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


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.


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.

Rolling Stones Auckland lights

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.


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.


Queen + Adam Lambert Auckland 3rd September [Concert Review]

Note: Footage from the concert below and on my YouTube page


I’m going to find it hard to review this concert – for being a Queen fan for so long there’s so many memories and expectations tied up in seeing an influential band like this finally, in the flesh. But it was a great experience, yes for the fact of seeing Brian and Roger in the flesh but they put on a damn good show regardless of any cynicism one might have about a band still touring decades after the death of their beloved front man. It’s by now getting cliched to compare Lambert to Mercury but I’m going to have to do it never the less. As the other fans and reviews suggest – Adam is a great fit for the band and does indeed make the songs his own, finding his own stage presentation to fit the songs, his own unique flamboyance – playing tribute to Freddie but not copying his style. I can’t claim to be an Adam Lambert fan so I still found myself comparing his performance to the way Freddie would have delivered a song, but that’s going to happen if you’ve spent as much time obsessing over a band as I have done with Queen. But if anyone was going to take this show back on the road with the original members and give it new life, it may as well be Lambert – he’s got a great voice and the stage experience to rock an arena or stadium audience with ease.

The Adam Lambert fans might not agree with me – but the parts of the show that hit me the hardest were when Brian took the mic, first performing Love Of My Life, with Freddie appearing on the large screen to help us sing key moments. This was a live staple from 1975 onwards, the acoustic sing-along of Love Of My Life and there was something so touching about a room of 8,000 singing it along with Brian, with Freddie appearing momentarily. It was just nice to hear Freddie’s voice once again booming throughout an arena. At the end of the song it looked like Brian wiped his eyes, perhaps as affected as the audience at singing along with his lost friend. Roger, long-time Queen keyboardist Spike Edney, touring bassist Neil Fairclough and Roger’s drummer son Rufus Taylor joined May for a stomping jam through of May’s 39″ off Night at the Opera. One of my highlights of the night for sure.


The show was great – high production values with one of the most impressive lighting rigs I’ve ever seen at an arena show, a huge screen that was made to appear as the circular Queen ‘Q’ logo. The rig that made up the Q itself moved over the band in a spectacular fashion, reminiscent of the moving lighting rigs Queen employed in tours between 1977 and 1986. During Lap of the Gods, the fantastic final song off Sheer Heart Attack the giant circle light detached from it’s place in the center of the stage and turned into quite the magnificent ring hovering over the band. Lap of the Gods is a brilliant song – and this was a performance well worthy of previous Queen performances of the song – such as at Wembley in ’86. Brian May later took a guitar solo, incorporating parts of his Bijou guitar piece from Innuendo, and filling the arena with his trademark delay harmonizing. This was set to a hypnotizing array of red lasers and cosmos-esque images.  Visually, very elaborate – and perfectly fitting to a the legacy of the Queen live show.


Other musical highlights include a drum battle between Roger and Rufus, both amazing drummers – Roger with his very unique tom heavy style, and Rufus a technically skilled modern rock drummer. Roger took lead vocals for A Kind Of Magic, great to hear the man singing and would have loved to hear more of him. Neil Fairclough provided the best bass solo I’ve ever heard, dropping in riffs from Queen classics such as Nevermore off Queen II, Don’t Try Suicide from The Game and Body Language and Staying Power from the underrated Hot Space. Adam performed the lesser known songs really well, stuff like Dragon Attack off The Game. It was kind of amazing to hear a song such deep cuts played live and still sounded as fresh as when they were first toured.


