11 Aug 2022
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Blindspott - Gig Review: Blindspott @ The Trusts Arena, Auckland - 29/07/2022

31 Jul 2022 // A review by Steve Shyu
Still feels like a bit of a treat, walking into a large music venue. Having been through so many lockdowns and cancellations over the past couple of years, I felt both right at home yet also like I haven’t set foot at a big gig in a while. And with two critically acclaimed bands, Written by Wolves and Blindspott both born in Tamaki Makaurau, gracing such a stadium was definitely going to be a treat.


It’s Wolves o’clock. All the lads sans the frontman appeared from a billowing smoke cloud, armed themselves with drumsticks and began pounding away at floor toms in perfect unison. Then the lead vocalist Mike Murphy enters, swinging his microphone, ready to lasso everyone in for the set head. They launch into a previously unreleased
Give ‘Em Hell, an incendiary and powerful new hit, which should very comfortably become a new live staple.

Dropping no momentum, the five-piece act pressed on with Start the Fire, Tell Me What You’re Running From, and a crowd-pleasing rendition of Linkin Park’s Papercut. Just to stamp a Written by Wolves signature on the rap-metal hit, they added on a big, bold dubstep breakdown at the outro. Absolutely epic.

I can’t recall ever seeing keyboardist/synths/samples/backing vocalist Oli so energised prior to this year, jumping up on his keyboard racks and screaming along to Mikey, particularly during Oh No, the frenetic and high-energy single released in the early months of the pandemic.

Right after their heavyweight singalong single Better Luck Next Time, frontman Mikey acknowledges his fans, and thanked the stage crew, then valiantly sculled a beer while a piano riff of Hans Zimmer’s Time plays eerily. Mikey exists the stage, and all other members fire up the song Not Afraid To Die by way of their coordinated percussion again, which is usually their set-opening performance.

As expected, the song whips audiences into a frenzy, including attendees who had just arrived and those at the front-rail. What a sight to behold, the grinning faces beaming as the lead singer leant into the crowd, and those dancing away at the back having just as much fun. I’m far from being the only one who has missed events like this.

Covers ahoy! Years ago, Written by Wolves gained recognition through their awe-inspiring version of Sia’s Elastic Heart, and it was a true delight hearing this as part of the set again, with the two guitarists Bahador and Davey playing their hearts out, and Mikey belting out the high notes effortlessly.

But wait, there’s one last song, and the band weren’t done yet with covers; as the instantly recognisable synth theme to Stranger Things started to play, many in the crowd screamed in excitement. Bahador, a heavy metal specialist, couldn’t be happier riffing away at his gat, as the five-man act tore through Metallica’s thrash masterpiece Master of Puppets. The song recently regained popularity through the aforementioned hit TV series, and Written by Wolves couldn’t not make the most of it.

The numbers that had gathered by this point had all but peaked. I was surprised there weren’t more people given the amount of Facebook adverts I’d seen, as well as the nature of a much-touted “homecoming” for a Tamaki Makaurau band. I simply put it down to the early start time, which was likely dictated by a noise curfew in the suburban location.

Armed with a laptop and mic, Kane Hawkins took charge of keeping the audience entertained, making sure as many people remained amped up with music by System of a Down, Metallica and even Neil Diamond. Majority of the crowd responded enthusiastically, singing along as loud as they could. You gotta give it to him; the man sure knows how to rile up a rock-loving crowd.

Wasting no precious time, Kane was hastily ushered off stage to make way for the main act. Guitar distortion rang out. Bass strings boomed. The now-packed crowd went ballistic. First of the set to be served up was RIP (Rest in Pieces), Blindspott’s most major and recent single, released last year. A punchy and heavy song, great to headbang to and get people warmed up. I certainly was!

Then off their sophomore LP came the hit tunes Drown and Yours Truly, both songs I knew extremely well from the hundreds of repeat listens via my MP3 player back in my university days - Turns out I still remember every lyric!

