For the better part three weeks, two of New Zealand’s favourite offspring, Nadia Reid and Anthony Tonnon, have teamed up with legendary Australian folk storyteller Darren Hanlon for a country wide tour of “Urban Folk”. The trio made an appearance at Wellington’s Meow last Saturday. The trio started the evening performing on stage together before playing an entertaining game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to decide the order of the individual performances. After a lengthy but entertaining battle that saw three consecutive ties, the schedule was finally set.
Anthonie Tonnon ended up opening the ticket, cutting a sharp figure on stage in a well-tailored suit and slicked back hair. He jumped between playing keyboard and guitar backed by a solid electronic rhythm section, all the while crooning to his pop-rock ballads. Tonnon moonlights as a radio and print journalist and this shined through in his lyrics, constantly asking questions of the audience musically and referencing current events, politics and social issues. His set included a fantastic cover of Courtney Barnett‘s “Depreston”, which was sprinkled in among songs from Tonnon’s superb 2015 album, Successor, such as “Railway Lines” and “Sugar in The Petrol Tank”. He also did his best Thom Yorke-dancing impersonation during a synth-infused interlude.
To conclude his set, Tonnon engaged the audience during the album’s highlight, “Water Underground”. The packed crowd at Meow was encouraged to sing the song’s chorus, building up to a fervent crescendo as he belted out the songs charmingly cynical themes. Tonnon is a fantastic songwriter, but on this day he showed he’s a masterful entertainer.
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Darren Hanlon immediately followed Tonnon, andhe quickly had the crowd in hysterics with his charismatic brand of Aussie humour (one table of young ladies in particular was amused). While neither of us were familiar with Hanlon’s music before, he instantly won us (and everyone else) over. During “All These Things”, which is usually performed as a duet, Hanlon cited “budgetary problems” for him having to perform both parts, and he handled the roles with aplomb.
His entertaining brand of storytelling was further on display with “The Chattanooga Shoot Shoot”, a hilarious recount of Hanlon’s travels from Atlanta to Nashville on a bus which was shot at by a disgruntled but late would-be passenger. In between songs, he reminisced about his small hometown back in Australia and his travels around the deep south of the United States. The man could spin a yarn with the rest of them and at no point was the crowd apathetic to his musings. Hanlon, in many ways, is Australia’s answer to Colin Meloy of The Decemberists with his combination of whimsical, self-deprecating sense of humour, laid-back personality, and amusing storytelling.
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Last but certainly not least, Nadia Reid took the stage playing songs from her debut album of seven years in the making Listen to Formation, Look for the Signs. Her music was reviewed last year by Pitchfork, helping her to gain an international following (we would like to note that Rich featured Nadia back in 2014).
Her melancholic brand of Americana/folk beautifully juxtaposed the more upbeat storytelling of Darren Hanlon, delving into the stormy resolve of a broken heart from the outset. The dulcet tones of Reid’s voice over warm acoustic guitar have a ghostly quality as if being haunted by love lost, echoed by lyrics such as “Where did my love go? He was a sailor on my ship” in her wistful ballad “Ruby”. Reid’s soaring vocals seemed to grab spectators by the scruff of the neck and drag them into her story, an at one point boisterous crowd fell dead silent. The pensive rise and fall of “Track of the Time” and the ghostly folk crooning of “Holy Low” were personal highlights but Reid’s whole set was consistently engrossing and holistically enchanting.
She ended her set with Tonnon and Hanlon on stage, sharing a new song from the new album she’s currently working on. The song was more expansive, more technicolor in its sound than anything that Reid has presented previously. If offered some insights into the continued evolution of this gifted, young, singer-songwriter.
The concert ended with the three performing a track from one of Tonnon’s old bands and a ballad by Hanlon. It was the perfect ending to a fantastic night of music. Here are three artists that the rest of the world needs to discover.
While it would be impossible to emulate the atmosphere at Meow for this performance, below are some photos that attempt to to come close.
Photos are by Jasper Rain. Review provided by Jasper Rain and Ben Yung.
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