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  • The Exponents - Gig Review: The Exponents @ Auckland Town Hall, Auckland - 28/04/2023

The Exponents - Gig Review: The Exponents @ Auckland Town Hall, Auckland - 28/04/2023

28 Apr 2023 // A review by Kev Rowland

Just over 40 years ago, singer Jordan Luck and guitarist Brian Jones decided the future was no longer in Timaru with their band Basement, and along with their bass-playing mate Steve Cowan relocated to Christchurch. It was here they came across drummer Michael 'Harry' Harallambi and bassist David Gent and they were such a good fit that Steve decided to switch to keyboards and guitar, and The Dance Exponents were born. In 1983 they released their first studio album, Prayers Be Answered, which went platinum in NZ and gave them their first classic single in Victoria. Over the years there were some line-up changes, and they even went to the UK for a period, before returning to NZ and changing the name slightly to mark a new chapter in the band before calling it a day at the end of the Nineties. But their music never went away, and there were some reunions while Jordan formed his own band who have toured heavily so that anyone half interested in live music will have seen them a few times. They were recipients of the 2015 New Zealand Herald Legacy Award and were also inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame.  

Fast forward to 2023, and it is the 40th anniversary of that incredible album, so what better way to celebrate than to go out on tour with the original quartet (Cowan died in 1986), and bring along old mate, guitarist Brett Adams (The Mockers, The Bads). Hang on, given there are two distinct periods of the group, why don’t they support themselves? So for the first time ever, we were seeing both The Dance Exponents and The Exponents on the same bill, concentrating on different albums (although we all know Victoria will be an encore). We walked in to see a backdrop stating, “Your Best Friend Loves Me Too”, another classic from that album, and I knew we were going to be in for a singalong night. Even before the band came onstage we were being treated to classics from the era to get us in the mood, with Cars being followed by Burning Down The House, and the Town Hall just buzzing in anticipation. The lights went down, and then the medley of Dance Exponents songs started playing through the speakers, building to a climax. 

The band came on and Jordan told everyone they were The Dance Exponents from Christchurch and had gone looking for The Gluepot (long closed classic venue) and instead had got lost, found their way here, but maybe they were in Poland, and we were off to one of their first singles. It was obvious that tonight was not just going to be about the hits, as this didn’t chart, and there would be plenty for the diehards as well as the casual fans. The band were on fire from the off, and one would never know they had been away from the scene for so long, with Jordan looking so happy to be back with his mates, and Your Best Friend Loves Me Too got everyone singing along, punching the air and dancing, and we were only the second song in! That is such a classic it is hard to imagine it never charted, but next up was Airway Spies, a non-album single from 1982, which made it to #11 – massively upbeat and belting along. The crowd were often being lit up already so the band could see just how much fun everyone was having – the party was in town, and The Dance Exponents were in charge. Brian was providing some nice rough edges on this, which was just rocking along. 

The tribal drums started, and soon we were into Know Your Own Heart, another Top Twenty from 40 years ago. This has a very different feel from much of their material, with the drum pattern incredibly important throughout, and Jordan’s vocal style far more languid and almost relaxed, with both guitarists adding gentle chords as opposed to riffing. Jordan may have been having a whale of a time, but there was no doubt that David was also incredibly happy to be back onstage, and there were plenty of shouts of recognition when Jordan shouted out, “Otautahi”, and we were into the classic Christchurch (In Cashel St I Wait). It may have never been the hit it deserved to be, but this is a South Island anthem, and rightfully so, with huge guitars and multiple sections.  

While the band played the introduction to Caroline Skies, Jordan went back to get a drink of water, and the interplay between him and Harry was great to see, as they were obviously having a blast and enjoying what they were doing. Hearing these songs played live for the first time in years it is amazing to hear just how varied and relevant they are today. All I Can Do is another which today is recognised so much more as a classic then when it was released (when it got to #23), and looking around people were smiling, dancing, and singing. This was the first time we were encouraged to sing the chorus, and we happily obliged. There was a shoutout to Geraldine (the place), and then we were taken back all the way to 1982 with Gone Forever In Another Car, with Jordan the ringmaster of the circus, not looking anything like his age as he never stopped moving and swinging his hips while sounding just as powerful and glorious as ever. Only I Could Die (and Love You Still) is still an upbeat belter, and the crowd were just getting warmed up as they joined in on the chorus, dancing away. They ended the set with the picking intro to Ashened Ashened Autumn Leaves from 1985’s Expectations, and again Brett provided some sweet solos with Jordan in total control. It was obvious this was not as well-known by many, but it wasn’t going to stop them from dancing, even though it has multiple sections and slows right down at times.  Jordan announced it was time for Dance Exponents to leave the stage but not to worry as The Exponents would be here soon! 

