20 May 2017, The Cabana, Napier
I make my way to the back of Roy Brown’s iconic venue. Laura Collins and the Back Porch Blues Band fill the small raised stage, glittering lights tinsel in drops to the floor behind and the familiar palm tree silhouettes black on concrete wall. Posters and memorabilia fill this beloved space.
All seats are taken, bar leaners lean, dancers dance, toes tap, heads bob. I stand, drifting back into the wall to observe unobserved. I listen to the clapping, the whooping and in the end the demand for more…and more. Some one yells, ‘Marry me Laura Collins!”
In my head I struggle for words, I can describe what I hear. I know what I see; an extraordinary voice backed by extraordinary musicians. Laura, a powerful feast, sensual, warm, demanding, her body a visual instrument as she moves between ballsy blues and soulful ballads. I watch the ease and joy, the playfulness, the respect, the evidence of long friendships and the love that these big five have for each other. I feel safe. There is no apology on this stage. Yes I can describe what I hear, what I see but how do I describe what I feel?
I think it’s primal. A physical reaction to a voice that cuts through air, that leaves ordinary at the door, a voice that seems to spring from a depth that really should not be possible. That woman could bring a stunned mullet back to life.
Take this primal gift and back it with NZ musician royalty and you have more than magic, you have an experience that will stay with you, one that you will talk about and one that you will want again and again. Once a Laura Collins and the Back Porch Blues Band fan always a fan.
LC and the BPBB hail from Wellington. Laura’s ridiculous talent is backed by musicians’ musicians; Wayne Mason (boogie piano song writer, world renowned and when that man lets loose!) John O’Conner (pedal-free guitarist who’s played with everyone from BB King to Kiri Te Kanawa and oh those notes, those aching notes that seem to twist your body involuntarily upwards), George Barris (formally of Highway on warm driving upright bass, one of my favourite instruments played by a master…bliss) and Pete Cogswell on drums (and as if that wasn’t enough pulls out a harmonica whilst still keeping the beat!)
The crowd finally lets the band leave the stage and disperse, with appreciative messages, back into the chilly night air and home to cosy beds. The audience’s job is finished but not the bands. Pack down. Leads french coiled, instruments secured, gear lugged, squeezed into waiting car boots ready for another round in another town somewhere along the road. Thank-you for coming, please come again. We’ll be waiting!