Adam Hattaway & the Haunters gave it all to a rather indifferent audience at The Thirsty Dog on Saturday night. Their loss!
There are great shows and awful shows. And then there are the shows that just don’t seem to go the way the band expected. Adam Hattaway & the Haunters are most definitely one of the rising stars in the NZ music scene. Great songs, excellent musicians, a charismatic front man in Adam Hattaway, whose blue-eyed soul evokes 60s greats Mick Jagger and Van Morrison. Three albums under their belt. The full package.
Yet they found themselves playing to a mostly apathetic crowd at The Thirsty Dog on Saturday night. Adam kicked off with his favourite party trick – fashioning a balloon into a little dog, which he gifted to a fan. The band then launched into I Need Your Needs, a rollicking country-tinged rocker. This was followed by the mariachi inspired Cuarenta Y Cinco Formas, sung in Spanish.
So far so good, though the band was playing in near darkness, with a single red light on the stage.
Interstate got the crowd rocking a bit, continuing with Turnaround. After which Hattaway offered to blow another balloon, but got no response. He gave it all to You Know You Will, wailing, while Elmore Jones’ riffed on his guitar. Hattaway introduced the bass player Shaun Malloch, who’s just received his PhD in Child Psychology. The band was rounded out with Holden Skinner on drums and Thomas Isbister on percussion.
At this point Hattaway seemed to lose the audience. Bad Things, a subdued bit of country soul, dreamy and filled with longing – was rather spoiled by the dull roar of people talking. They carried on with Fool to Tell but it was clear Hattaway was annoyed. The bluesy Nothing Lasts was all but overwhelmed by loud voices from the bar. Despite this he thanked the audience and the Thirsty Dog staff. He left the stage, leaving the rest of the band playing an interlude, while about half the crowd beckoned him to return.
Which he did with Big Night – a beautiful melodic rocker, Hattaway giving us his gorgeous Jagger-esque falsetto. And he was off again – this time the crowd was a little more aggressive calling him back. The whole set was less than 40 minutes. But the band left the stage and that was that.
Having grabbed a shot of their set list, I noted they didn’t play their latest single Wasting Our Time as planned.
I came away from the show, pondering what was wrong? Hattaway and his Haunters were in fine form. Adam’s voice was astonishing as usual and right up front in the mix, so it truly shone. Great songs, great playing. And yet the audience just wasn’t with them.
I was also photographing the show. Usually, I have to get there early and grab a possie right up front. Not tonight. The audience kept a respectful 2 metres from the stage. Not a soul was dancing – and I can’t count the number of times I’ve found myself jumping up and down with a crowd to keep my lens from being knocked off my camera.
It just wasn’t the right fit. Yeah, some of the crowd were fans, but too many were punters out for a night with friends, drinking and talking over the band. Can’t blame The Thirsty Dog. A pub’s a pub – people go there to hang out. My guess is that Adam Hattaway & the Haunters belong in clubs, not pubs. So it goes.
Definitely looking forward to seeing them next time they’re in Auckland. In a different location!
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