The show ended with the traditional onslaught of Queen hits – Tie Your Mother Down with Rufus Taylor on drums, I Want To Break Free, Radio Gaga with the crowd doing their best to imitate Live Aid and Crazy Little Thing Called Love. Then it was on to Bohemian Rhapsody, with Lambert nailing the vocals as a singer as trained as him should. But the original members could not be out-shined – Brian taking his place at the base of the walkway, busting out the most iconic guitar solo he ever wrote while wearing a shiny gold suit reminiscent of the band’s early 70s glam attire. Freddie appeared again on screen in the operatic section of the song and again at the end in a duet with Lambert, each singing a line each. Freddie was most definitely watching over proceedings, but Lambert held his own. The night ended as all Queen gigs have since again 1978, with We Will Rock You followed by We Are The Champions. Lambert wore a crown in regal style, and they all stood together side by side taking one last bow towards the crowd which was by now well and truely one over. Brian and Roger are playing their cards right, appearing to still love performing to the adoring masses, and securing their legacy for many more decades thanks to the suitable front-man they’ve found in Adam Lambert. As another reviewer mentioned, with so many classic rock bands unwilling to tour for the fans (such as Zeppelin and Floyd) – it’s a lucky thing that we have a band such as Queen so dedicated to keeping the legacy alive. That is if we leave our cynicism at the arena doors.

I may have been slightly unfair on Lambert at times – but this is only due to being such a strong fan of the original Queen. The show they’ve put together really is something special, even if it yet again seeks to highlight to lost talents of the unmatched Freddie Mercury in some ways. A part of me thinks they don’t need to still be touring in this way, Brian and Roger both have amazing voices and are great songwriters and performers in their own right, they could have each focused on their solo careers instead of continuing with the world conquering beast that is Queen. I’m divided as to whether I think they should keep touring for many more years – part of me would love to see the show again, but the other part of me feels it’s a great tribute, perfect for a fleeting moment for fans and the band to get together and celebrate their legacy, but perhaps one that should stick around just long enough for it’s best qualities to be appreciated. I hope for a few festival dates at least, they’re putting on a show that feels much larger than the arena’s it’s being staged in. At the end of the day, I’m pretty amazed I’ve had the chance to see any of these Queen members in the flesh and hear these songs live. Credit to Lambert for putting his solo career on hold to play this part in Queen – there’s not many singers who could do as good a job as he has – he’s a much better fit than Paul Rodgers, having the vocal chops, the right glam image and the chemistry with the remaining Queen members to pull it off.


To end this review on a hardcore fan note, I waited outside the venue (the next night, after getting a spare ticket to the 2nd show) for many hours with some other New Zealand and Australian Queen and Adam Lambert fans. Brian took the time to stop and meet the fans, a real honor and it shows how humble a guy he is. The best I could manage was to tell Brian some of my earliest memories were listening to his music. I don’t remember his reply, I was too in awe of standing next to the guitarist who I’d been looking at on album covers for such a long time. Still haven’t learnt how to keep my cool when meeting heroes or people I admire.

Brian May meeting New Zealand fan

NZIFF 2014 Rockumentaries part 1; Nick Cave’s 20,000 Days On Earth

Nick-Cave film poster

I saw three varied rock documentaries at the NZ International Film Festival in Auckland, the first of which, Nick Cave’s 20,000 Days On Earth (directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard), the most cinematic and staged of all three. There was a bit of hype surrounding this one, to which I was largely ignorant of considering I’m not the biggest Nick Cave fan. I like his music, but have never really delved further than his most popular albums (Murder Ballads, last year’s Push The Sky Away). I’ve gained more of an appreciation for him recently due to his live shows, having seen a few streamed from festivals the last couple of years. His most recent Glastonbury performance was brilliant and enough to convert a non-fan, check it out.

20,000 Days On Earth looks at a fictional 24 hours in the life of Nick Cave, on his twenty thousandth day on earth. An extremely well filmed day and productive day, we see him rehearse and song write with his band and have some hilarious nostalgic conversations with Bad Seeds member Warren Ellis. The band scenes eventually culminate in a riveting performance at the Sydney Opera house, the cinematography focusing just as much on the reaction of the audience members as the charisma of Cave on stage.


This being his film, Cave dominates every scene and lets us into his life in a very deliberate kind of way. He takes us on a trip to his therapist, and with a lot of mood lighting as the camera shifts about (possibly on a dolly), Cave gives insight into his childhood, what he remembers of his father and his stints with religion and addiction (addiction jokingly said to be preferable to religion). Cave also takes meandering drives around Brighton which he now calls home, and is joined by people from his past who float in and out, bringing up key moments from Cave’s life and asking questions. Kylie Minogue’s cameo is a particularly notable one as is one of his ex-Bad Seeds members Blixa Bargeld, who discusses his reason for leaving the band.