Speaking of nostalgia, it’s evident I’m not the only person who adored the band for decades and listened to their albums religiously. Looking around, almost everyone around me were singing or mouthing the lyrics, jumping to every pummeling guitar crunch. I’m reminded time and time again of just what I love about live shows: Seeing the deep, personal connection some people have with the songs, and knowing that you’re sharing that moment with so many around you. It’s moving, and is a glimpse of humanity at its most endearing.

As I’m thinking this, a sweaty, overjoyed young lady was dancing and singing to the song Martyr, waving her Kiwi Lager in the air, spilling it on my arm. I sigh and remind myself, “It really is humanity at its most endearing”.

Since the event is titled “The Homecoming”, naturally, there had to be a good amount taken from their most famous album Blindspott to satisfy the long-time fans, like myself. Have no fear, for there were plenty of the classics. Heavier, angrier numbers like Suffocate, Lit Up and S.U.I.T were always guaranteed to get fans bouncing about, moshing, rapping and screaming along with frontman Damian. The more heartfelt and brooding songs Plastic Shadows and Blank were also very well received, especially the latter, which is a personal favourite of mine, but also deeply resonated with many around me.

Phlex had just about everyone grooving, singing at the tops of their voices, drinks raised high. The reggae-inspired ballad also saw a couple of smoke streams billow from the core of the audience, which wasn’t unexpected, considering, as I recall, the same thing happened at the Powerstation many years ago when Blindspott played what was to be their final show before splitting up.

While thinking back to the Powerstation, for that performance, the band’s turntablist Karl Vilisini was invited on stage for a couple of songs. And seeing the band in 2022, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of longing whenever an audio sample of turntable scratching played instead of it coming from a live DJ. The nu-metal scene has changed, I suppose, and it’s probably unlikely a turntablist would be added to Blindspott’s line-up anytime soon.

Vocalist Damian Alexander acknowledged the audience and thanked everyone, and expressed his love for West Auckland. The crowd cheered and laughed when Damian spoke of the various places in the western suburbs where as a child he used to play, hang out and get bullied. Indeed, this was a return to where the Blindspott initially found their feet, and in the present day, they certainly deserve the fanfare and celebration.

In a classic move of “tease for the encore”, the band left after a powerful performance of Ilah (Silent War), and the stage lights dimmed. Anyone who knows anything about Kiwi rock knows that they have one very important song still to come.

The whirring sound of a purerehua signalled the start of Mind Dependency, the intro track of Blindspott’s self-titled debut LP. The crowd roared back into life; this is clearly still a fan favourite. After thanking everyone for their support, loyalty and attendance, the group launched into the single that propelled them to global recognition in the nu-metal scene, Nil by Mouth. What better way to round off a perfectly curated homecoming set.

Considering warmer months are just around the corner, bringing with it live gigs and festivals, I found myself excited at the prospect of being able to see groups like Written by Wolves and Blindspott again in an outdoor setting. Hearing murmurs of brand new releases and tour announcements from those in the know, it’s likely I’ll get what I’ve hoped for. Fellow fans rejoice; the homecoming might just be the beginning!


Photo Credit: Nikita Weir / Antonia Pearl Photography

Written by Wolves Gallery
Blindspott Gallery

 

About Blindspott

May 29th will see the release of the second full-length album 'End The Silence' from West Auckland’s finest metal advocates, Blindspott.

This record marks numerous departures for the band that has evolved considerably since they burst onto the local music scene in 2002 with their self-titled debut.

Blindspott’s grassroots fan-base was such that that their first album debuted at number one in the New Zealand charts. It was an album that spawned multiple hits including the singles 'Phlex', 'Nil by Mouth', 'Room to Breathe' and 'S.U.I.T'. It was a shot in the arm for the country’s metal scene, and provided the impetus and confidence that has subsequently lead to the genre now thriving. The impact the band had on the otherwise arid scene spotlighted them for bigger things. They went onto major league success throughout South-east Asia, playing to crowds as big as 70,000 in Indonesia.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Blindspott

Releases

End the Silence
Year: 2006
Type: Album
Story So Far
Year: 2004
Type: DVD
Blindspott (Limited Edition)
Year: 2003
Type: Album
Blindspott
Year: 2002
Type: Album

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