[Concert Review] Eagles, Mt. Smart (or how to watch stadium concerts for free)

It might be unwise to advertise this, as it might ruin my chances of being able to pull it off in the future – but watching large, expensive stadium concert for free is a lot easier than you’d imagine.

Eminem I watched from the top of a walking track (Bullock, for those in the know), placed perfectly so as to see the Western Springs stage and screen. The audio may not have been perfect, with vocals only somewhat comprehensible, but 30 – 40 of us had a good ol’ time watching the Detroit MC tear it up, free of charge – and BYO as well. For that concert I followed the lead of others and eventually made it into Western Springs amphitheater in time for the encore, Lose Yourself – which seemed an appropriate moment to celebrate joining the age old club of the concert fence jumper.

I repeated the experience a few Saturday’s ago for Eagles – who rolled into Auckland on the back of their History of the Eagles world tour. I’d not planned to see them live – I’d recently been spoiled with great concerts (that I paid for), of Laneway Festival 2015, Drake and Westfest, the latter of which included great sets from Mayhem, Lamb Of God and Judas Priest (I hope to review these soon – will perhaps review them in a reverse chronological order). But Saturday came round and the Eagles called. All through-out that day I had Desperado and Take It Easy in my head, alternating on repeat. So at 7.40pm, knowing the Eagles were due on roughly about that time, I took a train to Mt. Smart without a ticket in hand. Not knowing if I would find a scalper selling a cheaper ticket as so often happens I rocked up to the stadium, only to find the only option for ticket purchasing was a $150 seat right at the back. Eagles were already up to Peaceful Easy Feeling. I decided to flag laying down a large sum to sit in the back of the stadium and instead opted for circling the stadium, soaking up the aural vibes (the sound was oddly good outside the stadium), and scoping out potential fences to jump.

The fences all proved too high and too risky, but I eventually found a spot with a perfect viewing angle towards the stage. I was behind a fence, but the sound was still top notch, and I was pretty much parallel to the stands at the back of the stadium. At this point the band had finished their first set, one that largely highlighted their ballads and after a brief interlude they would return with a decidedly more upbeat second half.

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The Eagles are pretty uncool in a way, their songs have been bashed to death by oldies radio stations, and though it may be kind of like commenting of the vastness of the grand canyon – they sounded amazing live. It might be something about the style of music they play but it seemed perfectly suited to stadium acoustics – not something you can claim of all genres. Of course the huge team of sound engineers and millions of dollars they’re making for the playing the show probably helped as well. The vocal harmonies, dry drum sound, tight bass and jangly guitar of which is characteristic of the Eagles sound sounded crystal clear even as far back as I was, it was almost as if current core-Eagles Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmidt weren’t really there, and that we were all just watching holograms broadcast from a futuristic blu-ray player on to the stage.

You can criticize a band for sounding too much like their studio albums, but there’s also something to be said for giving the people want they want. Dad rockers and mainstream music fans were in ecstasy as the band belted out hit after hit. Early songs such as Doolan-Dalton sounded fantastic, with founding member Bernie Leadon re-joining the band for this tour, adding further to the authenticity. There was perhaps a bit too much self-congratulating, with the story of the band being told between performances (this being a tour inspired by a documentary), but moments such as the underrated These Shoes, Joe Walsh’ Life’s Been Good absolutely rocked.

At least from where I was behind a fence at the back of the stadium they seemed to rock.

To sum up this brief post,  I recommend trying your hardest to find the cheapest way in to the next big stadium concert you’re weighing up. You might not be right at the front, but you’ll still get all the atmosphere and almost the same show at not nearly the price. If fence jumping isn’t your thing, you could always try asking for a ticket from someone leaving the show early. Worked for me at both the 2nd Queen + Adam Lambert show and the Black Caps vs. South Africa cricket world cup semi-final at Eden Park. A great match might I add, thanks very much to the family who gave me their space ticket to watch the last few overs for free.

