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SOL3 MIO - Gig Review: Sol3 Mio @ Spark Arena, Auckland - 30/03/2021

02 Apr 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

Tonight was always going to be interesting, as this was the first time myself and my eldest daughter had been to a concert together for more than 16 years. The last time was for Bowling For Soup, and one of her achievements that night was reducing the average age of the audience, something she did again this evening. At one point in our careers, we both worked together at The Warehouse, and Sol3 Mio performed in the head office foyer, and what struck both of us at the time was not only their undoubted incredible musical ability, but also their sheer enjoyment of being together and interacting with others. Afterwards they stayed behind to sign albums and talk with people, and when I walked past on my way to a meeting quite some time later, they were still there, still engaging and genuinely enjoying themselves.

Hilary Barry was MC for the evening, and prior to the concert starting she took us all backstage, meeting the guys and also talking to some fans about where they had travelled from. Then it was time for the opening act, and on walked Anderson Rocio, who made her way to the grand piano at the centre of the stage and sat down. If anyone was unsure of her name all they had to do was look at giant screen above, as her signature was there shining brightly for all to see – given that I have had plenty of experience of support acts not being allowed to use all the lights, or having sound which was not optimal, this in itself made a big impression on me. She has a delicate touch on the piano, and never really showed the nerves she must have been feeling and worked through some beautifully delicate numbers. Her style is like a mix of Kate Bush, Tori Amos and Lorde with rippling and melodic piano combining with emotional vocals. There were times when there was a catch in her voice as a deliberate additional element, and plenty of vocal gymnastics. She told the story of having been at Spark when a friend was running sound, and he asked her to go onto the stage and assist with the microphone check. After she had completed that, she said she was going to be back on the stage singing in her own songs one day and set herself a five-year target which she actually achieved with two months to spare. Songs such as Ghosts and Paradise were immediate and engaging, and I certainly look forward to hearing more from Anderson in the future.  

Hilary was then back, stood at the rear of the arena being displayed onto the large screens, while everything was being made ready, and interviewed a 12-year-old girl called Jazz. The youngster from Matamata told everyone that she had been busking as she enjoyed singing so much, and that she was going to be singing with Sol3 Mio later and was of course hugely excited. She was geeky, a typically excited 12-year-old. More of her later.

Now it was time for the main event, and on strode brothers Pene and Amitai Pati and their cousin Moses Mackay. With a backing track they performed the Ed Sheeran song I See Fire, with a kapa haka group alongside. The unofficial NZ anthem for the 2015 RWC, this is an incredibly powerful and emotional song, and their voices blended together, filling the arena. In many ways this set the tone for the evening, as when they are singing, they are deadly serious, yet as soon as it is over, they are family who love nothing better than messing about and having fun. Moses apparently really wanted to start the show with a song from Lord of the Rings, and it was soon obvious that he was going to be the butt of most of the jokes for the evening, following on from his appearance on The Bachelor, and while some of the comments were obviously scripted they were no less funny for all that. They were soon joined by a 40-piece orchestra, while a choir appeared later in the set, and we were treated to some of their more famous interpretations, such as O Sole Mio and the incredibly powerful The Pearl Fishers aria. It is amazing in many ways to think that here were two classically trained tenors and a baritone, performing mostly classical and operatic music, with some theatre, and they had sold out the largest arena in Auckland. There is something incredibly special about them, and tonight they were rarely without a smile on their faces as they knew that not only were they having a great time but the audience in front of them were as well.

Tonight, there were a few guests as well, with Tayla Alexander not only performing The Prayer with Amitai, but also talking about her foundation to create opportunities for young singers in classical music. Anderson also came back on stage to perform Homeland, and through the evening the guys kept mixing it up, performing not only as a trio but as duos and even solo. Moses sat at the piano at one point to perform his “lockdown” song Embers of Fire, and to hear his voice with little in the way of accompaniment was incredible, as he flawlessly hit falsetto when needed.

In the middle of the set everything changed, with the screen coming down from on high to be behind the guys, and the orchestra departing, leaving them alone. Moses had a double bass, Amitai an acoustic guitar, while Pene had a bongo, so it was just the three of them and these instruments. They started this segment with Kiss The Girl, along with the obligatory seagull. This turned into something of an in-joke for the rest of the evening with Pene dropping in mating calls when he felt the time was right and even getting a response at one point, with which he was obviously delighted. This was also when they performed Volare, apparently the most covered song in Eurovision’s history, and had the whole arena joining in. We also had a really slow version of Blue Bayou during this section, something which worked incredibly well with their voices.

