2 Feb 2023
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Villainy - Gig Review: Villainy @ The Powerstation, Auckland - 28/10/2022

31 Oct 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

It has been 10 years since Villainy released Mode. Set. Clear. and to celebrate they have not only reissued it as a double LP package pressed on very limited edition pink marbled vinyl, but they are out on tour! If that was not enough, they are bringing along their mates Dead Favours, but somehow, I knew this was going to be somewhat more raucous than the double header acoustic set I attended a few months back.

On top of that, tonight we had some special openers with The Not Okays. There was no way they were going to miss this opportunity but guitarist Aaron Prictor already had a gig lined up in Australia which meant a reshuffle in the ranks, So, for one night only, Noriel Wong was going to be taking on the leads while drummer Bahador Borhani (Written By Wolves) was going to be second guitarist and Blindspott guitarist Fish was going to take his place on drums, which means that singer Lauren would be sharing the stage with her husband, a very rare opportunity indeed. The line-up is of course completed by bassist Caitlin Clark.

They kicked off with Wish You Were Dead, and if any of them had any nerves from playing on the largest stage in their lives it was soon blasted away with this up-tempo belter which had some nice harmony vocals from Caitlin. Lauren is a great frontwoman, having so much fun and showing she is totally into the music while Noz was enjoying his new role, Fish was belting the hell out of his kit and B was playing his part of guitar god. From this they went into another original, Sleep Talk, and I already knew their set was mostly originals tonight, quite a change from what they have been doing. Caitlin was easily the most relaxed I had ever seen her, while Lauren screamed some lovely notes in this one, no problem. By now there were plenty of people dancing in the audience, everyone having fun. Noz soon had everyone clapping along to the song they released for NZMM, Goodshirt’s Sophie, and I was having real issues reconciling the Lauren I was seeing tonight against the Lauren I saw last time as she has just grown immensely in confidence and her performance was outstanding.

Better Days was the banger it always is, while the crowd really enjoyed the heavily rocked-up version of Toxic, where Lauren showed how easily she can throw in different vocal styles and allowed herself some nice long notes to show off her vocals. They ended the night with another original in Loose Ends, which was the most thoughtful and complex of the set, and at one point Lauren was on her knees with her hand raised to the heavens in supplication as she poured out the emotion. Tonight, was a real triumph – there was no way that this sounded like a band who had to rejig their line-up and bring in a guitarist from another band to play drums (where he was a demon). The Not Okays left the stage to a round of applause and cheers: they made lots of friends tonight and I am sure this is not the last we have seen of them on a larger stage.

Now it was the time for the awesome rock machine which is Dead Favours. I had been chatting with Kyle (guitar) and Charlie (drums) before the gig and I knew just how much they were looking forward to this as it had been way too long. Jared (vocals, guitar) and I had a long chat last month at SFRQ and I knew what this meant to him as well (line-up completed of course by Alex (bass, vocals)).They started playing in total darkness with red spotlights going around the stage (awesome work Bailey!). These guys only know one way to rock, hard out, no messing about and straight down to business. Move On has one of the filthiest grooves in the business, deep and dark, totally at odds with Jared’s falsetto, driven by Alex and the pounding of Charlie, Kyle and Jared adding guitar over the top. This is one of my very favourite DF numbers, as it drives the body and all anyone can do is move and sing along at the top of their voices. Just two numbers in and the place was already on fire.

Kyle started ripping his guitar, and then we were into Dig, with Jared moving between normal and falsetto. It is hard to describe the juggernaut, which is Dead Favours in action, as Charlie hits the kit incredibly hard, setting the foundation while Alex switches between bass lines and counter melodies, Kyle shreds his guitar into pieces, Jared provides more guitar and is an amazing vocalist and frontman, while the songs are full of hooks, all played at loud volume with full venom. All the guys move around the stage (apart from Charlie, who clearly wants to), all into the music, all understanding how the audience is reacting. They segued seamlessly into Misbehaviour, as tonight was clearly not a night for chats but throwing down the gauntlet to Villainy, as they have so many times in the past. Charlie was belting the kit like a man possessed, and the band was just on fire.

We then had a moody intro, with associated lighting again, before Jared stood on the drum riser, Alex started the bassline, and we were into Mr Lonely – I have no idea how Jared manages to hit those falsetto notes so easily, but it does not seem to be an issue for him at all. This was a very different number to what had gone previously, far more emotional, and less driving guitar, with Alex providing the main melodic lead. This is also a song where Kyle gets to show just what he can do, but soon the lull was over, and we were blasting off again. New number Roundabout is another which starts slowly, with Jared resisting the calls to remove his shirt (which admittedly was just from Alex), but soon we were off into belter with strong riffs from the boys as they combined to drive it along, before a small break heralds the next chorus and we are straight on the train again. 

We were told that the band had been together for six years now, but apparently band years are like dog years, and then they were off again. It didn’t matter that Jared’s guitar went offline during that number; the band just kept going as if nothing was wrong. There was audience participation during Collision, when the audience rightly went nuts, as the guys somehow lifted their game even more. Charlie has a knack of providing an almost tribal sound at times, which underpins the mayhem happening on the rest of the stage, He stood up at one point, looking like he was about to leave, but he didn’t miss a beat and was straight back down driving the band onwards and upwards. Jared’s daughter was next to me for much of the set, and seeing someone so young having so much fun at a rock gig was just amazing. They ended the night with their latest single (to which I awarded 5*’s), the wonderful Sink or Swim, and then all too soon it was over. Follow that!