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Posse In Effect – Lazarus [NEW EP]

Posse In Effect is the indie rap project of myself and Andy Weston. We’re both based in different cities (Melbourne and Auckland) so touring is a bit of an improbability, but we’ve managed to make a few music videos when in the same city, as well as two EPs. Our second EP, Lazarus was released last week, and was a labor of love over the last few months. Demos and song sketches were sent to one another, which were slowly built over time, sending various drafts back and forth, adding new elements, replacing samples, getting guest vocalists and musicians in while trying to get the songwriting to the best possible standard.

Big shout out to the guest musicians and all those who helped during the making of the EP. Credits are below.

We’re pretty happy with the result – it’s good, diverse, New Zealand accent rap. Check it out by clicking on the image below, it’ll take you directly to our bandcamp. Give us a like on Facebook here, and tell us what you think.

Posse In Effect Lazarus

 

Tracks 2, 3, 5, 6: Hamish Gavin
Tracks 1, 4: Andy Weston

Guest Rappers/Singers:
Sam Blissett (Sammy B)
Kellie McDonald (K-Mac)
Harley Neville (The Nevs)
Aidan Ginn (Doughnut Boy)
Hamish Marchant (Marshon)
Rachel Trainor (Raq-Hell)

Guest Musicians:
Nic Dwyer
Drew Handcock (Skillrex)

Mixed and Mastered: Hamish Gavin

Artwork: Andy Weston

2015 PIE Productions

The Theory Of Everything – Hawking on film

I’ve been out of touch with films for some time, so I thought I’d better catch up, seeing as it’s the Academy Awards later this week. I’m pretty jaded these days and I know longer care who wins the big awards, and I’m fairly jaded with the experience of going to the cinema as well, but never-the-less I gave this Stephen Hawking bio-pic a go.

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It’s a good film, and though predictable in usual Oscar bait fashion, Eddie Redmayne as Hawking is pretty remarkable, as is Felicity Jones as his wife, Jane Wilde. It cannot have been easy for Redmayne to pull off the various stages of Hawking’s life, both the eccentricity of his early life and his rapid physical decline due to motor neurone disease. The filmmakers never get manipulative with the emotional content of the story, instead presenting it as it was, investigating the complex nature of Hawking and Wilde’s relationship as they move from being loves, to husband and wife, and encounter many of the same issues that face all couples.

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The direction is clever, with certain elements chosen to reflect Hawking’s theories (particularly those about time). The science is simplified, but not skipped over, so the film is some sense representative of Hawking’s career.

Perhaps what I like most about the film, is it has gotten me interested again in Hawking. I’ve always meant to read his Brief History Of Time and I imagine soon I will. The film has so far inspired me to watch the Errol Morris documentary based on that book and I recommend that film to anyone interested in Hawking’s life and his ideas. It goes well beyond the scope of a bio-pic, so in my opinion it’s still the more necessary of Hawking on film. The whole thing is on youtube, so check it out if you haven’t yet. Produced in the late-80s, Hawking narrates the film from his wheel chair, via characteristic robotic speech. Exploring both his theories and his life, with re-enactments, archival footage, interviews with his family and colleagues and fantastic sci-fi-esque sequences that portray Hawking as a mysterious traveler of space and time – the film is a masterpiece of mixed media documentary form. Surely one of Morris’ best, if not one of the greatest documentary’s ever.

After I’ve read Brief History of Time and perhaps some more recent of Hawking’s writings (and anything else relevant), I hope to be able to discuss his theories more in depth and will hopefully do so on this blog. He has lived a very inspirational life, as the recent bio-pic and classic documentary reveal. Not everyone would lose all their motor functions, their ability to speak and continue to do work and live a relatively normal life –  it helps I guess that Hawking had the money and esteem for nurses and technology and people to help him through his struggles, but never-the-less, as particularly the documentary points out – not everyone could live and create a life’s work predominantly inside their head (without being able to greatly make contact with the outside work in a traditional way) .

Towards the end of Brief History Of Time, things get really deep, discussing the curved nature of the universe, the fact that it may not have a beginning or an end – and that how many calculations seem to indicate that the future effects the past. All awesome and mid boggling theories. Hawking ends by discussing how, if scientists, philosophers and the general public are able to one day discover the meaning of our existence on earth – then we will know the mind of God. Massive ideas there, and very inspiring – part of why Hawking’s influence has traveled so far, from books, to documentaries, to Oscar contending bio-pics.

