Thursday, July 11
Anthonie Tonnon was Tono and The Finance Company – but that’s all over now. Last year’s Up Here For Dancing Album got a lot of plays in my house, but the recent video for Marion Bates Realty was Tonnon’s last official business as Tono. He’s going around the country now with his new three-piece backing group, playing a few solo songs and then having the band up to carry the set with him. He’s also grabbed a small handful of his Finance Company songs to fill out a set of mostly new originals.
Many of the new songs have a similar sass-level to the Up Here For Dancing Material, take A Friend From Argentina – about the flourishing cocaine trade in the thriving suburb of Ponsonby, Auckland. It’s an early highlight of Tonnon’s set at Puppies, carried as much by his conviction as a Jarvis Cocker/Morrissey-groomed frontman, lecturing the songs at/to the audience as much as singing them, all suited-and-booted gesticulations; that might sound awful to you but I like it – by being such a presence on stage it tones down the main gripe so many seem to have with Tonnon’s songs; that they could just be gimmicks wrapped in riddles, rolled up in a basic guitar-chug.
But the new tunes, on the whole, also feel more, erm, song-shaped, there are even classic-rock moments with guitar solos that threaten to shriek and squeal and a drummer who so thoroughly loves his job his enthusiasm is infectious, he’s like Kenny Aronoff subbing in with Sebadoh.
There are song-titles like Skinny Jeans in the Tono/Tonnon cannon – they’re smart, not (just) painfully hip.
Watching this performance I worried for the man though. He might not achieve what he should you know.
I think he’s very clever – there’s a slight grate to the vocals across a full set, when he soars it’s Rufus Wainwright-esque, with those dippy-drippy Antipodean vowel-sounds though. But the voice – the way it’s used – occupies the same space every time in every song. It’s the same shape.
That and the writing – or rather the perception of the writing – could let him down. And that seems a shame.
On the one hand it can be hard to battle with narrative songs in a live setting; they might be better suited when served up on the record. But even if that’s not the main issue – and it’s not – I just couldn’t help but feel that the world is going to pass Tonnon by. And that seems a shame.
Generation Y has its new Don McGlashan – perhaps whether it wants it or not. I’d like to think he’s welcomed, embraced warmly as a funny, smart, literate pop songwriter. But I don’t get the feeling that’s going to be how it goes down.
Anyway, it was a great set I thought – stage presence, energy, good new tunes and the four musicians on stage worked hard to sell it all to a small, mostly into it crowd; a freezing cold night out there. But there’s a warmness in Tonnon’s tunes. There’s heart as well as cynicism. I think we’re conditioned to believe their can’t be both.
I hope he gets some opening slots for international acts. He deserves a push.
You can get the new songs on tape at the door. Yep, tape. I picked up a copy. Will let you know what I think. Soon…