19 Jul 2024
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Gig Review: Voom, Reb Fountain & Vera Ellen @ Powerstation, Auckland - 2/06/2024

04 Jun 2024 // A review by Samantha Cheong

Brent Eccles’ alleged idea for a three headliner tour of Aotearoa featuring cherished and acclaimed Flying Nun artists Voom, [Vera Ellen} and Reb Fountain is nothing short of genius and an historical accomplishment. There was a packed turnout at Auckland’s The Powerstation on the Sunday of King’s Birthday weekend, consisting of many adults near or in middle age. Each artist performed with their full bands, demonstrating to us exactly who they are with their music and why they belong on that very stage. “We wanted to feel really big and awesome,” Fountain told UndertheRadar in the trio’s interview with Chris Cudby.

The sound engineering at The Powerstation is consistently excellent. I was able to enjoy a clear and cohesive mix from any spot and I even could have left my attenuators at home when I was right next to the stage. There were moments where backing harmonies, searing violins and drum pads felt emotionally succinct.

Vera Ellen

With winning the Taite Music Prize this year, Vera Ellen is at a record peak in her career, and I expect she will only climb from here. She is absolutely at ease and a joy to see on stage. Compared to last year’s appearance at The Others Way at Galatos where Vera was high energy in a punk kind of way in the smaller venue, there was a stable and untroubled passion that was even more captivating.

Ellen stood with a quiet confidence in a white gown, similar to the one she wore when accepting her Taite Music Prize this year. She opened with Carpenter, knowing a grandiose rock song needn’t always be first. Strumming hard primarily on a Jazzmaster that night, the instrument felt like an extension of Ellen, as I feel it should with high calibre musicians.

Ellen’s producer Ben Lemi smashed it on both drums and guitar. His hair almost touches the stage floor now; it’s as endless as his dedication and focus to the stage. In some moments, Ellen took turns on lead vocals with bandmate Samuel Austin across stage, creating a nice split in timbre and visual attention. The band was united in their silky white ties and in their craft, stripping it back at times to tambourine and vocals.

Lenny Says figuratively switched us to the bridge pickup in its heated up-tempo and riffs. There were also quite a few new songs Ellen shared, that I cannot wait for to be released. These followed the curious lyricism and alt rock of her past work, but with a mix of new content that her audience will definitely enjoy. I’m glad to have heard ‘Heartbreak for Jetlag’ from her excellent surprise bedroom EP of last month. Ellen’s voice scooped downwards in the hook, pulling me into the same drizzle as its emo storytelling that strives to bring comfort.

I’m a big fan of Vera Ellen’s voice, so her live feature on Voom’s B Your Boy in the show finale was exhilarating. I hope to see her collaborate with other acts in future, and maybe even dabble in more pop structures that Voom often facilitates in their discography.

Reb Fountain

It was probably my third time seeing Reb Fountain play live. In the second hour of the show, it was the most confident I had seen her. Dave Khan’s violin and guitar skills are always a highlight, as is Fountain’s narrative-heavy writing.

Fountain performed a couple of my favourite tracks Lacuna and Beastie and she did not miss the mark in bringing the decadence of its live sound above any studio quality. However, she also played the tearjerker exclusive B-side track Hey Mom that thrives on the bones of keys and created a sense of belonging in the audience. Fountain then included her latest cover and release of OMC’s How Bizarre which was perfect for the Kiwi crowd, plus a pair of new songs in the works that I thoroughly enjoyed.

While fan favourite Don’t You Know Who I Am? is a big slow burn type of song, people were enraptured and hung on her every word throughout. During the climax, Fountain did not hold back, snarling the title words with reckless abandon. I and others welcomed the Lyttleton singer’s softer tone and slower songs in the wider scheme of the triple headline event, especially as Fountain can go from evoking tortured poetry to her own singable anthems that evidently stand the test of time.

Voom

My heart definitely went ‘voom voom’ in the third hour. They are a longstanding band who, to me, are still majorly underrated. I must note the band’s use of pink and white tie-dye shirts, especially as their frontman Buzz Moller joked about almost wearing jandals too. He often wielded a miniature guitar, in which his toned arms dwarfed the instrument. They perhaps could have easily sold out their own headline event.

Voom commenced their set with Beautiful Day, the general positivity of their songs hyped me back up after the short break following Fountain’s appearance. A highlight was Voom’s latest single Everyone, which brought us patrons together in its effortlessly catchy and charming simplicity. Buzz’s vocals were clear and energetic, able to pull it back to be delicate in songs like We’re So Lost or rev into high gear with King Kong. The printed words 'We’re So Lost, We’re In Danger' stuck out on the merch t-shirts well; the lyrics were a good choice, especially as the people sang them loudly.

I hoped that the mainstream track Magic would make an appearance and it did. Despite the onstage absence of feature artist Fazerdaze, the song was a pop delight that got the crowd jumping.

Voom always does well in acoustic performances, as clear in 95bFM’s Save The B fundraiser last year. Moller talked about how Martin Phillipps sat unreleased for three decades and his cousin Artie was there to hear it. He shared how the namesake of the song, The Chills’ singer, wanted to feature it in his movie and how it took three decades to release the track itself. The live backing vocals were truly impressive and are part of what has stayed with me following the show.

Lastly, the pop repetitions of Voom’s B Your Boy was euphoric, inciting the most audience movement I could feel that night. Vera Ellen appeared once more and offered the feminine tone I so craved for the take on this song. The crowd yelled the chorus cheerfully and the energy was hitting the roof. The moment that the guitar licked the ceiling with its bends, the high gain lit the Powerstation aflame.

Finally, all three headliners commemorated their fellow Flying Nun artist Chris Knox with a cover of Not Given Lightly. Our main trio joined forces to stir us into a very Kiwiana moment, where they invited a fadeout to the night with some acapella. I had an incredible time and felt lucky to be among three iconic and gifted local musicians. My NZ Music Month was a blast, and June looks promising too.


Photo Credit: Tadashi Jokagi / Joe Photography
Vera Ellen Photo Gallery
Reb Fountain Photo Gallery

Voom Photo Gallery

 

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