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  • Matt Joe Gow & Kerryn Fields - Gig Review: Matt Joe Gow & Kerryn Fields @ Pah Homestead, Auckland - 7/05/2023

Matt Joe Gow & Kerryn Fields - Gig Review: Matt Joe Gow & Kerryn Fields @ Pah Homestead, Auckland - 7/05/2023

09 May 2023 // A review by Kev Rowland

Back to Pah Homestead for the second time this year, but for an indoor gig this time to catch Matt Joe Gow on his latest tour. The first time I saw Matt was in the same venue a few years ago, but tonight he was not performing solo but as part of a duo with Kerryn Fields. 

Before that we had the opportunity to hear the wonderful tones of Kendall Elise – it has been way too long since I last saw her live, and although I have thoroughly enjoyed her albums there is something about seeing a performer when it is just them and an acoustic guitar which is very special indeed. She commenced with Let The Night In, the title cut of her 2021 album, with gentle picking providing the perfect accompaniment for her soaring vocals. The venue is one of the galleries and is quite a small room but although this did mean there were not many people here, her vocals were bouncing off the walls in a very pleasant manner indeed. She then followed it with the opening track from her 2019 debut, Belgrave Place, which features melodic whistling, not something we hear much these days (the era of Roger Whittaker is long gone). Just two songs in and she had the room in the palm of her hand as all that existed was her voice and guitar, nothing else mattered at all, and when she let the last notes gently dissipate the applause was rapturous. It was back to the last album with Between Hello and Goodbye, which featured strumming on the guitar, more whistling, and even a slight break into yodel at one point.  

Kirks Bush (The Long Way Around) is a story about a place near where she grew up in South Auckland, and is far more strident with harsh chords and her voice on edge, creating an atmosphere letting us know this is not necessarily a pleasant place to be.  Her vocals are incredibly powerful, and in a small venue like this they are quite something. Honest Hand was her last single, and in some ways it felt strange to hear it like this given there are numerous harmonies on the studio version, but they were only missed by those of us who knew it as her performance was superb, finishing perfectly on key and unaccompanied. She ended the set with a cover of Maria McKee’s If Love Is a Red Dress (Hang Me in Rags), a song perfectly suited to the melancholy and power she can bring. Kendall’s set was way too short, as I could have listened to her for way longer – let’s hope we get to see her on an Auckland stage again soon.

Now we had Matt Joe Gow and Kerryn Fields performing as a duo, along with Matt’s Dead Leaves bandmate Andy Pollock, so there were three guitars onstage, two acoustic and one steel. Tonight they were performing a selection of songs from their own catalogues as well as some from their forthcoming album and we started with Kerryn taking the lead on Until You, with Matt harmonising at times, but also stepping back when the time is right. Kerryn also uses harmonica on this at one point, and is totally unaccompanied at another, which made for a reflective start to the set. Matt only released his last album recently, and now it was time for one of the singles from that, 'Til My Whole Heart Bursts, a song I loved when I first heard it and now in the live environment it feels even more dynamic and powerful with Matt showing why he has made such an impact in the scene. Kerryn provided tambourine on this and Flowers In Your Hair, Andy additional guitar licks when the time is right, while Matt also demonstrated his harmonica skills, with their voices combining on the chorus, their different styles working well together. 

No Trace was the first new song tonight, written together when on a park bench watching life go by, with Andy now on mandolin, Kerryn back on acoustic and providing lead vocals. This takes them down quite a melancholic route, with stacks of emotion, and Matt promised the whole album would not sound like this, and it is certainly dramatic. Next it was back to Matt with the title cut of his most recent release, Between Tonight & Tomorrow, which musically is one of his slowest numbers, gradually building, with the mandolin in the background and the acoustic slowly rising in power, with Kerryn adding to the swell. Matt has a bluesy vocal style with plenty of breadth and emotion which really suits this style where he allows himself to swell and domina 

Now we had Mamma, and Kerryn pointed out it had a singalong section, and it was great the lights were up so she could see who was singing and who was not. As soon as the guitars started, someone shouted out “Mamma!” to which Kerryn said, “you’re right”. This won the MLT Songwriting Award in 2019 and it was obvious everyone in the room knew it and were more than happy to singalong. Andy’s plaintive steel on this had a huge impact, providing some nice nuances. Love You Like I Can, was the most upbeat song of the night so far, with Matt and Kerryn swapping verses as the song really drove along. From that they totally switched context and styles with a cover of Sir Dave Dobbyn’s It Dawned On Me, with each taking a verse, starting in an incredibly delicate manner with Kerryn before Matt came in. Next up was Atlantis from Kerryn’s second album, Water, where Andy and Matt accompanied gently, but vocally this was all about Kerryn with Matt taking a back seat to allow her to really shine. 

Sweet Collapse is another of Matt’s belters where he is riffing hard, in total control, allowing his voice to swell, and it is when he is going like this that I can imagine him with an electric guitar, back in the early Seventies fronting a rock band. He certainly looks enough like Paul Rodgers to get away with it. Harmonies from Kerryn and Andy were subtle but just right, adding a touch of class to what is one of my favourite MJG songs. This was followed by the song which is next on the album, NYJJ, where he allows his voice to slightly crack when he leans into the chorus. Andy is very much at home here, providing some perfect lines against the strummed acoustics, with both him and Kerryn adding their voices to the chorus. Kerryn then took the lead on Out On The Porch, her most upbeat of the night, with a real stomping beat and great steel, which certainly had Kendall kicking up a storm at the rear of the crowd. Matt dedicated Down River to his nieces who were here in the audience, Kerryn again on tambourine, Andy providing just some notes here and there, with MJG providing all the emotion, and Kerryn just some harmonies. When Matt lets rip he really does, so much power and control in his voice.  

Your Heart Of Gold is going to be the first single from the album and will be released on 21st May. Andy was back on mandolin, Kerryn started it off vocally before Matt took over with both of them in for the chorus, with harmonica coming in at places. This is another with a strong beat and a sense of being light and full of space. It was also going to be the last song of the night, although Matt did point out there was nowhere for them to go so if people wanted one more afterwards they had to clap really quickly! Of course, everyone obliged, and they finished the night with Georgia Rose, the first song they ever performed together in concert, and it was the perfect end to a great night, with yet another acapella section. I can’t wait for the album, but these guys are still touring around Aotearoa (up in Whangarei on Thursday with Velvet Arrow, who were in the audience tonight), and there is no excuse for not seeing them play if you enjoy country music.

Photo Credit: Taiga Semori
Matt Joe Gow / Kerryn Fields Gallery
Kendall Elise Gallery

 

About Matt Joe Gow & Kerryn Fields

Matt Joe Gow grew up in Dunedin in the South Island of New Zealand, a place with bad weather and good music, meanwhile Kerryn Fields was raised in the North Island with one hand on guitar and the other firmly upon her heart. A kindred connection with their homeland brings an emotive strength to their music and gives their songs a sense of place and purpose.

Newstead Live Music Festival’s Troubadour Artist of the Year (2019), winner of the MLT Songwriting Award (NZ Country Music Awards 2019) and New Zealand’s Best New Broadcaster (at age 19), Kerryn Fields has released a range of celebrated records including debut LP, Rascal (2015) and award-winning, critically acclaimed single, Mamma (2019).

"The combined talents of both these two artists is really a perfect match and the chance to see them performing together should not be missed" - Myles O'Neil-Shaw, PBS FM

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Matt Joe Gow & Kerryn Fields

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