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  • Grant Haua - Gig Review: Grant Haua @ Auckland Blues Music Club, Auckland - 19/04/2023

Grant Haua - Gig Review: Grant Haua @ Auckland Blues Music Club, Auckland - 19/04/2023

19 Apr 2023 // A review by Kev Rowland

Tonight was my first trip to ABMC, which takes place every two weeks at Harlequin Bar & Function Rooms in Pt Chevalier. At their jam nights people are invited to come up and play, but they also have guest musicians and tonight Grant Haua was in Auckland so I knew this was one I could not miss (even though it was the second school night in a row). Grant had already undertaken some sessions this afternoon and was now finishing the day by playing here, just a man with his voice and an acoustic guitar, how the blues is meant to be heard. I still listen to pre-war blues, as there is something exciting and vital about music in its rawest sense and that was what we were going to get tonight. Grant’s stunning album Awa Blues had made it into my Top Ten for 2021, while Tahanga (Unplugged) also made a strong impression, so I was very much looking forward to this.

We started with a railroad blues, So Lonely, written about his divorce (“She got the house, I got the song”), and anyone who was sitting back and chatting was soon in awe of his speed up and down the neck. This is a real rocker with no electrics in sight. Who needs cranked up amplifiers when someone is on fire like this right from the off? Sat on a cajon and using that to keep the beat, he was ripping it up straight away, and it is no wonder he has already made a huge impression on blues fans overseas, and there is no way he should be playing to an audience of this size over here. His voice is that of someone who has lived the blues, and with Mumma’s Boy he showed he can bring in a commercial edge even when still being passionate and emotional. This is blues which is only just removed from hard rock, and I was not at all surprised when before the show Grant told me his next album has been recorded as an electric trio, as if he is like this when it is just him and an acoustic what is he going to be like when he is pumping it out with volume? He is a very quick fretter, something which is much harder with an acoustic, blasting up and down the neck to create music which is incredibly passionate, raw and real, with Shame On You again taking us on a journey.

Knucklehead has more of a folk blues feel, with strong picking, and the cajon helping to drive it, no laid-back blues for Grant as all the songs so far had fairly belted along, showing the genre does not have to be languid but instead can have real drive and spirit. Keep On Smiling was written to be a happy song, as so many of the blues are heavy, and there is certainly a lightness in his picking, with a chorus which invites the listeners to join in, even if they cannot compete with the gravel in his vocals. One of the reasons Grant’s music works so well is the contrast between his bluesman vocal style and what he plays, and this was the first song which had people up and dancing, lost in the soul. Tough Love Mumma had even more people dancing (including one guy who was cuddling a giant teddy bear which seemed somewhat surreal). Talking to people around me it was obvious not many had previously come across Grant but were genuinely having a load of fun. There is a fire in Grant’s vocals and performance which is infectious, a guitar technique which is massively complex yet easy to listen to and understand at the same time.

This is the Place will always hold a very special place for me, as there is something about the song (and the video) which speaks to me every time, sheer beauty with lyrics which connects his whanau and his land. It is one of the few which also includes words in Te Reo, and the more laid-back style and passion had people captured: I certainly was, with raw vocals which were from Grant’s heart straight into ours as we heard him sing about his mother’s grave, the tree he used to climb with his brother, his children, and so much more. He followed it up with a brighter number, Be Yourself, which one can imagine to be a real belter when played with an electric band, a total shift in style from the last one as he kept demonstrating that blues is a broad church, and he is more than happy in multiple areas.

Before he started the next song he explained to us that the song title was a compliment as there is no was a man would be organized enough to run a place as big as hell, so it makes sense that The Devil Is a Woman and we were back in a roaring number where his picking was incredibly fast, the tempo right back up again, and people dancing. In some ways this has more in common with bluegrass than ‘straight’ blues, mixed in with commercial singer songwriter and was certainly appreciated with loads of smiles around the room, especially when he belted near the end. He now treated us to a blistering instrumental, I Can’t Let It Go, which gave him another opportunity to show off his picking skills and there were still people dancing (although given the tempo I wasn’t sure how they managed it). He switched it up near the end, changing to chords as he sped along which got plenty of shouts.

He finished the night with a song he plays in every set, the one which turned him onto the blues many years before, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Pride and Joy, cue for even more people up and dancing as he turned his acoustic inside out and sped along. This is a great club, which needs your support if you are in Auckland (tonight was $5 for members and $10 for non), and as for Grant? If you enjoy the blues then his albums are essential and if he is playing anywhere near you then you owe it to yourself to go along.


Photo Credit: Kev Rowland

 

About Grant Haua

Grant Haua
Foreword:

Grant is a “salt of the earth” kind of guy. When we put together a bio for him he said “Nah man. I am a just a guy with a guitar. You need to tell the story straight”. So who better than to tell his story than the man himself - the following is Grants bio, straight from the horse’s mouth. - DF Records

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Grant Haua

Releases

Mana Blues
Year: 2023
Type: Album
Tahanga - Unplugged
Year: 2022
Type: Album

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