Tuesday, March 8
In 1982 The Dunedin Double was released, a double EP featuring the music of four Flying Nun groups, this year’s festival is celebrating that landmark recording with two of the bands from that compilation appearing across two evenings. First up, The Chills. Martin Phillipps, with a breathy voice and just enough jangle and chime, has created some of the best songs to come up from the south. And this latest version of The Chills, road-tight with a new album behind them, wasted no time knocking out the hits.
One of New Zealand’s most important – and oddly charisma-less – bands, The Chills offered little beyond the songs. Fortunately, when it’s material like The Male Monster From The Id and Doledrums, the songs are quite enough.
There were rarities too – including Kaleidoscope World, hardly ever played according to Phillipps, but measured to fit the occasion (it was one of the band’s contributions to The Dunedin Double).
Material from last year’s Silver Bullets slotted in just nicely around the gems from 1990’s Submarine Bells and 1992’s Soft Bomb. Really, the only issue was the awkwardness of being forced into uncomfortable seats to sit still while the music we grew up with was urging us to move, conjuring images of bar-stools and beer-stains too. Quite why the Festival forces rock and pop groups into these settings is a mystery. Fine if there’s a theatrical element or some aspect of ‘show’ – but this was a gig, plain and simple. And it should have been somewhere comfortable and comforting. Somewhere familiar. Perhaps the seated venue is merely to justify a ticket-price hike.
By the time the band got to I Love My Leather Jacket and Heavenly Pop Hit people were up in the aisles and doing something that occasionally resembled dancing. So, there was a theatrical element – the dancing so white and awkward this show could have been branded The Big Chills.
Top gig though. A nice surprise. Shouldn’t have worked. But it did. The strong songs transcended the stiffness of a lifeless venue.
This review first appeared in The Dominion Post and online at Stuff here