Thursday, May 2
The Bads is, primarily, the duo of Dianne Swann and Brett Adams. They were, previously, The Julie Dolphin and Boom Boom Mancini and were, for a time, based in London. Since becoming The Bads they’ve been back in Auckland and when they go on the road it’s as a five-piece band – about the best five-piece band you could see and hear actually.
So for this show they have the mostly killer-good new album, Travel Light as the showcase. And they have given the songs a good scrub to present them live. Album opener California appears at the other end of the set for example, and is all the better for it. It’s a good song on the record, a good easy opener but it really shines live.
But you could watch and listen to anything this band offers. That’s not to say that the tunes are not good – they are. The playing and singing great. But my word – what a band!
Swann is a great singer, good poise, great underpinning acoustic strum too – solid rhythm. Adams is something else. Quite possibly the greatest guitarist in the country – and what a grab-bag of tricks he offers, taking from country and jazz and blues and rock and bending it all, blending it together to suspend and hang in time as some space-age waltz of hot licks and clever tricks. He’s astonishingly good. And though there are so many ideas they’re always served with taste. That’s the key ingredient – he’s subtle and relaxed and thoughtful. He has all the time in the world. You really have to start naming names like Danny Gatton and Richard Thompson and James Burton to get an idea of where he’s at. He’s approaching those sorts of players in his combination of taste, timing, licks and tricks.
A subtle showcase.
Ditto, drummer Wayne Bell. He simply will not ever play anything that the song does not require. His snare-drum placement so precise, that lovely, loping style of a Jim Keltner, always the implied shuffle and, at times, it’s like Charlie Watts – if someone had taught him to coordinate the two and four on the hi-hat.
Just a marvel.
Then there’s the way this band works together – it’s so perfectly a unit, all of them there to serve the songs. Mike Hall, great bassist. And there are other textures, plucked violin and mandolin, always hints of country without ever just defining the songs and sound as country music. It’s as if country, or alt-country if you must, is the springboard, from there we get to explore indie-pop and there’s just enough of rock’s crunch and crust too.
So a perfect gig then? Well, yes. With one crucial ingredient sadly missing – the audience. It was near enough to empty, sad given the talent. All who were there loved it and it’s always so good, so important, to see a band step up and just fucking hit it – even if there’s nearly no one there.
And they did.
And on this night two bands did. Openers, Craig Terris Band, have really got their shit locked down now. Early shows around the release of the album showed promise – and hints of some magic. But there was, understandably, a nervousness; players learning parts (in this case, parts that one person had created and played). Here they really sounded like a band and there were aspects of brilliant, widescreen rock-influenced pop music; or pop-derrived rock-outs. That’s to say the tunes are catchy, have hooks and harmonies and there are nuances – but there is just enough bombast. The right amount.
Shit it was a good gig. Where the fuck were you?