With Morrissey at The Vector Arena and these three 80s veterans at Villa Maria Winery, it felt like the summer concert season had begun in earnest. Fortunately the weather was perfect for the outdoor show that saw two of the three bands on the bill tossing any notions of nostalgia aside and rocking out with the energy and enthusiasm of a band just hitting its stride.
Australian rockers The Church began recording in 1980 and are still making vital music now. That was evident in their nine-song set that saw three tunes played from albums released during the past decade.
The quartet (Steve Kilbey, bass & vocals, Marty Willson-Piper, guitar, Peter Koppes, guitar and Tim Powles, drums), took the stage just before 5pm and kicked things off with a beautifully-jangly Metropolis from their 1990 album, Gold Afternoon Fix. With the sunshine and the wine, the music of The Church fit the mood perfectly.
Kilbey then led the band into An Unguarded Moment, probably their best-known song from their early years.
After Almost With You, another early favourite, they played Sealine from 2003’s Forget Yourself. Steve Kilbey abandoned his bass in order to wave his arms dramatically while singing. Fortunately there was a fifth musician on stage to take over the bass when Kilbey was otherwise occupied and who also played keyboards and guitar.
On Angel Street from their acclaimed 2009 album, Untitled #23 was dark and atmospheric with some Pink Floyd-like moments.
Kilbey’s energetic bass playing powered Reptile….and then came the sublime Under The Milky Way.
Then Willson-Piper and Koppes took over from there, each playing some stunning guitar on the final two tunes with You Took turning into a thrilling jam.
Sadly, The Church’s set was over too soon. This was the first time they had played in New Zealand since the 1980s. Let’s hope someone has the good sense to bring them back soon for their own headlining tour. They were excellent.
At 6:15 Devo arrived, preceded by a video montage projected on the back of the stage. The five musicians were decked out in grey Devo gear. To prove they were no oldies act, they opened with Don’t Shoot (I’m A Man) from their latest album, 2010’s Something For Everybody. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the shooting at the US elementary school that took place earlier in the day.
Cool graphics and animations flashed on the screen as Mark Mothersbaugh sang Peek-Boo!, What We Do, Going Under and Fresh. The last another keeper from the new album.
From then on, the emphasis was on classic Devo tunes like Girl U Want, Whip It and Uncontrollable Urge. Though the songs may be over thirty years old, they sounded completely fresh and contemporary…a sign that these boys from Ohio were way ahead of their time.
There were plenty of costume changes as well. They stripped off their grey jackets and donned their classic blue hats for Girl U Want. After Whip It, they left the stage and returned in their yellow jump suits for three tracks from their debut album.
Then, they changed into their black shorts and kneepads. Bob #2 shredded the strings of his guitar during Smart Patrol/Mr DNA.
They left the stage again after Gates Of Steel and came back sporting orange shirts to go with the black shorts. Mothersbaugh pulled a bag of chips from the back of his shorts, had a munch, then tossed them into the crowd for Freedom Of Choice.
For the finale, Mothersbaugh came out as the high-pitched Booji Boy for Beautiful World. During the extended song he commented on Kiwis and Hobbits and almost lost the momentum of the moment when he made remarks about Michael Jackson. The crowd stayed with him and they rocked out with more Beautiful World.
Thirty years after Devo last performed in New Zealand, it was a triumphant return. The crowd was ecstatic.
It was up to Simple Minds to follow those two very good sets. They did, but although they put in a good effort, for me they definitely were the least interesting of the three bands.
Unlike the previous bands, Simple Minds did not perform anything from their recent albums, concentrating on their 1980s output (one song dated from the 90s).
Front man Jim Kerr proved he was in good form, kneeling down and leaning way back during the first song, Waterfront.
For Love Song, female vocalist Sarah Brown joined the band, looking very exotic in her green gown and headgear. “Sing for the Kiwis!” Kerr encouraged her during Celebrate.
The crowd was happy to sing-along during The American and there was plenty of pointing and posing from Kerr.
Sanctify Yourself raised the temperature a bit, but Don’t You Forget About Me, which should have been the highlight, felt somewhat flat. Perhaps Kerr could have done more singing instead of leaving to the crowd. It kind of sputtered to a finish.
And after less than an hour, the set came to an end with New Gold Dream.
Not to worry, the band came back for a 6-song encore that made the pacing of the show seem a bit strange.
They played three more songs from 1982’s New Gold Dream, then Alive And Kicking, which got the crowd up and cheering . After Ghostdancing they closed with a sing-along of Van Morrison’s Gloria.
I admit that I’m not much of a Simple Minds fan and they did little to persuade me otherwise, although Kerr did give an energetic performance and it’s clear they are all fine musicians. I just found the songs of Devo and The Church much more exciting.
The Church set list:
- An Unguarded Moment
- Almost With You
- On Angel Street
- Under The Milky Way
- You Took
Devo Set list:
- Don’t Shoot (I’m A Man)
- What We Do
- Going Under
- That’s Good
- Girl U Want
- Whip It
- Uncontrollable Urge
- Jocko Homo
- Smart Patrol/Mr DNA
- Gates Of Steel
- Devo Corporate Anthem
- Freedom Of Choice
- Beautiful World
Simple Minds set list:
- Love Song
- All The Things She Said
- The American
- This Fear Of Gods
- See The Lights
- Sanctify Yourself
- Don’t You Forget About Me
- New Gold Dream
- Someone, Somewhere in Summertime
- Promised You A Miracle
- Glittering Prize
- Alive And Kicking