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Miles Calder - Gig Review: Miles Calder @ Wine Cellar, Auckland - 2/07/2022

03 Jul 2022 // A review by Roger Bowie

There’s a warm and welcoming atmosphere tonight in the Wine Cellar. It seems to be lighter along with the mood.

Miles Calder is trekking the country on his own, at least tonight, as long-time band member and guitarist extraordinaire Chris Armour has been sick and so the acoustic tour is truly acoustic, except Miles has a plan B, and that is Finn Johannson, who is also opening the show.

Miles has been busy enough (apart from the day job) and releasing singles is the modus operandi at the moment, especially as he now has studio time with Sam Scott producing, a development he describes as exciting and edgy, Sam taking him to places he doesn’t expect.

And who else is there to add to the mix, already shaping up as delightfully informal, but one Christopher Dent, aka Albi, along for the ride to support his flatmate Finn on a few songs. Turns out Finn has moved up from Wellington to study gaming, and so it’s an easy thing to do to ask your flatmate to come along and improvise.

Finn is very relaxed tonight, verrrrrry relaxxxxed, and a little frisky behind his beer. “Sometimes a mountain is just a mountain, and a river is just a river” ….. but sometimes they are not, is the first song.

Finn plays some alt folk kind of stuff, dark, and Chris softens with sweet harmonies, and  a “who am I?” song about Shituations  which is also a great name for a song, four new songs none of which are Things that I forgot about  played live for the first time, part tragedy, part comedy, psychedelic pathos, and Chris retires, and we get Maybe  and somewhere in here is a  bottle opener and a six pack, and a broken string, and a lost capo, and a cry for Rohan to help, and Rohan does, and Finn switches to micro keyboard, and sounds like Badly Drawn Boy meets Randy Newman. And ends with If This is Love, sung with uninhibited passion and we are with Finn on his journey to somewhere with a sense of even better to come.

Finn Johannson setlist:

1. Mountain
You Look Down on Me
There Were Things that I Forgot About
Bottle Opener Dog
6 Pack
If this is Love

Miles Calder steps up solo, stripped back, and sets off with a Workman Song, we’ve heard this before, but now a single, and inspired by someone he met in the States with this very name, and a little Dylan like rambling blues, and we are eased into the Miles Calder voice, like an easy everyman. A touch of Lennon, but also many more. Easy, silky, soft, touching from a distance, tremors on the heartstrings of life, and there’s the temptation of Greener Grass  always on the other side, a sense of addiction to cathartic release (maybe that’s what Finn is doing), but reality sets in at some regional airport, and then a new song about Living Alone  which evokes Lennon Beatles, but then it’s an Autopilot Life  the title song from the last album before we get an unexpected treat (to add to the expected ones) and a little Townes Van Zandt with No Place to Fall, which was the essence of Townes’ tragedy. And to close the opening set, another new song, a Real Connection, and as I close my eyes to listen, I can hear all four of the Traveling Wilburys' Vol 3, such is the diversity of his tone, and of course Vol 3 is without the late Roy, and I can’t find him, but the remaining four is not too shabby, I’m sure you will agree. Sam Scott is indeed bringing a sense of adventure to the boy.

A short break.

Finn Johannson is wearing a Dolly Parton T-shirt, and looking even more frisky, and just having a good time, and it’s refreshing, it’s almost unwoke, which is a tragedy to say, but as he joins Miles on stage for the second set, he brings a rock ‘n’ roll presence to the acoustic sedation and it’s just so much fun. We’re immediately Lost in a Dream and the reason Finn is there is immediately apparent with an eclectic and iconoclastic guitar which levitates the night to another stratosphere. Is he shit-faced? Who cares? No-one gets shot, no-one gets hurt, and in truth everyone joins in with the ebullience of the occasion and, shit, Isn’t that Better ? Outrageous guitar. And if at times it might seem like Finn is upstaging, it’s tempered by the fact that even Rohan joins in with the banter, the normally quiet, reserved and anonymous Rohan, our Wine Cellar host, and Miles is graciously complicit, and Lake Geneva rises over him and almost swamps, but no, the reason we are here is because Miles Calder writes amazing songs, and sings them amazingly well, and the fact that what might have been a more stripped back and solemn representation of these songs is hijacked by an eclectic guitar and a rock n roll hedonism in no way detracts from the talent of this man, one of our more underestimated and unheralded talents, and, there are too many words in this sentence but it’s just so much fun.

Pushing and Pulling  is another new release, and I rest my case, and the audience agrees.

And the now fashionable encore in advance is enhanced by a request from the audience, someone in the know, to play that Bob Dylan song that Miles can’t remember until he plays it, and Tom Thumb’s Blues  is a fitting conclusion to a very special night.

The problem is, you don’t get to experience these special moments unless you go. Or, in other words, if you make an effort, you get lucky. And I am so lucky I chose to go down to the Wine Cellar, on this night, and experience the magic of an unscripted night. Who cares about the rugby……

My last thought is that we haven’t yet seen the best of Miles Calder. I think the best is yet to come.

Miles Calder setlist:

1. Workman’s Song
Greener Grass
Living Alone
Autopilot Life
No Place to Fall (Townes Van Zandt)
Real Connection
Lost in a Dream
Take Me Back to How it Works
Isn’t That Better
Lake Geneva
Bad For Me 
Pushing and Pulling
Tom Thumb's Blues


About Miles Calder

Miles Calder has been busy waking up from unconscious monotony and has a striking new single to show for it. Almost four years since the folk-tinged releases as Miles Calder & The Rumours and his time living in New York City and Geneva, Miles has emerged with a revived sound and a new band. His new sound evokes early-70's Lennon as much as contemporaries like Kevin Morby and Father John Misty.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Miles Calder


Autopilot Life
Year: 2021
Type: Album
Miles Calder & The Rumours
Year: 2016
Type: Album
The Crossing Over
Year: 2013
Type: Album

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