Friday, May 22
SJD is both Sean James Donnelly – and the kick-ass band he’s at the helm of; this line-up features some long-time collaborators (Chris O’Connor on drums, James Duncan on guitar, Victoria Kelly at the keys and BVs and Sandy Mill as harmony and co-lead singer, Mike Hall on bass and clotheshorse).
This line-up also has Sean’s very best (brand new) album to work with. And what is now a formidable back-catalogue to cherry-pick from.
And at every step we have a band so seemingly thrilled to be working with this musician and this material. It’s palpable. Victoria Kelly’s a hypnotic presence at the keys, she appears to be typing a letter in the snowy backdrop of a Kate Bush music video, Sandy Mill, with the voice of an angel, gives gospel clout to the fiery funk of Jesus, she’s also a dab hand with the extra percussion required to make Songs From A Dictaphone’s opener, Bad Karma In Yokahama really pop in its live incarnation.
And at the back we have O’Connor, arguably the most creative drummer in New Zealand, his improv and jazz training now allowing him to colour up pop songs. There he is, too, singing every song. Off-mic, but so obviously in tune with the material, attuned to the internal grooves as he authoritatively stamps down the external one.
And as the set gains momentum the very best of the SJD catalogue is offered up – a version of Superman, You’re Crying that slowly, surely evolves into a superjam. The calm and lovely Beautiful Haze and – added bonus – a stonkingly good version of The Crocodiles’ perennial, Tears.
The venue was packed – and it felt terrific. And yet, up the front, in the early stages, it was pushy and somewhat revolting. There were hecklers (who pays money to see an act and then shouts at them to “play something we know” or, worse than that, “play some Metallica”?) There were some giant fucking dunderheads there actually. A shame.
Thankfully the power and honesty in the performance, real musicians nailing real music to the mast, transcended the slightly ugly elements at play in that strange audience. But good to see MOON packed though, great to think that Donnelly, who hasn’t performed in Wellington for a couple of years by my count, had a great crowd.