20 Jul 2024
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Drax Project - Gig Review: Drax Project @ Powerstation, Auckland - 6/07/2024

08 Jul 2024 // A review by Peter Thornton

“What you see is what you’re going to get. Cut the bullshit. I’m just trying to live in this moment.”

Shaan Singh is in full flight early in Drax Project’s set. He belts out the chorus of Luxury, which is met by hands in the air across a sold-out Powerstation. They are delivering a cacophony of onbeat applause.

It’s a special moment that will live long in my memory.

Whether they know it or not, the talented four-piece from all over the North Island have delivered an anthem for our age.

A cost-of-living crisis, the stress of job cuts and the dim of winter, it is nice to leave it all behind for a night and just soak in a brilliant performance and be present in this moment.

That might not be the desired meaning of their latest single. But on this fine and cool Auckland evening it seems to fit, and the experience is nothing short of the feeling of escapism.

It’s been four years since I last saw Drax perform – when they were a support act to Six60 in Wellington on their national stadium tour – and it is immediately clear they have upped their game in every way.

When Singh and the lads saunter on the stage, fashionably late, their arrival was worth the wait.

They jump straight into Oh My before their iconic hit Woke Up Late and two of the singles from their latest album Luxury and Atmosphere. It’s a frenetic start that has everyone in the place out of breath and fully engrossed.

Throughout the performance Singh is the ultimate frontman. He pulls the strings like the perennial puppeteer. His ability to chop and change from the saxophone to a remarkable lead vocal is enthralling and quite incredible.

The band loves to improvise. They covered Ginuwine’s My Pony (among others - Still D.R.E. / Jenny from the Block / Crazy). Before asking the audience for a topic for an adlib track on the fly. The topic offered was Soggy Weetbix and the result was a fair effort.

One of Drax’s strength as a group is they make genuinely good music and Singh is a clever, understated lyricist.

Over the performance – which ran for almost two hours – there are countless highlights and quality to confirm why this band is much-loved across Aotearoa, and indeed the world.

Songs like Firefly and Disrespect – featuring AACACIA – are now setlist favourites and you could hear the crowd in full voice. There is no better compliment for a band that to hear an audience sing their songs back to them word for word. The boys seemed genuinely touched.

There was some respite in the pace late in the set when they played the three final songs of their latest pop album Upside: SupernovaMy Luck (Someone Like You), and Mr Thunder.

You can’t put a price on good manners and a good attitude. Throughout the performance all four of the lads show their humility and gratitude for people coming out to support them. The sentiment could not be more sincere. Their parents should be proud.

Earlier in the night there were no less than three warm-up acts – Frankie Venter, Borderline and PARK RD with each one bringing something different to the night.

Frankie Venter has a sassy, carefree manner. She produced a punchy opening set that warmed things up nicely. Her indie pop has a distinct Olivia Rodrigo vibe to it. She looked comfortable as she skipped around the stage. She finished her cameo with her best-known song Leyla. At 17, the baby-faced singer has it all ahead of her.

Borderline were probably the star turn of the trio. The four piece who are uber low key have more about them than they probably realise. There was a quiet and endearing charm about their work, and they had the place dancing and engaged. Lead vocalist Ben Glanfield has an undeniable quality about his voice. Their performance included class tunes like Divine and Jealous.

PARK RD were the final warm-up and they got better with every tune. They had a good reception to some of their best-known songs like Call Me Up and RideThe future is bright for New Zealand music.

As expected, Drax finished on a high note. They produced a fine version of Catching Feelings (with guitarist Ben O’Leary singing the opening verse with aplomb). Then in the encore, they brought down the curtain with All This Time.

That song is a Kiwi classic. The irrepressible horn-line from Singh’s saxophone – that sent the place in raptures for a final time – should be considered a New Zealand taonga.

Is there another band in the world that combines the saxophone with such good effect and so effortlessly into a set of pop music?

I’m not sure. But on this magical night it certainly felt like Drax Project are one of a kind.


Photo Credit: Katie-Lee Webster

Drax Project Photo Gallery
PARK RD Photo Gallery
Borderline Photo Gallery
Frankie Venter Photo Gallery

 

About Drax Project

While studying jazz at college in Wellington, Drax Project — Shaan Singh, Matt Beachen, Sam Thomson and Ben O’Leary — took what they learned in class and applied it to another pursuit, making pop their own. The group gained a following after re-working vocal hooks of famous pop songs into saxophone licks. Their cover of Kimbra's track Goldmine went viral and caught the attention of an influential producer, giving acclaim to the newly-introduced group.

Signing to 300 Entertainment stateside as single Woke Up Late took off everywhere, they accompanied Famous Dex on the standout single Light from his chart-topping 2018 debut Dex Meet Dexter which bowed at #12 on the Billboard Top 200.

As Drax Project continued to make their imprint in the US music scene, they gave hit single Woke Up Late a fresh take with a feature from Hailee Steinfeld. As the single climbed to the top of the radio charts, they released a music video featuring YouTube sensation, Liza Koshy. The video took off everywhere reaching 1 million views in a mere 24 hours.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Drax Project

Releases

T/W/OO
Year: 2016
Type: EP
Drax Project EP
Year: 2014
Type: EP

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