The overall mood of the film is of inspiration, spending much time looking at the creative process behind Cave writing his songs and the influence of the past on his work. I left feeling quite inspired. Although it’s all about Cave, through several monologues he connects to larger themes of the benefits of living a life for art. Cave seems to want to inspire us to be productive, to be more adventurous with our ideas. I feel any creative type will benefit from a trip into an artist’s world such as this.

Watch the trailer:

Arctic Monkeys New Zealand May 2014 [live review]

Vector Arena Auckland

AM in Auckland

Anticipation has a habit…

The highly awaiting chance to see Arctic Monkeys live again got taken up to the next level due to a chance opportunity to go to both Auckland and Wellington shows. I had posted on the Arctic Monkeys online forum weeks in advance asking if anyone had a spare ticket to either show, as I had missed out on the original G.A. sale and was looking to not buy from scalpers if possible. Just last week an admin of the forum named Athena saw this message and offered me a spare Wellington ticket she had, as she could no longer make the trip from Australia. I was blown away by the generosity and offered to pay for the ticket but she insisted on no payment. Fellow Monkeys fans are the best. So after a few days of deliberation I jumped at the chance (perhaps self-indulgent but I will pay it forward when the opportunity arises) to go to both shows.

Early morning plane to Welly

Early morning plane to Welly

Crowds queued up early at both shows, with mostly the teen fan base taking a place long before the doors open, attempting to get as close to their heroes as possible. Wandering the streets of Wellington in the early morning, about 8.30am after my plane touched down, I came across a small group of fans who were already sitting outside TSB Arena, complete with sleeping bags and necessities to keep them going. Some told me they had been waiting since four in the morning. It seems Arctic Monkeys fandom has well and truely continued after their initial success of the last decade, undoubtedly on a second wind due to the success of last years AM.

The night before in Auckland I arrived relatively late to the venue, only securing my ticket very last minute. I caught up with a few friends and then took my place inside, having missed the opening act Pond. I would catch them the next night at Wellington, and there they were awesome, sounding heavier and carrying more weight live than on their albums. They deserve to have their own limelight, and escape the shadow of fellow Perth-psychedelic rockers Tame Impala, who they have shared several members with.

Anticipation has a habit to set you up for disappointment in evening entertainment some say. And I had years of pent up anticipation brewing before the Arctics took stage in Auckland. I had a seated ticket for that night right down the back of the arena and as the boys came out and launched into One For The Road I quickly realized this seated thing would not do. The music sounded great, the band looked great, but Vector Arena’s screens weren’t on and many people were staying in their seats, not dancing around my area. I made my way down the steps to the side of the barrier, with the arena within jumping distance below me. I did not plan this, but by the time of Arabella I felt my decision had been made for me. A security guard turned his back and in time to the music I jumped, hitting the floor and loosing my footing as I fell. I quickly got up and ran into the standing masses, a little shocked and incredibly excited that I had not been caught and thrown out. I continued to make my way into the mass of people as the band started up with Brianstorm. Any potential disappointment was soon eradicated, within the standing crowd was the place to be, as I had previously assumed.

Adoring Masses, Vector Arena

Adoring Masses, Vector Arena

“…Evening Entertainment”

Boy had things moved on since New Zealand last saw the Arctics live at the Big Day Out 2009 before the release of Humbug. We’ve all followed the youtube streams, Glastonbury performances and other album promotional stuff since then, so the look of the band came as no surprise. Nick O’Malley still rocking his beastly beard, Jamie Cook now back with long hair, Matt Helders letting his curls grow out a little longer and Alex with the characteristic quiff and expensive suits that have come to define him in this period of the band. The first time I caught them live in 2009 at the Auckland Big Day Out the band opened with Pretty Visitors, a completely new track at that time, which sounded great but felt a slightly awkward opening to a festival set (Alex played the keys then which is now left to touring keyboardist Thomas Rowley). This time the Arctic’s took the stage bathed in red light to the sound of a backing track, which led into a slightly extended One For The Road intro. The confidence the band has gained from years of non-stop touring is immediately apparent. I was glad to see the band had brought the giant AM lights down this side of the world (although they were no doubt smaller versions than the colossal ones present at the 2013 European tour) and the general lighting design went for the huge and impressive, with smoke and strobes utilized to impressive effect. A far cry from the couple of lamps that littered the stage back at the Big Day Out.