There is only one band brave enough to get on the stage after that, and there was no doubt who the crowd were here to see, as there were Villainy shirts everywhere. We were plunged into darkness, the intro tape started, and then the boys were there. Neill Fraser (vocals, guitar), Dave Johnston (drums, backing vocals), James Dylan (bass) and Thomas Watts (guitar) were here for a party, and they started the introduction ever so slowly, and then we were into the classic Mode.Set.Clear. The guys have the togetherness which only comes from playing for so many years, and they were relishing being back on a stage where they belong. This is a song of many parts, slow and dramatic in some places and banging in others, and the crowd were with them all the way. Dave is another drummer who hits the kit hard, locking in with James, while Thomas and Neill swap licks. Neill is a great singer and frontman, and even though he must be behind a microphone when singing, he never stops moving and encouraging the crowd while Thomas and James are continually throwing shapes.

James jumped up onto a box at the front of the stage and stood there loud and proud as he pounded out the riff to Gather Yourselves, and it was time for Power Station to jump, I am so glad they have a sturdy balcony. The band and the audience were as one, everyone having fun, and enjoying one of the tightest rock bands in the land: it took very little encouragement for everyone to have their hands above their head clapping in time to the kick drum. The announcement that the next song was Ammunition got a massive cheer, and we were off, and I am sure Neill had no need to sing the chorus as there was a huge sound coming from the crowd. Thomas was up on a foldback for his solo, with a huge smile on his face, but what was really impressive was when the complex riff was being driven by the band, as they are so incredibly tight. By now every song was being greeted with huge cheers and the audience clapping along, and Raised In Your Dark was no different, with the crowd at times drowning out the band with their singing.

The last time I saw Villainy play a rock gig was when they supported AC/DC (apparently it was 8 years ago!), and I knew they were good, but had no idea how much of a celebration their gigs are with the audience being a hugely important element. The Answer kicked off with huge drums, Thomas was wrenching the notes from his guitar, the bass was locked in, and then there was Neill wrapped around the microphone stand, not playing guitar, in total control of the mayhem taking place around him. Beggar had everyone jumping up and down, but in fairness that seemed to be happening all the time as the band were on fire. Dave’s backing vocals are a hugely important aspect of the music, and really stand out on this one. Cut is simply filthy, dirty, messy, and with a thunderous groove. It took me until now to work out who James reminded me of with his low-slung bass and shapes, but it is Pete Way of UFO (for those who have no idea who that is, he was Steve Harris’s idol), so into what is going on yet making complexity look simple, as he is so relaxed in everything he does.

Next up we had More Than You Can Do, which Neill said they had not played since 2012. This features a much softer side of the band, commencing with delicate guitar, no drums just cymbals, and no bass. It allows Neill to demonstrate his vocals, and even when the rest of the band join in it stays a hugely emotional number, until it is time for it not to be, when it turns into a poignant banger. The pounding Safe Passage got another cheer when the band launched, with the crowd being as one, a sweaty animal with loud voices and a body that simply must move. When Neill asked the crowd to drown him out on the next chorus, I was wondering what would happen as they had been trying to do that all night! Thomas was now stood on his speaker, from which he then jumped off at the opportune moment, and, as requested, the crowd did their level best to be louder than the band.

They then upped the tempo with Tiny Little Island, and the place just went nuts. Dave was throwing out the tribal beat, while the crowd responded with beck and call with Neill who by now had a smile permanently on his face. James’s daughter was here for her first ever gig, just five years old, wearing headphones. She kept waving at daddy, and I am sure this is a night she will always remember. Dreams may no longer have confetti, but it is still a crowd pleaser. Next up we had the first ever live performance of their recent 5* single, The Launch, a real banger and just as dynamic and powerful live as I knew it would be. We were somewhat rapidly approaching the end of the set, but after playing their most recent song they then went into the very first one they released, all those years ago, Alligator Skin and the clapping started immediately, with the crowd soon giving up on that and instead bouncing and singing with all their might.

That was the end of the set, but we all knew it was not the end of the gig. After people kept chanting for one more song, Neill came back on his own with an acoustic for Saturdays, the song he wrote during lockdown. He taught everyone the chorus, and the crowd relished the opportunity to swear at the top of their voices when the time came. The rest of the band joined Neill as he strapped his electric back on, and we were into the singalong which is Another Time with the crowd still in fine voice. Thomas received massive cheers for his solo, while Dave was still hitting the kit so very hard indeed and James was still throwing shapes and having fun. Neill gave the crowd a small bit of encouragement, and even though the band had stopped the crowd kept singing in perfect time – who needs musicians?

They ended with the ultimate blaster, IFXS, and the place went nuts for one last time, although they were calm enough to sit down on the floor and wait for the signal from Neill to jump up as one. The smoke machines were blasting columns, the lights were flashing, it was mayhem and the perfect end to a perfect night.

Before the show Neill promised me a party, and boy did they deliver.



Photo Credit: Ginny C Photography 
Villainy Photo Gallery
Dead Favours Photo Gallery
The Not Okays Photo Gallery
 

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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