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[Review] Life Itself (Steve James, 2014)

 

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The life of Roger Ebert, flaws and all is celebrated in this particularly moving documentary on the late, great cinematic figure. I initially wasn’t going to review this film, but Ebert is an inspirational kind of person, if an unlikely one, and his love of film makes film criticism seem like something honorable. His was an arguably right-place, right-time kind of success story, and film criticism does not have any kind of the weight now that it had in Ebert’s prime, thanks to sprawling destructive beast that is the internet. But any art-form has it’s golden era, and film criticism is no different. Ebert is one of the lucky few to have been able to do what he loved for a job, perfected it and been recognized for his talents. A colossal presence in the world of film criticism, Ebert’s love of film as presented in this film is infectious.

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The real reason why Ebert has such a moving and successful documentary made about him when so many other deceased writers, Hollywood figures and film reviewers have not, is that we can learn a lot from how he responded to the challenges thrown at him in the last several years of his life. Having lost his jaw to thyroid cancer, he chose not to give up and throw in the towel, but instead to carry on reviewing films, carry on hosting lectures and write even more through his blog. He was helped with the love of his very loyal wife, so not only do we get an insight into personal struggle and hope that can found within but also an insight into the lives of those who will continue to care for us even in ailment. Ebert’s relationship with his wife is a particularly moving thread throughout the film, an unlikely relationship in some ways as his wife even admits.

The documentary is well pieced together, jumping between narrated sections taken from Ebert’s book also titled Life Itself, cutting to his youth and early career and to struggles in between. Ebert’s life is presented warts and all and the documentary makers don’t shy from talking about his troubles, such as alcoholism in his youth. His relationship with Gene Siskel is equally shown in an unbiased light, showing the tension between the two, both rival reviewers of different Chicago papers, and how strained their relationship behind the set of At The Movies often was. Siskel is shown as being creatively more dominant in decisions regarding At The Movies, yet Ebert was crucial to the success of the TV show. Ebert held the cards with each ongoing season of At The Movies, with Siskel said to have been in fear that his partner would eventually go solo. The developing dynamics between the two are explored as we see them becoming a tighter unit, and eventually friends.

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The life of a film critic might not seem the most gripping subject for a documentary but this film ends up being about so much more, showing a life fully lived –  with all aspects of Ebert’s inspiring and very human journey explored. Ebert truly loved life – and film just as much. If he was alive to watch this biographical documentary on himself, he most certainly would have given t a very favorable rating. Probably even two thumbs up.

Final thoughts on film and music for 2014 (Babadook, Under The Skin, The Interview)

The year has pretty much ended, only one Wednesday left to go. This is the time of year for reflection, so without getting too deep into rumination I will attempt one last discussion of the years cultural moments that resonated with me. There’s quite few albums and films I haven’t discussed throughout the year, so for the sake of conclusiveness I’ll write them up here.

Films

In the previous post I discussed favourite films from 2014, but there were a few I missed. I’ve recently been catching up on missed films, which I probably should have included in that list. One of which is The Babadook, an Australian horror directed by actor and first time director, Jennifer Kent. This is a thinking persons psychological horror, heart felt as well as horrible and dealing with relatable themes. Critics loved this and it’s worth checking out, some very creepy moments and clever twists and turns. Comparable to classic horror/dramas like The Exorcist or Asian horror – it’s hard to discuss the narrative without giving away too much, so I’ll leave it vague. The acting of six-year old Noah Wiseman is notable as well, and credit to director Kent for getting such a performance from a child.

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Another I enjoyed is the much raved about Under The Skin, from Jonathon Glazer, an unusual science fiction thriller starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien seducing and preying on men in Scotland. The aesthetic is a mix of realism and fantasy, with hidden cameras employed in the driving scenes – some conversations unscripted with non-actors. This is juxtaposed with stylized scenes – once Johansson’s unnamed creature succeeds in seducing a victim back to a desolate flat in the middle of some Scottish city, we enter a surreal black environment where men are sucked into this infinite dark swamp. These unusual images contrast with the gritty bleakness of the Scottish normality, although there is also something I found quite appealing about the northern landscape. In many ways the film is Johansson’s, she dominates the screen, her sensuality subverted into something sinister. But this is certainly not a horror film, more of an observation on modern life and the search for human connection in our distant contemporary communities – through the eyes of a creature far from human. The narrative becomes more complex throughout the running time and the themes are subverted further. Probably a surprise it’s so successful given the strange combination of styles, but deserving of the critical response and a film that will outlast many other 2014 releases.