The new songs sound almost studio perfect live, with Davey Latter filling in the extra percussion and back up vocals, his spot to the back left of the stage just to the left of the giant ‘A’ light, but still visible. As well as keyboards Thomas Rowley fills in extra live guitar, often doubling the Jamie’s rhythm licks, with fills up the sound. Matt’s drumming is on point, he’s an ever impressive live drumming nailed every fill and beat. Occasionally I wondered if the tempos were slightly slower than on the album, but this was possibly only noticeable in the old material, Florescent Adolescent and Dance floor particularly, perhaps a symptom of the band moving on from their punk roots and towards this more groove orientated direction. Jamie’s playing was also tight as, and he seems to be moving around a bit more, though still keeping near his pedals. He was particularly in motion at the Wellington gig, perhaps encouraged by the rapturous crowd response at that second gig. Nick’s stage presence is also at a new peak nowadays, due largely to his great beard and his backing vocals were one of the most impressive parts of either gig. He now performs Josh Holmes vocal spot in Knee Socks and if you close your eyes you can barely tell a difference between the two. Hopefully they continue to use his vocals in the future.

Finally Alex, now every bit the front man, teasing the crowd between songs – stalking the stage with just a mic in Pretty Visitors and Arabella like some indie rock Elvis – nailing the vocals of every song and switching between lead and rhythm with effortless ease (Alex’s lead/vocal double act in the chorus of Knee Socks is some pretty impressive stuff to watch). Ladies love him, guys want to be him (judging by the Alex turner haircuts around both arena’s); he might come across a bit more full of himself than the Alex of 2009, but it seems to be working in terms of pulling off a gripping live show.

The lights, Vector Arena

The lights, Vector Arena

Wellington or Auckland, “Do I Wanna Know?”

In terms of the differences between the gig, I think the Wellington show had better atmosphere, the crowd was electric and really densely packed due to the small venue. The boys seemed to register this and the energy on stage was higher, as well as more banter from Alex at that second show. At one point Alex asked for the audience lights to be turned on, at which he pointed to a silhouette in the back of the arena, stating something along the lines of “that’s some trippy stuff Wellington, looks like a James Bond title sequence” in his Sheffield-cum-Rockabilly drawl. I wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about but the audience appreciated the interaction. Later before final track R U Mine? and after I Wanna Be Yours, Alex pulled out the effective routine of “we are yours Wellington, but I have one question to ask.. R U Mine!?” (paraphrased). His in between song banter through out was as amusing and the crowd responds enthusiastically every time. Auckland was as good of a show as well, not to do any disservice to it, but due to me having to mission into the G.A. area part of the way into the set and perhaps the more intimate size of Wellington led to me putting that second show just slightly above the first. Maybe also the fact it was my first show at the TSB Arena in Wellington, and the little I had adventure surrounding that second gig with a 6am flight (not to mention the last minute hook up of the ticket from Athena); these personal elements probably have some part to play in my preference of the second gig. But both amazing shows none the less, justifying why I hold this modern rock band so much higher than many others.

auck am sharp

The boys lookin’ sharp in Auckland

“Nothing on the early stuff”

