Saturday 28 September, The Cabana By Jamie Macphail
The band’s opening intro is bass-heavy and velvet suave.
It’s 10.45 when the band begin, and their intro is brief, Aaradhna is quickly front and centre.
“Ain’t no Sunshine When She’s Gone” morphs into “Welcome to the Jungle”. It’s smooth, it’s very smooth. The audience is hungry for her and she ends the song with a huge grin and says “It’s SO good to have someone to sing to!”
It’s the first show of her tour. She doesn’t tour a lot.
In 2013 Aaradhna’s third album, Treble & Reverb, took a clean sweep at the Pacific Music Awards, Female Artist, Best Urban Artist, Best Album, Best Song, Best Music Video & The RNZ Airplay Award.
In 2017 she got all but one of the same awards for Brown Girl, and famously was awarded, but turned down her Tui for Best Urban/Hip Hop Artist at the Vodaphone Music Awards, stating that she didn’t fit in the category at all, and was simply bundled into it because she was brown skinned, and that as a singer she couldn’t be given a Hip Hop award.
Both of those albums are favourites of mine. They are intricately produced, and the song writing and musicianship in them is sublime. But it’s Aaradhna’s voice that elevates them to the heights they have achieved. She has a vocal range to match Tami Neilson’s, but it’s into different genres that she delves.
This is Soul, this is Rhythm & Blues in the old school way, this is Jazz in the style of the great queens of jazz from the fifties and sixties. There is even a Dinah Washington song in tonight’s mix. But don’t get me wrong; this music may be steeped in those traditions, but it is very much in the here and now. This is a 21st Century Pacific Woman with a contemporary sound and powerful messages.
Aaradhna has an ease on stage, she is warm, open and natural, constantly communicating with, acknowledging her audience.
But sadly it is her audience who let her down tonight. They are loud, very loud. Conversations all around me are being shouted, and they have nothing to do with the fine performance that’s happening on stage.
About half the audience are on the dance floor, about half of them are holding their phones aloft, recording the show. It is so good to see a bustling venue filled with a young, predominantly female, audience out enjoying live music. Sadly, being about twice the average age of the bulk of them, I did find it a challenge to focus on the music with the constant cacophony of shouted conversation all around me.
Live sound is a tricky beast, every venue has it’s quirks and with a full band and prominent vocals it can be a challenge to get the mix just right. The other thing that let this concert down was the sound. I was surprised to see a local, albeit a very experienced and skilled local, on the sound desk. A touring singer and band of this calibre should have their own sound engineer mixing their show. There was lots going on musically, and someone very familiar with it all should have been mixing it. We had frequent feedback, the backing vocalists were often inaudible, and generally the sound of the band was a muddy blur. You’ll hardly ever get the full intricacy of studio produced music in a live performance, but it should have been better than it was.
It was great to see a singer of this calibre playing live, and her energy, skill and charm were evident, but I left wishing that thoughts of the music were filling my mind, rather than muttering to myself about getting too old to be out this late at night!