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Upstream Color, the second from Primer director Shane Carruth was equally unusual and contained within it a wealth of themes ready to be unpacked by an undergrad film class. It’s entertainment value is arguable, and it is challenging, but the sound design is amazing, and credit to the skilled way the narrative is chopped up and gradually presented to the audience throughout the film. Worth a mention, but not my favourite of the years offerings.

Lastly, The Interview, which I have to mention as it’s last minute Christmas VOD release makes at least the last most talked about film of 2014. I enjoyed the film, not as much as Franco and Rogan’s previous This Is The End, but it’s not as bad as the pre-release reviews would have had me believe. There are lot of funny moments, it’s all immature as hell, but the script misses opportunities to properly critique American foreign policy, the media and the great dictatorship of our time. What we’ve got is a pretty good mainstream Hollywood comedy, which is better than the bulk of Hollywood comedies (but that’s not saying much). Rogan is likeable and there are some good performances from Randall Park as Kim Jong-un (giving a very Americanized performance) and Diana Bang as a North Korean minister and romantic interest Sook. I laughed a lot – at the repeated gags, slapstick scenarios and buddy-comedy situations, but the irresponsible elements of the narrative remained distasteful after the credits rolled. Although I initially enjoyed the gory shoot-out towards the end as a bit of comic fun, I can’t get with the killing of Kim Jong-un on screen – even if it is for the sake of a mildly funny Katie Perry joke (this context was not apparent when the footage was first released). The moral the filmmakers leave us with is that violence solves everything, an all too American approach, and one only has to take a look at the result of violence within the US to know this is false. It’s a film yes, and not something to be taken serious – it’s good the film was released, censorship is bullshit – but killing Kim Jong-un was not actually necessary to the plot of the film and there were many other less-arrogant ways the filmmakers could have ended things. There were more subtle options the filmmakers could have taken – a fictional dictatorship for example – from a capitalist perspective at least (one of making a profit that is), they’ve probably made the right choice.

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Music

I was going to end by talking about some of my most enjoyed music picks from 2014, but I feel I’ve talked enough now – so true to the title of this blog, I’m going to shut up. Instead I’ll let the tracks speak for themselves. I haven’t blogged a heck of a lot about music so this is perhaps something I’ll try to do more of next year. For now, here are some of the albums worthy of a bash from 2014.

Run The Jewels 2

The best rap album this year. El-P brings his best beats, and along with Killer Mike trade some great, angry, revolutionary and witty rhymes. No filler, all killer.

Ariel Pink – Pom Pom

A time warp to a musical age in between the 80s and 90s that never existed. Yet one that is really catchy, full of odd and interesting characters and much diversity.

Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste

Not necessarily a great album, but there’s a lot of diversity in the tracks and some inventive flows. She tries a bit hard at times, but this track bangs.

Jack White – Lazaretto

The best Led Zeppelin and Rage Against The Machine song released this year. Fat as hell guitar tone from Mr. White. Good ideas all throughout the album as well.

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How will 2015 stack up against ’14? I predict it to be better music wise (new Kendrick Lamar and new Kanye will shake things up rap wise no doubt), but perhaps it’ll be a bit harder to match twenty fourteens film effort. Of course there’ll be a bunch more important things happening world wide in current events as well. Hopefully the world doesn’t end, and hopefully things in our personal lives go well also. I’m sure they will. On that note of positivity, see you next year!

A few favourite 2014 cinema experiences

There has been a lot of great films this year, but I’ve forgotten most of them or missed them for various reasons, never-the-less here’s a few of my favourites. (oh, and – Merry Christmas Eve!)