One thing about having the same band support themselves is that there is not much for changeover, and some roadies came on and reversed the banner on the drum riser and lifted the backdrop, and they were done. Mind you, I am sure the band needed some recovery time as they are not as young as when they first started out! No backdrop, but a video wall displayed some of their old videos before they came back onstage, and it is certainly interesting to see how they have changed over the years. Talking of change, the guys had raided the wardrobe while offstage, and were looking ready to go all over again. When The Exponents came back in 1992 their first album was Something Beginning With C, a triple platinum and #1, and one of the first releases from that was Please Please and Thank Yourself and the second set kicked off with this blaster with Brian and Brett locked in. A special shoutout must go to the guys in the audience who were rocking to this with their mullet wigs. There was a very bluesy and slow intro to the next one, but there were some shouts of recognition as we went into one of their biggest hits, the up tempo staccato belter which is Whatever Happened to Tracey, and again the audience were in fine voice. Most of the people in the circle were also up and dancing now as well. Jordan stopped singing, held his hand to his ear, and the crowd responded, and how. Here was a band who started more than 40 years ago, and the audience were treating them like conquering heroes. 

Crunching strident guitars combined with a rock-solid bass and drums and we were off into Erotic, with a suitably interesting backstory from Jordan. This hits hard, with both guitars linked in with each other, the rhythm section providing the foundation, and then there is the frontman, who at one point said, “too much fun!”. It was obvious the band were having as much fun as the sold out audience, and why not? We were hanging on everything they did. Jordan loves to tell a tale, and even got the crowd to sing the chorus to Forever Tuesday Morning for Brett, and then they kicked into Like She Said, and there was a real impression that the first set was the warmup, and they were blasting harder and heavier in the second. Mind you, we all knew there some Dance Exponents classics which had not been played yet, so they would form part of the finale. They were blasting along, but slowed it down with Change Your Mind, giving both them and the audience the opportunity to catch their breath, with Jordan putting everything into his vocal performance. 

They kept it quiet with The Nameless Girl with both Harry and David leaving the stage, Brian gently picking and Brett coaxing notes out over the top, with the focus (as always) on Jordan. This is a very different sound and feel for them, and it was obviously a deliberate slowdown before the guys went into the final straight, although this does change somewhat near the end, and everyone was clapping along as the rhythm section came back and the tempo and pace were upped. La La Lulu could have come straight from the Seventies, a hard rock number dripping blues and hooks, an anthem where Jordan is the master of sleaze and composure. Yet again everyone was moving, although in fairness they had not really stopped all night, and it was interesting to note that there were quite a few people in the audience in their teens and twenties, proving just how much impact these guys have had on NZ culture. We were getting the build now, and a video played showing New York from back in the day and we were into Sink Like a Stone with the audience and band as one, Jordan conducting. The band may have finished the song, but Jordan got everyone singing again, and then he said, “And that’s why we love you the most” which led to massive cheers. 

Jordan didn’t sing the first line, as there was no need, the crowd were smiling and singing for him. Given this was one of their biggest ever songs we all knew were on the final run now, and no-one needed any encouragement to get involved. Brian crunched out the riff, making it the filthiest version I have ever heard, yet the crowd were making themselves heard above it all. Jordan asked if the other band could come back on for a bit, and while Jordan kept talking, Brian and Brett gently played the intro to I’ll Say Goodbye (Even Though I’m Blue) in the background. The crowd picked up and started singing before Jordan, and then it was full on, with band and audience joined together in one of the all-time NZ Music classics. Jordan was stood there for ages with a smile on his face, just listening to the crowd sing to him. It did not take much encouragement for the crowd to then participate in pitting different sections against each other. This was such a fun night, a real blast, did it really have to end? They were now showing loads of photos of the band up on the screen, and this was the end. Or was it? 

We now went through the age-old ritual of calling for an encore, while the band waited until they felt we deserved it. Would they come back? Was there anything left to play? A keyboard was brought onto the stage, and elderly gentleman sat down, and we were introduced to none other than Michael Chunn (Split Enz, Citizen Band). He was the person who signed them to Mushroom Records and convinced them to record Victoria, and here he joined them on piano for that song, while the crowd did their very best to drown out Jordan. The crowd were bouncing, singing all the time. Of course, that meant there must be just one song left, Why Does Love Do This To Me and the crowd responded one last time, lifting the roof off the Town Hall. What a night, what a blast, what a band (or two), Amazing.

Photo Credit: Joe Photography
The Exponents Gallery
The Dance Exponents Gallery


About The Exponents

Eighteen remarkable, hit-strewn, sing-till-you're-hoarse years have somehow elapsed since a bunch of skinny Christchurch boys tinkered away on an ambitious pop masterpiece called 'Victoria' and thus lodged themselves indelibly in the national psyche.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for The Exponents


Sex & Agriculture
Year: 2005
Type: Album
Expectations (Reissue)
Year: 2004
Type: Album
Hello, Love You, Goodbye
Year: 1999
Type: Album
Better Never Than Late
Year: 1997
Type: Album
Grassy Knoll
Year: 1994
Type: Album
Something Beginning With C
Year: 1992
Type: Album

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