you would expect to see on an international tour. Even though that was the case, BENEE remained cool calm and collected. Consistently interacting with her crowd, including handing the mic down for someone to sing during Drifting, it was fantastic to see her so relaxed and able to perform at her best. Instead of jumping around like crazy and overdoing it, her demeanour was one of being grateful and humbled by what was happening all around her. Even her band just stayed chill, moving around and playing perfectly. There was really only one time any choreography between them occurred in which they all kind of just jumped up a little bit during Afterlife, but ultimately, it was just cool fun only echoed further by the fact the whole band was wearing kitty ears. BENEE often meowed into the mic between songs. Everyone that was there loved it.

There were a lot of new additions to be heard too, including a track featuring Muroki earlier in the night. Hints of drum and bass at times during a new track called Happened To Me along with plenty of guitar solos was nice to hear, each new track bought something different and new, expanding her sound which in my mind has already demonstrated a lot of diversity.

"Party Vote Green!" BENEE proclaimed at one point, telling the audience how excited she is to get to vote and that everyone should. The small talk between songs was very limited and the group were eager to keep the music coming which was awesome. Her 70-minute set was excellent and felt shorter.

When Glitter came on towards the end, everyone was dancing and singing a lot louder, as they had with Soaked, but this time they were all dancing together in unison. I had to stop and look around to see it. It truly was something magical, almost like from a movie or musical. Seeing everyone around me smiling so much was a wonderful thing and BENEE really was there to help everyone get into a great mood. Finishing with Superlonely was a great way to wrap the show up for the night.

Of course, it didn't stop there. She was back before you know it but did something totally unexpected. Playing Sheesh and Snail - both of these tracks were way more EDM influenced and only had the guitarist up, but now playing keyboards.

She thanked the crowd one last time and the house lights came up while everyone started to wake their small kids up and get them home to bed. Yet, there were people of all ages, all showing signs of having a great time. It was wonderful to see.

BENEE is a true star in my eyes. Coupled with a super tight band that sounds organic and real, along with fantastic and well-crafted songs, she blends pop/alt/indie in a way that appeals to so many people from all walks of life. And having seen her the year before at the Powerstation, it was so awesome to see her have so much fun commanding the bigger stage.

Make sure you go along and check her out when you can. It was an incredible night.


Photos Credit: Reef Reid of RADAR Photography
Photos were taken of BENEE's Wellington show at Shed 6 on 8 October 2020. View the full gallery here.

 

About BENEE

From her hometown in Auckland, New Zealand, breakthrough popstar Stella Bennett, aka BENEE, sounds unphased, unchanged and almost impervious to the cataclysmic success coming her way since releasing her debut EP last summer. Already her tale is one of eye-watering statistics and achievements with half a billion streams of her latest single Supalonely featuring Gus Dapperton, a track that is still camped at the top of Spotify and radio airplay charts all over the world, collecting platinum records as it goes and seeing her make her U.S. TV debut on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in June. Her story is international and expanding on the hour, across modern and traditional platforms. Her audience seems endless. BENEE, however, remains easygoing, centered and—most importantly—herself.

It’s not yet six months since the release of her second EP of 2019, Stella & Steve (follow-up to debut Fire On Marzz), garnered knockout reviews. Breakthrough track Supalonely is a slice of upbeat and original pop—like its creator, a little exotic and cheerfully weird. The song hits like a ray of sunshine, jammed to the hilt with personality and punctuated by BENEE’s verbal tics. Her loneliness is not just empowering, it becomes super-powered as she sings, “I've been lonely, mm, ah, yeah...Lonely (I'm a lonely bitch)”

“I had broken up with my boyfriend,” recalls BENEE. “I wanted to twist the fact that I was sad and irritated about the relationship ending—so I wrote the song poking fun at myself.” Self-deprecation comes naturally to BENEE, expressed through her playful personality both on stage and online, an explosive riot of randomness that makes her all the more intriguing. However, if we can’t pin Stella down, who is this STEVE?

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for BENEE

Releases

Fire On Marzz
Year: 2019
Type: EP
Stella & Steve
Year: 2019
Type: EP

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