Concerning Violence / We Come As Friends

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One of the best documentaries at the NZIFF Concerning Violence (Göran Olsson), also one of the most intense. A sad and violent reflection of the affect of colonial rule on African people. Adapted from an academic study on the subject, but put together with news images from a Swedish news archive. Doesn’t sound like the most entertaining prospect on paper, and it’s probably not, but it is intense, important and thought provoking. Also worth a watch was a documentary on South Sudan, We Come As Friends (Hubert Sauper). Friends is the more contemporary, following Sauper as he flies around South Sudan, interviewing the rich and poor, wealthy investors and impoverished locals. Also good example of how modern digital filmmaking techniques can be employed (such as using smart phone cameras to conduct covert interviews.

Whiplash

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Nail biting, gut wrenching drama about something close to my heart – drumming. Through the story of the super-ambitious and talented Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) we are introduced to the world of academic music performance, and the sink or swim environment of the big leagues of Jazz. Neiman is enrolled in Shaffer Conservatory, the best music school in the states, and promptly becomes the pupil of it’s most famous conductor/teacher, Terence Fletcher. Neiman wants to be the best, like Buddy Rich, and Fletcher will help him get there, but the manipulative and abusive journey Fletcher forces him to take makes you wonder what’s the worth. Never the less, the film got me practicing drums for hours after viewing, and even those uninterested in jazz and music will find something to enjoy in this superbly scripted and shot narrative by second time director Damien Chazelle.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Wes Anderson’s latest was funny, beautifully shot with a great cast and littered with references to classic literature and cinema. Mostly just one of the most fun films of the year, with a touching script and lots of great Anderson visual ideas, such as the mixing of animation styles with live action.

Nightcrawler

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This years Drive, Taxi Driver, American Psycho, Network – though closer to Drive than the others. An unpredictable thriller about a slightly unhinged man, his personality quirks never fully explained, who when unemployed and searching for work stumbles across his passion – freelance news footage capturing, or Nightcrawling. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the nightcrawler, Lou Bloom, who’s determination to get ahead in the modern capitalist world sees him sacrificing all those around him –  and getting away with it. Bloom’s encouraged by the producer of a local late night television station, Ninia (Rene Russo), who relishes his voyeuristic footage and airs it to huge ratings – making obvious parallels with the state of news broadcasting in 2014, where we find for example the death of Eric Garner aired on a screens frequently. Darkly funny, morbidly brutal, the film features a stunning performance from Gyllenhaal, that is both creepy, scary and sympathetic in equal turns. The feature debut from Dan Gilroy, visually polished and thematically relevant, surely one of the darkest films to have been a success this year.

Boyhood

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Shot over eleven years with the same cast, has any other mainstream director other than Richard Linklater attempted this? I doubt it, and the wikipedia page confirms my suspicions. I like this film so much, I’m not even sure how to praise it, other than that Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and the two lead kids Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater put in great performance, with the script adapter and tailored to suit the real life changes in the kids personalities, as well as the parents characters adapted from the real life families of Arquette and Hawke. The film is relatable, insightful and as Hawke put it in one interview – “it’s a little bit like timelapse photography of a human being”. Although the title and film do focus on the boy’s growth throughout 12 years, many more family situations are observed, marriages, divorces, graduations, first relationships. Worth a watch for any human being – probably my favourite film of the year if I had to chose one.

[Live Review] The Rolling Stones, Auckland, 22nd November – ’14 On Fire tour

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In order to review a The Rolling Stones concert there are a few requirements. I have to mention that in spite or because of their age, they’re a pretty impressive live band. I have to mention Mick’s energy; that he has showed no signs of slowing down in the ten years since their last world tour. I definitely need to include a few song puns, saying that in spite of the rain, the 38,000 strong crowd left Satisfied knowing that they may have seen this classic band for The Last Time.

Disregarding facetiousness, the Stones did genuinely put on a great show – as I was expecting – although I was unsure it would match up to their performance at Wellington’s Caketin in 2006. It did, with an inspired setlist that included recent-era songs such as Doom And Gloom and Out Of Control, their cover of Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone as voted by the public and a Keith Richards set that managed to be one of the highlights of the night. Richards played three as opposed to his usual two, perhaps giving Mick a break after having to cancel an Australian show due to a throat infection. Richards’ You Got The Silver was the bluesiest moment of the night, his creaky vocals housing a lot of emotion, and the upbeat Before You Make Me Run was a welcome inclusion as well as the standard Happy. Mick’s stage presence is still something to be marveled at, shaking like a man possessed, venturing out onto the catwalk multiple times, in spite of the drizzly Auckland weather.

