14 July, Haumoana Hall By Toby Blakey
Sitting on old school benches made for children much smaller than your modern-day child, we are addressed by Nadia Reid standing alone on the hall stage. She tells us we are in for a night of sad songs, because “it’s what people want, it seems”.
The show starts with her on stage alone, putting her musicianship in the spotlight. She has a beautifully ethereal voice that breathes melancholy and regret. Her fingers glide over her acoustic and semi-acoustic guitar strings as she sings of heartache and loss. Her band joins her in the second song. Sam Taylor accompanies her on electric guitar, bringing layers of atmospheric sound to the show, as does the drummer who added another layer of mood with his innovative use of drums and sticks.
She plays songs off both her albums and some new ones. We sit there mesmerised; enchanted by it all. Although after a while, the set starts to feel like a hot cup of tea on a cold day, the sounds were soft, dreamlike and soothing but weren’t giving me that pulse-quickening hit I want from a “show”. Then suddenly she would light a fuse and launch into The Arrow and The Aim or Richard from her latest album Preservation, both of which are driven with gorgeously loud guitar and atmosphere which rise up and fill the hall. It’s these songs that contrast her mellower songs and set Nadia Reid apart from many other singer-songwriters. Even in these powerfully intense personal songs however, Nadia’s presence on stage is a passive one. Often the only part of her body that’s moving are her fingers. She is song-writer far more than performer.
Following the strongly demanded and well-deserved encore, Nadia quietly leaves the band alone on stage, giving them a few moments to prove their mettle, echoing her entrance on stage at the show’s opening. She promises to return to Hawke’s Bay. I hope, when she does, she brings her passion and emotion to her performance and makes those songs come alive.