18 Sep 2021

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  • Dianne Swann - Gig Review: Dianne Swann @ Mt Eden Village Hall, Auckland - 30/07/2021

Dianne Swann - Gig Review: Dianne Swann @ Mt Eden Village Hall, Auckland - 30/07/2021

31 Jul 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

Friday night had me out to yet another “new” (to me) venue, namely the village hall in Mount Eden. I stood in the doorway and was stunned by what I saw, as the hall had been filled with long tables covered in black cloth, all with tealight candles. Fairly lights were strung around and across and looking up to the vaulted ceiling I could only imagine what the experience was going to be like, especially as it was BYOB and there was a large number of wine bottles in evidence. I was soon chatting to Wayne Gillies and discovered he had been organising regular events in this space for some 11 years. He described it to me as a soiree, and by the end of the evening I was in full agreement.

First up tonight was Tom Cunliffe, who was joined on violin/keyboards by Dave Khan (The Bads, Reb Fountain, Marlon Williams) and double bassist Eamon Edmondson-Wells (Louisa Nicklin), while he started on keyboards before moving to guitar later in the set. Wayne said he had only expected Tom with a guitar, so to have a trio was a special experience.

We started with Dug It All Away, and I was immediately struck with his wonderful baritone, and his thoughtful and paced manner. His voice filled the hall, and we were all hanging on every word as he told the story. It was entrancing, with the spell only broken by the rapturous applause at the end. He is a real storyteller, and I was soon reminded of Harry Chapin, not in the vocal or even musical style, but more in the way he captures the listener and weaves the threads of a story so that the listener is fully engaged. For Table Is A River, Tom commenced on his own with the others joining in, and already I was convinced we were in for a very special evening indeed, as I was fully invested. While it is easy to concentrate on Tom, there is no doubt that the other guys were also having a major impact. Eamon has one of the deftest touches on double bass I have come across, with less hard picking than one would normally think of, making it all look so very easy, while Dave provided top end harmonies to cut through the bass levels on the violin, and then providing keyboards as well when Tom switched to guitar.

He did this for the second part of his set, and on songs such as Came My Way he really upped the tempo, showing a quite different aspect to his music and what had gone before. He slowed up again for the end, taking us back more into his pure storytelling mode, thoughtful and full of passion. I managed to catch up with him after the show and was pleased to hear that a new album has been recorded and is just going through the final stages now. I certainly look forward to catching him play again soon, and that album will surely be a fine listen.

Very quickly it was time for Dianne Swann, who was one of the founders of When the Cats Away before moving to London and forming The Julie Dolphin with Brett Adams, and then when they moved back to NZ they formed The Bads. There were a few members of that band onstage tonight, as not only was there Dianne, Brett (guitar/vocals) and Dave (keyboards/guitar), but we also had Ben King (guitars/vocals, also known for Goldenhorse, Greg Johnson) and they were joined by bassist Karin Canzek (Reb Fountain) and drummer Tom Broome (Tami Neilson). Interestingly, I am sure I saw Reb Fountain) herself there last night as well, watching proceedings.

With Dianne also adding guitar on some numbers, it meant we went from a rather laid-back trio into a full-on rock band. A Sixties style instrumental welcomed Dianne to the stage, and then we were straight into Reel You In, a 70’s style rocker dominated by the vocals (with Ben providing very strong support to Dianne) and even a dramatic outro guitar solo from Brett. This was so very different indeed to what had gone before, and whereas previously we were entranced and, in a spell, now we were on the edge of our seats determined not to miss anything. There is a confidence which only comes from many hours spent together on the road, in rehearsal rooms and the studio, and these guys were incredibly tight, with all focus on the music. Dianne is very much the centre of attention, not only vocally but also because she is the only one really moving much on the stage with Ben and Brett rooted while Dave and Tom were of course seated, although it was good to see how much Karin was enjoying herself, as there were times when she had to smile and just move to the beat while creating some wicked underlying tones.

Tonight, we were treated to the whole of Dianne’s solo album, The War On Peace of Mind, a couple of covers, plus a few older songs. Next up was Everything’s New, which had some Sixties stylings to it, and a higher concentration on her wonderful vocals with Dianne right at the front and everyone else lifting her up. These Are The Days was written when much of the country was enveloped in an orange haze from the Sydney fires a few years back, and this was led by jangly electric guitar where the music was far more abrasive. Each song was a highlight, with The Cynic being quite Split Enz in approach, containing some driving passages which were quite at odds with the high vocals, while Losing The War On Peace of Mind took 17 years to write, and used interesting patterns of descending scales with a dynamic change at the chorus.

For me though, the song which really stood out tonight was Rare Good Feeling, with a heavy and powerful bassline. The harmonies assisted in lifting this belter into the stratosphere as the guys took it to a whole new level. They completed the set with Him and Her, taken from The Bads’ album Losing Heroes. It was a great ending, but of course just because they had walked off the stage it did not mean they were going to be allowed to finish there, so Dianne, Brett and Dave came back for a stripped back version of Neil Young’s Helpless, before the full band were ushered back onstage. Dianne made a point of telling everyone about the last song, Waiting For Your Love, and that we all needed to discover the band who wrote and recorded it, The Reduction Agents, and then all too soon it was over.

Tonight, was a heck of an experience, with incredible music performed by wonderful musicians in a great venue. It felt very special indeed, certainly quite different to many of the gigs I attend, and I felt fortunate enough to have been able to be there. It was a sell-out and looking back to what Wayne told me at the beginning of the night he was definitely correct, and I am already looking forward to the next one.


Photo Credit: Wayne Gillies


About Dianne Swann

Dianne Swann began her career as vocalist and songwriter for her band Everything That Flies, she then went on to become one of the original members of When the Cats Away, and released a solo song Something Good, which achieved NZ Top 20 chart status and a Silver Scroll nomination.

Dianne left WTCA to continue her love of songwriting and moved to London and formed the critically acclaimed band The Julie Dolphin with Brett Adams. The couple moved back to New Zealand after 13 years in the UK and formed The Bads.

In 2018 The Bads were shortlisted for the coveted Taite Music prize, adding to an impressive list of achievements throughout her career including; playing live to 85,000 people, signing to two international labels, recording with Radiohead, having her song Birthday chosen as NME single of the week and touring Australia with Tim Finn and accepting an invitation to play at the Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Dianne Swann


The War on Peace of Mind
Year: 2021
Type: Album

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