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I hate to bring age into it again, but Charlie Watts, at 73, is a mother-fucking miracle. Most of the people I know in their 50s or 60s would find it tiring even attending a concert for a few hours. But at his age, still managing to hold down the grooves and with impressive flare is something to behold. His fills have always been sloppy but there is something unique and delicious in his grooves, part of the reason the ‘Stones repertoire is so diverse rhythmically compared to their contemporaries (of which are getting less and less) from the disco of Miss You, to the modern rock of Doom And Gloom. Rock drumming need not be perfectly tight, and Watts’ instinctively knows how to keep the beat just loose enough to roll, but tight enough to rock – and has lost none of this touch with the years.

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I’ll digress slightly to talk about Stadium concert politics – I went for a few wanders during the show, attempted to view the concert from as many vantage points as possible. The giant screens and multicolored stage looked great from all angles, although the money orientated decision to have the G.A. section behind the costly front seated section, meant a lack of atmosphere in many place. The G.A. section was the most energetic in some ways, with a group of Argentinians sporting a hand-crafted Stones flag, and attempting crowd surfing. The seated areas had plenty of people getting up to dance, especially in the stands, and in their defense the majority of the seated floor crowd stood for nearly the entire show. So a minor gripe would be that the G.A. floor couldn’t have been extended to the front of the stage, or at least had a cheaper G.A. standing section and a pricier one right at the front, such as the set-up for Bruce Springsteen’s tour earlier in the year. I guess if you want a standing Stones show you’d have to see them at a festival, and seeing as this most probably will be their last New Zealand show and perhaps last tour – it’s true that You Can’t Always Get What You Want, but if you try.. (you know the rest).

The best place to be in the whole stadium was of course, right at the front, because although the screens were huge they couldn’t compensate for seeing the musicians in the flesh. I may have pulled another concert sneak and made my way near the catwalk.. but I’ll let the photo’s say the rest.

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I haven’t discussed the rest of the band yet, and it would be a crime if I didn’t mention the great guitar work of Ronnie Wood, the youngest of the main four, and guest Stone Mick Taylor, who provided the best solos of the night during Midnight Rambler. On paper a Stones set of this era may appear formulaic, but when there, everything comes to life, with the professional ensemble of support musicians, the sax, keyboards and soaring backing vocals from Lisa Fischer, notably in Gimme Shelter. On stage banter and rapport between the band mates enthusiastic, Jagger reminiscing with the crowd about the Stones visiting Auckland for now nearly fifty years, mentioning the shows with Roy Orbison, and stating that it was too long perhaps.

Fifty years is an extremely long time for a rock band like this to be going, and to be going with all of the enthusiasm and camaraderie they’ve always appeared to have. A large amount of the audience perhaps turned up to celebrate this fact. Though the setlist was slightly familiar at times, they’ve lost none of their ability to entertain and still put on a show that’s probably a shit-ton better than Stadium acts half their age.

Stones Auckland

Original-era rock bands such as The Rolling Stones will soon fade away. Will we have a constant revolving platform of other bands aging and taking their place? Will it be Metallica next celebrating their 50th anniversary? Arctic Monkeys a generation after that? Or will rock audiences splinter and festivals that cater to the diverse tastes of those raised on electronic just as much as rock – metal just as much as rap – be the only places where crowds big enough to fill stadiums will come together to celebrate the strange movement that is modern rock. Or will the music industry finally collapse onto itself along with the capitalist machine due to irreparable human consequences, over-population and worsening global weather conditions. Who knows. For now, we still have our rock titan’s. And The Rolling Stones prove with their seemingly unstoppable stadium filling appeal and age defying energy, that just like any Renaissance-era statue – human achievements can be immortal.

Ok, that last paragraph was maybe a stretch too far, and I’d better end on a song pun, so not to break the cliche of Stones show reviews. It was Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, but we liked it.