Everyone was back, including the choir, for Jerusalem, which again had the audience singing as they created their own version of Last Night of the Proms, while My Samoa was packed full of emotion and pride. Then it was time for Jazz to come on and showing just a few nerves she came to centre stage with Pene and Amitai positioning themselves behind her on each side, and it was good to see them both providing her with support. I was surprised when the two tenors launched into Nessun Dorma, as here were two world-renowned singers giving their all to one of the most famous operatic arias, while stood between them was someone who at one point was lifting her shoulders up and down in time to the music. I am sure everyone expected the song to switch into something different prior to Jazz coming in, but it didn’t, and when she started singing everyone reacted by immediately giving her a standing ovation. This youngster has incredible talent, and when in future years she is hailed as one of our brightest stars, those there this evening can say they were there when she was recognised.

They finished with another emotional number, this time performing in Swahili, with Baba Yetu again a triumph. A standing ovation had them coming back from an encore, but there was some confusion about what instruments were available as they had been packed away, and even which of them was going to play the piano, but eventually it was sorted, and the triumphant evening ended with everyone back on stage for Hallelujah. Tonight did not feel like a concert, nor even really an event, it was much more like a spectacle where three of our greatest performers showed that it is possible to be a consummate professional and at the same time have an immense amount of fun onstage. They may have felt they were personally responsible for two lockdowns with tonight having previously scheduled twice before and being postponed, but the third time was the charm, and everyone left feeling Sol3 Mio had spoken to each of them individually. What a night, what an experience.


Photos courtesy of Ngamihi Photography
View the full gallery here

 

About SOL3 MIO

Made up of two tenor brothers, Pene and Amitai Pati from Mangere, and their North Shore baritone cousin Moses Mackay, SOL3 MIO is the combination of three powerful and moving operatic voices, with more than a dash of uncontainable Samoan humour. By their own definition they are first and foremost ‘classical singers bridging the gap with contemporary’ , but the unique way in which they do it has already shown the potential to cut through the critical cognoscenti, and appeal to audiences who wouldn’t normally be found anywhere near an aria. Their onstage brotherly bonhomie, off the cuff banter and impeccable comedic timing is no act, simply an extension of their natural selves, and the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of singing, performing and entertaining.

In some respects their backgrounds are typical – families moving over from Samoa to seek a better life in New Zealand and having to make sacrifices in the process, as well as finding value in music, choirs, hard work and an ability to see the absurdity in life. However, what they have made of these solid, but modest, beginnings is anything but average. Amongst their numerous awards and accolades Pene was the 2010 NZ Performer Of The Year, Amitai won the 2012 Lexus Song Quest and Moses was recognized as an Emerging Artist by the Dame Malvina Major Foundation last year. Though all three have studied for Bachelor Of Music graduates from the University of Auckland, the foundations of the stagecraft that they have added to exceptional raw talent, also comes from a crammed musical CV that spans everything from weekly childhood performances in rest homes, to backing George Benson. It was when Moses and Pene sang in the choir behind Andrea Bocelli in 2008, that their eyes and ears were fully opened to the possibilities of opera, setting them on a course that would lead to the formation of SOL3 MIO, three years later.

Performing together as a trio at Pene’s farewell, after he had been selected to attend the prestigious Wales International Academy Of Voice, an audience member piped up and suggested they should form a group – laughed off at the time, the idea took hold. Within a year, all three had been individually chosen to go to Wales for tuition under the highly esteemed Dennis O’Neill – an incredible opportunity but also one with a combined cost of over $100,000. Rolling their sleeves up, they launched SOL3 MIO with a series of fundraisers, that began with high stress in a half filled hall in Massey High School, and concluded with a triumphant show at a sold out Auckland Town Hall in October 2012 – funds sorted. Now with a self-titled album of their work, beginning naturally with the eponymous Neapolitan song, and ending with a rousing We Are Samoa, the stage is set for the next chapter in what is already, an extraordinary story.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for SOL3 MIO

Releases

Coming Home
Year: 2021
Type: Album
On Another Note
Year: 2015
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Sol3 Mio
Year: 2013
Type: Album

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