As well as nearly hearing the whole of the new album over the course of both nights (we got Number One Party Anthem at the second show, the only songs missing were Mad Sounds and I Want It All ) the band treated us to many of their old classics. Having missed the Suck It And See tour, I was stoked to hear She Thunderstorms. I’m a big fan of Suck It And See and was hoping for just a few random tracks from that album, so that did the the trick. Library Pictures was also a highlight of both sets, the fast numbers standing out even more against the groovier new numbers. From Humbug we got the ever kick ass Crying Lightening, a live favourite of mine. At the Wellington show, a rare live stumble occurred just before this song with Matt cutting off an introduction from Alex by counting the song in perhaps too soon. Both shows also got a version of Cornerstore, with Alex playing the first verse and chorus acoustically by himself. Auckland also was lucky enough to receive an epic version of Pretty Visitors from the same album. From Favourite Worst Nightmare both shows featured Brianstorm which never fails to set the crowd jumping, the sing-along of Florescent Adolescent which I felt was played slightly slower (and perhaps has been since the Humbug tour) and 505, which seems to be quite a crowd favourite. Auckland got 505 as the traditional encore closer, whereas 505 closed the first set at Wellington, with R U Mine closing the show that time round. I have to say I prefer R U Mine? as the set closer and it’s good to see them mixing it up. From the first album we got the very welcome Dancing Shoes and that other song which needs no introduction (Bet You Look Good), that seems to forever remain their number one crowd favourite (the little kids seem to have got into it like it was 2006).

The lights in Wellington

The lights in Wellington

I should note that the new material got some of the largest applause from the audience, particularly and perhaps unsurprisingly Do I Wanna Know?, which I felt worked better earlier in the set, such as in Wellington, than as the first set closer as per Auckland. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? came early in the set in Auckland so had more of an effect on me when placed at the start of the encore in Wellington. At that second show, High? came across to me as one of the biggest set highlights and I hope it remains a fixture. It was also great to hear I Wanna Be Yours both nights, which I assume won’t stay in the set forever, but is probably the darkest song of the set at the moment and a real moody juxtaposition. Great to hear Helders on the electronic samples during this song as well.

Being on old fan since the Beneath The Boardwalk days, I have to be lame and say I miss not hearing a lot of the old material. There was sadly no Old Yellow Bricks that I was hoping for given it’s inclusion in 2013, and part of me left Wellington wondering what had happened to Teddy Picker/Still Take You Home/A Certain Romance, that sort of stuff. They’d be huge crowd numbers so I hope they don’t retire them for good, but in saying that they’re starting to amass quite a large list of classics so it’s impossible to hear them all. They also seem to have stopped playing b-sides at the moment, and even though it’s not yet had a live debut, it would be great to hear stuff like Stop The World which I personally think is one of their best songs and probably deserved to be on the album.

But in spite of being a picky AM nerd, both gigs were amazing and satisfied the several-year long urge to see the band live again. For the time being that is, I see me travelling to see them live many times in the future, hopefully at some international festivals. I don’t see why it won’t happen as well, they’re showing no signs of slowing down.

Alex in the blue

Alex in the blue

“Your heroes aren’t what they seem…”

The only other disappointment of the weekend, was I failed in my attempts to stalk and get a photo with any member of the band (but this is definitely periphery to the music). I spent most of Saturday waiting around TSB arena, the hoping to spot the boys coming in for a soundcheck. At around three o’clock their music could be heard from within the venue, so we all thought it was them soundchecking. Turns out false alarm, and was just the sound crew testing the gear, fooling us all. I was there however when their cars arrived at TSB arena, and led a gang of 15 year olds at their first concert up to try and meet the band. They were running late so went straight inside though but Alex did give us a wave. Was kind of cool as well to see who traveled with who, Matt was in a car with Jamie, Alex with Nick in another car. Apparently they were hanging out at Wellington bar Mighty Mighty later that night, but I was pretty exhausted after the show, so we’ll have to give up the stalking until next time (or maybe give it up completely and repress the instincts of the teenage fan-boy within).

TSB Arena, the morning after

TSB Arena, the morning after

But I hate to end on a pessimistic note and it was a pretty damn good couple of gigs indeed. The Arctic fan base in strong down these southern ways and seems set to remain, so hopefully the boys come and grace us with a few more gigs next tour. With another couple of albums the size of AM, they could be doing their own stadium shows rather than basketball arenas next time we see them here.

To finish, here’s a video of  R U Mine? recorded on an Ipod Nano I had in my pocket. Pretty awful quality, but alright for archival purposes: