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  • Capital Theatre - Gig Review: Capital Theatre @ The Tuning Fork, Auckland - 28/07/2022

Capital Theatre - Gig Review: Capital Theatre @ The Tuning Fork, Auckland - 28/07/2022

28 Jul 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

Down to the Tuning Fork on a school night, whatever next?! Mind you, it was for a special occasion as Capital Theatre were back in town and it has been way too long since I last saw them play (thanks Covid). As soon as I walked in the door, I was confronted by easily the biggest merch stand I have ever seen for a NZ rock band, with loads of t-shirts and of course their wonderful debut album, available both in blue vinyl and on CD. The booklets also looked great, and if you have yet to hear this you really are missing out. I headed towards the sound desk to find somewhere to perch and realised that not only had Capital Theatre brought their own sound and lights, but the stage was something else! I was already concerned where the guys would be able to stand as it was packed with lighting stands. Just seeing them being operated beforehand showed we were in for a very special night indeed.

First up tonight were Tablefox, and although I have reviewed their excellent album Battles, this would be my first time seeing them play. With the press of a button all the Capital Theatre signage disappeared to change to Tablefox as Clinton (lead vocals, bass), Matt (lead guitar). Chris (guitar, backing vocals), and Henrik (drums) carefully made their way onto the stage to the strains of No Doubt. Gently picked guitars led us into the twin vocals of Desire or Love and we were off. Their sound is very much of the Eighties post punk alternative scene, bringing forth memories of Simple Minds, James, and Deacon Blue. The rhythm section lays the foundation, Clinton’s vocals provide the heart, and the guitars give us the edge, all wrapped up in wonderful melodies which have more than a hint of Sixties pop about them as well, almost as if Manfred Mann has jumped into the Eighties and then back out to the present day. Keep Them Guessing was soon completed and then they slowed it down with Reckless which feels much more like a modern folk song. Contrast that with Burning Bridges which sounded as if it had come straight out of Midnight Oil, full of venom and passion with real bite, easily the heaviest song of the night so far, albeit with staccato riffs.

By now the guys were well and truly settled in, rocking hard. A special mention must be made here of Capital Theatre and their crew as they were giving Tablefox every opportunity to shine with full use of the lights and great sound. I’ve seen too many support bands screwed by headliners in the past, but that was certainly not happening tonight. Time took us back into the days of Simple Minds, with a simply picked melodic lead guitar and a chorus which just cries out for audience singalong. With two support bands tonight, we were now heading towards the end with Battles followed by Something Better. I am sure there were quite a few people here tonight who had not previously come across Tablefox and they left the stage having made many new admirers and friends.

Midwave Breaks comprise singer-songwriter Bruce Conlon and drummer Paul Russell, and they had already been supporting Capital Theatre on other dates in the tour so were well bedded in by now. Paul said who they were, thanked Tablefox, kicked off the backing track and slowly the tension built until he hit the snare which was the signal for he and Bruce to head into Mind Made Up. Bruce provides guitar and vocals, Paul the drums, but everything else is tracked which means the two of them have a full sound to play with. I had not come across the guys before but could easily see why they were on the road with Capital Theatre as in some ways they are quite similar, although they have a more wall of sound approach to their music and less rock. They are also using effects on the vocals and the instruments, which contrast greatly with the cut through of the snare. We Are The Ones is more of a rocker, but still restrained in many ways. Mind you, I have never before seen some steps placed onto the stage just so the guitarist can stand on them for his solo, really cool!

No Way To Decide was somewhat slower, with a lot more space, but as with the songs which had gone before it was multi-faceted with lots of different sections, and the guys really mixing it up. Apparently that song was actually from their previous band together, Eight, but it fitted in perfectly with what they were performing tonight. Fine Line really showed Bruce’s vocals off, and by now they were really into the passion of the performance. Paul is a very visible timekeeper, someone who lives what he is playing, getting people engaged with his energy while Bruce is solidly in the moment, in a world of his own creation. They then moved into their debut single, Lemonade Hand Grenade, which was a big radio hit when it came out, it resonated across the country, peaking at number 3 on the radioscope rock chart, and came in at number 510 on the listener-voted Rock 2000. We then went into Shapeshifter’s In Colour, it is strange to think that the song is 9 years old now, and they certainly did it proud with some nice finger tapping. They finished the night with Moments Gone, a fine end to a nice set.

Now it was time for the main event, and the crowd had certainly swollen considerably and were pushing forward to get the best viewpoint for what promised to be a wonderful set. To celebrate the release of their fantastic debut album, A Hero’s Journey, Paul Reid (drums), Adam Stevenson (vocals, guitar), and Roy Oliver (guitar) were tonight going to be playing the album start to finish. They had just discovered that the opening track, Fait Accompli, had started getting serious radio airplay in the States in the week leading up to yesterday, so tonight really was going to be a celebration for all their hard work. The stage was in darkness, then a voice started telling us about the nuclear war, the video screens came to life, and we were off. Everything so far had been leading up to this, and with Paul setting up a huge rhythmic backbeat, Adam providing his wonderful vocals and locking in with Roy on guitar we were now on for a rock show. There a video screen behind Paul, as well as narrow ones on either side of the stage, all programmed to play the same animations, and it felt as if Tuning Fork was being turned into an arena. There was certainly a lot of screaming when they made their entrance, and the crowd, who had been rather dormant until then, were now very animated. 

As they were playing the album in sequence, the second number was the classic People, one of my favourite songs of all time (check out the video). It has drama, power, hooks, great vocals, wonderful lyrics. Who could want more? The guys had turned the evening into a melodic hard rock blast, and we were only two songs in before Second Skin started, which has a far more emotional and power ballad beginning, Roy asked the crowd to turn on the torches on their phones and wave them in the air which certainly had the desired effect. They were put away when the band started to belt it out – and with Adam not playing guitar on this track (and keyboards tonight being provided on a backing track – there really was not much room on the stage), it really allowed himself to pour everything into it. Before each song Adam explained where we were in the story (the album is a concept based on a traditional hero’s quest). 

We were now at Long Way To Fall, and it is hard to describe just how much passion and melody was bring produced on this small stage. The video display, sound, and lighting all added to the experience, but at the very heart of it were these songs which I first heard in the same venue a long time ago, since when this band have just gone from strength to strength. Fire is another which is a power ballad with balls at the beginning, before lifting and taking off. There are moments in this song when it is basically Adam with some reverb, but he has total confidence in his ability to hit all the notes. This is one of those albums where every song could be lifted as a single, all would suit the radio, and I am sure their forthcoming set of dates in the States is going to go down incredibly well indeed. Everyone in the venue was having a blast, but I do wonder how many had realised we were coming to the end of Side A, which meant we were already halfway through the set?

Having thanked various industry bodies, including Muzic.net.nz, from the stage – the crowd were then asked to shout “We are awesome” while they were being videoed so the guys could play it in the States where they keep being asked what the audiences are like back home. Now it was onto Side B with Delicately Poised, which allowed Roy to have some time in the spotlight with some great soloing. This is the third time I have seen them play live, and they are undoubtedly getting better all the time. Then it was time for the song which for some reason I have been singing all week, Force To Fight, with its crunching dual guitars, gentle sections, and its powerful message. Watch the video – some of it was played during the performance, and it is simply mesmerising. Adam’s clear vocals, Paul’s pummelling drums and Roy’s strident guitar combine to make something very special indeed. This is another where Roy is able to throw out some string bending notes and is a real belter.

Time started in total darkness while Adam was explaining where we are in the journey, Paul started it off and when the guitars hit the riffs the lights were blasting out and we were off again. Better Than This is another power ballad, a point of reflection, with Adam playing acoustic and both Roy and Paul being somewhat more restrained. It is a number which builds and contains plenty of drama. Now this meant we were at the end of the journey, the return, and the final song of the album, Save A Stranger. Dynamic and powerful, with Paul blasting the pattern as if it was the first song of the night and not the last, Roy riffing hard, with Adam still hitting the notes, it was the climax to what had been an amazing night of music. I know I wasn’t the only one who was upset the night was over as these guys are setting the bar really high for NZ music, and America is next. 

Of course, there was no way they were going to be allowed to leave just like that, and as a toast to Taylor Hawkins and to tie in with the theme of the hero’s journey, they came back to play Foo Fighters’ Everlong. It may have been a long evening with three bands, but the crowd were up for a boogie, and certainly reacted to the guys laying it down. This was a real event, something very special indeed.

Photo Credit: Kev Rowland



A Hero's Journey
Year: 2022
Type: Album

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