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Drax Project - Gig Review: Drax Project @ Dunedin Town Hall, Dunedin - 02/06/2021

04 Jul 2021 // A review by Darryl Baser

Auckland based singer AACACIA was onstage and singing with her band as many people walked in at 7:25pm ahead of the advertised start time. In 2019 AACACIA posted a clip asking to play support to Drax Project, and last night she did. It wasn’t the first time, as her competition win saw her sing in front of 20,000 fans at Rhythm and Vines. Her application video of her singing the Drax Project song Catching Feelings was note perfect, and showed her vocal abilities well.

Supported by a 5-piece band, AACACIA commanded the stage well, but a few pitch issues on the night.

Techs set the stage for Mitch James, while the very excited members of the crowd sang to Backstreet Boys' I Want It That Way. The energy coming from the stalls is amazing.

The bass tech made a few tweaks, while the crowd sang to Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline. I'm almost crying with laughter; this song was old when I was young.

The crowd is so pumped Mitch James could have walked on and sang the phone book, and this lot would lap it up. Mitch came out and said, "it's good to be home".

He told the crowd his second song was originally called Dunedin, and he dedicates it to his mum, who's in the crowd and apparently it's her birthday.

Mitch James is a good songwriter, and gives 100% live. He has a stunning voice, pitch perfect, and I bet has a great vocal coach.

He busts out a new song called Japan. It's a great song, and tells the crowd "it's his next single". Proving he’s a smart operator he scheduled his hit song 21 to follow which goes down a treat, with many people singing along.

Another newer song follows, Mitch rests guitar and sings like a man possessed owning the stage launching himself around the stage, losing his in ear monitors frequently.

At the end of the medley his drummer comes to the mic and gets the crowd to sing Mitch happy birthday, then presented him with a shoe and a beer, he consumed one out of the other, then threw the shoe into the crowd. It was a fabulous fun moment.

There’s a friendly rivalry where a wero, or challenge, is offered by each act. Like a ‘mic drop’, Mitch James just issued a hell of a challenge.

The swarm of techs re-emerge from the shadows, and reset the stage for Drax Project, now there's just one drum kit on stage, where there were three at the start of the night. It's a complete stage reset. The techs are a well-polished machine.

Drax Project has evolved in the shadows of the Six60 pop juggernaut, but are now headlining their own tour.

The band walks on with Shaan Singh playing tenor sax as they take the stage, with AACACIA adding her voice to the opening number.

Throughout this evening there’s one thing missing from the stage: monitor speakers, for an old bugger like me it’s visually interesting, but shows how this crop of young and highly professional musicians are all using in-ear monitors these days, and everything is wireless allowing for greater movement around the stage, and very entertaining live shows.

Drax Project are fabulous at working to a click track with programmed backing, so much so it’s seamless. There are many aspects which work about this band, but Shaan Singh’s voice is simply fabulous, I trust he also has an excellent vocal coach to keen such an amazing gift in top shape.

While the band is unashamedly pop, they’ve got more chops than a well-stocked butcher. The song Over It has such complex interlocking rhythms, the band member’s skill levels are very high.

By the time they launch into their outstanding version of Ginuwine's song Pony, the crowd is hanging on every word, beat and riff.

The band drops a brand new song called Crazy, which gets the typical response from fans of the songs which they know, some of those in the stalls re-commence the selfies marathon some of them have been on much of the night.

Savage is a stunner which re-captures the crowd completely.

The band leaves and Shaan Singh welcomes a Taonga Puoro player and the pair play Tukituki Te Manawa the song is a taonga, which was sadly lost on many, but a highlight for me.

Another new song Fashion Sense is performed for the first time in Dunedin has that new song effect on the crowd, especially as it’s a slower tune, many people drift to the bar. But like the professionals they are, they counter the new song effect with Woke Up Late.

The crowd’s in fine voice, and when Catching Feelings begins, the roof is lifted as many 'catch feelings' and return the love the song generates.

For an encore Matt and Shaan return and share the origins of Drax Project, drums and sax. The pair begins a free-style jazzy jam, which evolves into a song which the rest of the band joins in with before exiting, leaving a mostly full Dunedin town hall quite satisfied. Feelings caught.


About Drax Project

While studying jazz at college in Wellington, Drax Project — Shaan Singh, Matt Beachen, Sam Thomson and Ben O’Leary — took what they learned in class and applied it to another pursuit, making pop their own. The group gained a following after re-working vocal hooks of famous pop songs into saxophone licks. Their cover of Kimbra's track Goldmine went viral and caught the attention of an influential producer, giving acclaim to the newly-introduced group.

Signing to 300 Entertainment stateside as single Woke Up Late took off everywhere, they accompanied Famous Dex on the standout single Light from his chart-topping 2018 debut Dex Meet Dexter which bowed at #12 on the Billboard Top 200.

As Drax Project continued to make their imprint in the US music scene, they gave hit single Woke Up Late a fresh take with a feature from Hailee Steinfeld. As the single climbed to the top of the radio charts, they released a music video featuring YouTube sensation, Liza Koshy. The video took off everywhere reaching 1 million views in a mere 24 hours.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Drax Project


Year: 2016
Type: EP
Drax Project EP
Year: 2014
Type: EP

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