28 April 2017, Cabana, Napier
Expectation was high and the crowd was swelling, the Cabana’s distinct smell of sweaty dancers and dissipated dry ice putting me in mind of great nights rocking out to some loud music here. I was looking forward to the renowned Dunedin sound from years gone by that I thought I had missed out on, as my older mates reminisced over the beers about their university days, catching The Chills, The Clean and other NZ legends.
Talking was hushed and the crowd totally captured one minute into support act Anthonie Tonnan’s synth retro rock: loops and beats straight from the ‘70s with a modern spin and understated lyrics. These were bold catchy tunes that made you want to dance in the pulsing strobe. Anthonie Tonnan did a great job, playing with total confidence in his perfectly synced timing to leave the stage and sing from the back of the crowd. He stole the night, I thought; worth catching a full set next time he’s in town.
The Chills themselves were smooth, class, playing tight as a group, though a little lacking in the showmanship charisma stakes, I thought, tending to simply punch through the tunes rather than expending energy to build up atmosphere. And I must say, they did as all seem to do who play in the relatively small room of the Cabana: overdo guitars and drums so you miss that distinct synthesizer from the piano and the vocals are smashed to pieces. The drumming, however, was awesome, the drummer fully in the zone.
I was looking forward to hearing some good tunes and having a boogie, and I wasn’t disappointed, though reactions from the wider audience were mixed. The crowd only seemed to get into the music and move a bit with the big, memorable hits, falling back into a state of retirement on any new tunes. The few hardy souls up front and a bearded lady kept the party going!
Personally, I had a great night. This was classic, well-put-together rock with that distinctive New Zealand twist, and definitely worth catching live. Next up in my list of must-hear NZ rock: the Skinny Hobos, who play the Cabana on May 19th.