11 November 2017, Common Room, Hastings
Tonight was a night, or rather an evening alone with Lawrence Arabia, an evening publicised by the man himself as a surefire “most satisfying” transaction. The transaction transpired with Lawrence Arabia, aka James Milne, standing alone on stage, bathed in a warm red light, in a blue boilersuit with a few guitars, a couple of keyboards and collection of musical “things” surrounding him. It felt like we were sitting in his living room, indulging his eccentricities.
As well as comparing Hastings to a cross between Berlin and Tonga, he mentioned how the opening show of his tour hadn’t gone so well due to technical difficulties. These problems had been well ironed out before this show as the technical side of things, mainly loop pedals and drum machines, were expertly worked into the set. Even the one pedal-problem was dealt with so self-deprecatingly that you couldn’t possibly hold it against him.
The set was made up of newer and older songs; quite a few were introduced as written as a 22 year old, living in Christchurch. They revealed a once idealistic young man, singing about growing up, relationships, cannabis and modern life. There was a lot of contrast in the performance – opening with sweet harmonies to closing with throbbingly reverberating electric guitar.
Lawrence Arabia had the crowd hooked from beginning to end. The one-man-band aspect of the show highlighted his creativity and talent as a musician and it swept the crowd along. Yes, we were there for the music, but his manner won us over too. Prior to a 10-minute drink break the crowd was encouraged to come and tell him what they thought of the performance, maybe that it wasn’t as good as we thought it would be or preferably how it had changed our lives. It didn’t change my life but it was a real treat seeing one of New Zealand’s most accomplished musicians play such an intimate gig in the Berlin of Aotearoa.