Friday, March 11
The main thing I took home from this show – a terrific gig, featuring Tami and band up at the San Fran in Wellington – is that this Hot Rockin’ Band of Rhythm is exactly what a supporting band should be.
Tami was wonderful, her voice is superb, she has great banter – and back-story – and whether servicing those great recent albums, Dynamite! or Don’t Be Afraid, the songs are strong. We also get some great tracing of influences, if you don’t hear the time spent listening to Patsy Cline and Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn and Dolly and Elvis (…and…and…) it’s acknowledged in a smart range of cover tunes that augment her originals.
This feels like a proper show now, in no way contrived, and if Marlon Williams wasn’t on hand to duet (due to the explosion of his own career) then Jeremy Taylor offered a fine walk-on in place.
But all the while, whether Neilson was crooning of heartache/break or celebrating some spirit of joy it was this band, working as one, a slow-burn unit, that sold the sound and never once aimed to steal the spotlight. This was important to note, because so often – even with the best players in the world – they’re waiting in the wings for their chance to shine. They’re hoping for a vital 10 or 20 or even 60 seconds their little run, or huge solo, is going to be the star-making moment, the point of difference. Not with Neilson’s band. This was a lithe backing unit that worked with and for each song. That knew the star of the show was Neilson. That knew, also, the star of the show – in some sense – is the songs.
They were there to serve the songs, as well as serve them up.
And you felt that at every step. You saw and heard a set of musicians – Neilson included of course, she is after all at the helm – so in step with each other so in tune with the very concept of music that it was mesmerising, spell-binding and, well, correct.
It doesn’t happen all that often.
In fact it hardly happens at all. Too often the lead guitarist is just waiting to burn. To let rip. To say, through music, Look at Me. That never happened on this night. Some weepy steel, and brushed drums, some twangy guitar leads, none of them ever in search of even a momentary spotlight, all of these tones and textures pulling the audience in further toward the performance, into the songs. Never even a moment where it seemed like it was distracting or taking away.