27 May 2022
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  • Villainy - Gig Review: Villainy & Dead Favours @ Raynham Park, Auckland - 10/02/2022

Villainy - Gig Review: Villainy & Dead Favours @ Raynham Park, Auckland - 10/02/2022

12 Feb 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

For those outside New Zealand, you may or may not be aware that we are currently in the red traffic light response setting for Covid 19. There are a whole load of rules and regulations around this, but the largest impact on gigs is that for anyone to attend they must be fully vaccinated and be able to prove that, while indoor limits are set to a maximum of 100 people, and everyone must be seated. This has seen the vast number of gigs being cancelled, with rock music suffering more than most as the thought of sitting down at a rock or metal gig is just not right. Bands are coming up with different ways to get around this to maintain their visibility, and tour mates Villainy and Dead Favours decided one way would be to hold a free acoustic gig which would be filmed with a multi-camera set up to later be made available to fans.

Therefore, Thursday night saw me in Karangahape Road (you can see why we all it is ‘K Road’), searching for Raynham Park. K Road is one of the most interesting areas in the city, and certainly the one with the most venues in and around it, but I had not heard of this one before, and it is only the sighting of Villainy shirts which made me realise I was looking for a door which was not signposted or any indication there was a venue inside. The next surprise I had was when I saw Chris Morgan from Morgan Creative walking naked towards me – not literally you understand, but he is one of our most admired rock photographers who has worked with Villainy directly on many of their tours (including the one with Dead Favours), and yet here he was with no cameras! He told me had had been shooting Villainy since they played with I Am Giant ten years earlier, but this would be the first time he had ever seen them with his eyes as opposed to through a lens.

We were let in and went upstairs to what is essentially a TV studio, with the stage set up with various static cameras, and the audience area having small tables with tealight candles to set the ambience, along with high stools. I quickly realised I would break my back if I sat on a stool and used the table to write on and managed to find a chair I could lower to the right height. Chris and I took one of the central tables right at the front, and the partners and children of Dead Favours took the one next to us.

Dead Favours won Best Rock Artist at the 2021 Aotearoa Music Awards (as well as #2 in best EP and #4 for best live show in my own Top 10 for 2021), and I was certainly looking forward to catching up with them again. Even before they came onstage, we could see it was going to be interesting as singer Jared was going to be playing acoustic for this event, as would be expected, but he also had a keyboard set up (as did bassist Alex) while Charlie looked like he was going to be playing a kit which was almost like a practice set-up. They kicked off with You & I, and we could immediately hear that we were in for a very special night indeed as they had made the decision to treat this as something quite out of the ordinary and had rearranged the material to give it a totally different feel. Charlie very much set the tone for this with a sparse approach to drumming, using rim shots a great deal, and he had a wonderful cut through on the snare on which he had changed the sound by laying a towel across the head. Instead of the instruments driving everything forward, here they were stripped back with the focus very much on Jared’s vocals. Kyle was still providing electric rock guitar, but he was also ensuring that he was never taking away from the central tenet of the performance which was all about the songs and the vocals.

To hear the songs being treated in such a different manner was in some ways a revelation, as the arrangements showed a totally different side, with songs like Running Out turned into something totally different to what one would normally expect to hear. Halfway through Mr Lonely, Jared switched to electric piano and the song finished just with him. On Your Own was a highlight, with Jared kicking it off with keyboard and vocals, with Alex also joining in on synths and Charlie disappearing off the stage altogether. It was transformed into something simple but deep, mellow yet complex, with just a few essential notes added here and there by Kyle. Charlie returned for the second half of the song as it developed into something all-encompassing. All that exists is the music, as we enter the world, and it ended with a few delicate notes on the piano.

There were only three more songs after that, and the band continued to show that even when seated and using different arrangements, they are a rock force to be reckoned with. It was also great to see just how much their children were into the music, with one of Jared’s staring at her dad all night and shouting the lyrics as loud as she could. I think the next generation will also be rockers.

So, follow that. This was going to be interesting as while I have heard loads about Villainy, for some reason I have not seen them play nor do I know any of their music. They have been going for more than 10 years, always with the same quartet, and have also been honoured with plenty of nominations and awards at the Aotearoa Music Awards taking home two for Best Rock Album and in 2019 the Best Rock Group. Singer Neill Fraser had an acoustic, but apart from that this was a standard rock set up and it was obvious they were going to approach this in a very different manner to Dead Favours, and tweak arrangements as opposed to totally reset them.

They kicked off with Raised In The Dark, and right from the off they exuded the confidence which only comes when the same group of people have been playing together for a large number of years. I was told I would be a fan by the second song, and it is safe to say I beat that as Neill is such a powerful and engaging singer. Here we had a rock band, just seated, and the harmony vocals from drummer Dave Johnston are an incredibly important part of their overall sound. Interestingly, Chris told me he had never really heard those vocals previously as they tend to get lost within the tumult and amplification of a full-on rock show, yet here they were an essential element. Bassist James Dylan is one of those guys who looks as if nothing will ever phase him and sits there quietly doing his stuff, while Thomas Watts is a study in concentration, ensuring he is always providing either the crunch or finesse as required.

From the shirts in the audience, it was obvious that it was a heavy Villainy crowd in town tonight, and they lapped everything up. While the guys had not undertaken the rearrangements of Dead Favours, they were also determined to make this a night to remember, and the fans were rewarded with a performance of Skeletons, a song they had never previously played live. The focus was very much on the two singers, with the others ensuring they provided the touches and nuances to make it special. Mind you, to be honest that was the feeling with every song, as each one was a highlight, with Beggar having some wonderful syncopation, and the further they got into the set the more they relaxed even further so that it felt as if there was a real connection between band and audience, all here for exactly the same reason.

This easy confidence allowed the band to really enjoy themselves, even if it meant that Tom suffered from some ribbing, but it was all good fun and Dreams was another highlight. All too soon it was over, but while the rest of the band left the stage, Neill stayed behind to perform Saturdays solo, with the crowd happily joining in the chorus. It still was not enough, so Neill then covered Alanis Morissette’s Hand In My Pocket with everyone singing along with him.

It is unusual to see and hear rock music in a venue with wonderfully plastered ceilings, even more so for the bands (and audience) to stay seated throughout, and there is no doubt it was a very special event indeed. Raynham Park are planning more events of a similar nature so keep an eye on their socials, while also look for the recordings of this night to be made available soon. A great night with two of our great bands. As pointed out to me, I am no longer a Villainy virgin.


Photo Credit: Chris Morgan (photos taken on phone).

 

About Villainy

Villainy
vill·uh·nee /?vil?nç/
Noun: 1. The actions or conduct of a villain; outrageous wickedness.
2. Maniacal rock band from Auckland, New Zealand.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Villainy

Releases

Dead Sides (The Lost EP)
Year: 2021
Type: EP
Beggar
Year: 2020
Type: EP
Raised In The Dark
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Dead Sight
Year: 2015
Type: Album
Mode. Set. Clear.
Year: 2012
Type: Album

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