28 Oct 2021

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Marianne Leigh - Gig Review: Marianne Leigh @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 06/08/2021

06 Aug 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

I am pretty sure this is my first time at Dead Witch for a gig which is non-metal or at least hard rock, and that combined with the fact that most of the people playing were younger than my children meant that I was in for quite a strange night indeed. They were planning for the gig to end long before the headline band normally starts, so it was promising to be a nice early night to gently ease me into the weekend.

First up was Lavender, with just her voice and electric guitar. It takes a lot of guts to stand up on a stage but if there were any nerves, they were not showing at all as she started with One Hit Wonder. She has a strong voice, with loads of emotion combined with a sweetness which made it enthralling and interesting right from the off. Next up was another original, Berlin, which was even more gentle than the first, with picking allowing the mind to concentrate on the vocals. When she lifts her voice, the strength comes through, and the reverb that soundman Dave placed on the vocals really allowed her to shine. Both of us have seen more bands than we would like to think of, but she was already impressing both of us. She even got the audience clapping along in time during the more boisterous sections. From this she went into the Stevie Nicks’ classic Edge Of Seventeen, not one I have ever heard covered before but suited her voice and style very well. All too soon it was her last song, Disgrace, and I certainly look forward to hearing more from this singer-songwriter again soon.

Next up was Neo Aiono-Fukushima (guitar, vocals), with his band, Hamish Brown (bass) and Keoghan Palmer (drums, Sundaze). They kicked off with Bring The Edge, and the immediate standout was Hamish’s bass playing, as he is all over the place, really driving the sound, often ahead of the drums, which allows Neo to do what he like on guitar, either keeping it fairly passive or riffing. This is alternative rock with a heavy emphasis on the rhythm section and vocals, with the guitars just adding additional colour. Rocielli Fernando (keyboards) then joined the band for the next number, which saw them move in a more soft jazz, funk and pop style. Musically On Valentine was very different indeed to the first number, and although the rhythm section was again spot on, this number felt rather disjointed and as if it could do with more work on cohesion. They ended with another original, I Still Hear Your Heartbeat, which again was more in the funk, soul and pop style. There was a feeling that they had somewhat lost the audience, with a lot of talking going on, which is a shame as there is no doubt there were some good things happening on the stage.

Just four songs from the first band (allotted stage time 20 minutes), three from the second (allotted time 15 minutes), so before long we were on for the third band of the night, Wednesday’s Girlfriend. Anyone who describes themselves as “The band you can take home to meet your parents” is always going to get my attention due to their sense of humour, and they soon had me very interested in their alternative pop rock style. Here we have a trio who have built up a real understanding over a number of years and are out to have fun and take the audience along for a ride. There had been a huge step up in terms of quality, with a drummer who keeps changing the attack, a 5-string bassist throwing in complexity but never just for its own sake, and a singer/guitarist who keeps things surprisingly simple yet changes it up just at the right time. Their music is high octane rock and roll fun, and it is impossible not to be taken along by the sheer exuberance of it all. Songs such as Run Away From You reminded me of the quicker more aggressive Crowded House combined with The Knack, yet they were bringing in loads of alternative rock stylings into all they did, even dropping some funk when the time was right. I note they have played with The RVMES in the past, and that is a gig I know would be well worth seeing indeed as they definitely complement each other. They were having a blast onstage, the type which comes from having great songs, total confidence in each other from playing so much, and the knowledge that the audience was on their side. This was a great set, and here is a band who are certainly worth checking out. They ended with I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor (Artic Monkeys) and was their most high-octane song of the night, a strong finish indeed.

So, at the ridiculously early time of just 10:15, Marianne Leigh was onstage with her band, Nathaniel Selway (bass), Preston Hiew (guitar) and drummer Sam Hatley. After thanking everyone for being here to celebrate the release of her single, she started gently picking her electric guitar as we moved into Apologise. She may only be 18 years old, but has won Smokefree Rockquest, appeared on national TV and radio, and been mentored by Bic Runga so it is of little surprise that she oozes confidence. This was far rockier than I expected but given that she grew up with her elder brother for inspiration (including borrowing his guitar), perhaps that really should be expected. She also has a lot of fun onstage, revelling in the reaction of the crowd, perhaps that is why she had to change guitars after the second song as she broke a string.

Could’ve Been The One was a much slower number, just her voice, her guitar, and bass. This was far more emotional, a song about love lost, and it allowed her to throw in the nuances and catches in her voice which were missing from the up-tempo songs she started with. I don’t know if it was the guitar swap which did it, but the sound was not quite right for this one, and I am sure it would have been better with an acoustic. It was only after the gig had ended that I discovered that Marianne had intended playing the whole gig with an acoustic tonight, but due to some technical issue had to switch to the electric. We then moved into some covers with The One That Got Away and Riptide, which certainly got the crowd singing along and demonstrated yet again her wonderfully emotional and powerful vocals. She has a real edge which makes her stand out. After these it was time for the song for which we were all there, Sweet Goodbyes. This is another slower number, and these are the ones which really allow her voice to really shine through. We then had Say My Name, a song by her friend Zoe Mills which Marianne sang on and moves through different sections of very high tempo rock and gentle emotional passages. She ended up with Crazy Girlfriend, which may slow very gentle and passionate but soon turns into a belter.

It was an interesting night tonight, and not only for it easily being the earliest I had ever left the venue. There were some great bands and singers there tonight, with some wonderful songs, yet again showing just how much great talent there is in Auckland. Get out there and discover some new music today.

Photo Credit: Danielle Hao-Aickin


About Marianne Leigh

Marianne Leigh is an acoustic indie-pop artist writing catchy tunes about genuine human emotions and experiences. She speaks to the soul with her meaningful lyrics and connects to listeners through her narrative songwriting style. Leigh's songs discuss the struggles of a naive youth, the ups and downs of love, and learning life lessons.

She is a versatile artist, her authenticity heard in both her emotional ballads and upbeat singles. The 18-year-old placed first in the nationwide Smokefree Rockquest competition with her single Best of Me in 2019, and brought her talent to TV on the What Now and Cath Vincent TV Shows.

She is a three-time finalist of the Play It Strange songwriting competitions and was mentored by award-winning NZ musician Bic Runga. “Authenticity beams through Marianne Leigh’s connection, vast musical space and raw artistry." - NZ Musician Magazine.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Marianne Leigh


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