Concert Review:  Colette Rivers – Wine Cellar January 16, 2021

In an intimate below-ground venue in the heart of Bohemian Auckland, Colette Rivers unpacks a powerful voice, the second in the series of live shows promoting her just-released debut album Memory Lake. Country Americana at its core but packed full of hooks and effects.

These are songs of places, childhood, relationships and basically life as a road to continually travel down. She grew up in Washington State America. Came to New Zealand on the cusp of adolescence. Started into her musical apprenticeship then and continued to travel in the United Kingdom and the land of her kin-folk. Whilst establishing her Kiwi roots. Spending time in a Drum’n’Bass scene in London started her on the pathway to production.

The album is self-produced in her Wairarapa home. She plays and sings everything, except a hired gun on drums. Music of the singer-songwriter mold from the Pacific seaboard. With a myriad of influences from other genres to make it a bit more special. Pacific Rim Music, possibly.


The first group of players tonight are Isla, who hail from Wellington. Performing as a three-piece tonight with Isla on acoustic guitar and flute, Nisha on violin and Isaac on cajon and ukelele. There is also a five-piece version of the band which includes a drummer.

Opening number Breathe is traditional Folk with a Celtic lilt from the violin. Has a familiar ring of Fairport Convention. They quickly settle in and stretch out.

Weirdo shows Isla as a talented singer, especially when she goes to the higher register. Alternates between a fast galloping rhythm and quiet passages.

Elephant in the Room brings another member, Jody, to join in with some high harmony vocals. Again, shades of loud and quiet.

One Two Three and they strip it back to a duo with ukulele and guitar. Nice high trilling vocals.

All of those songs are on the Weirdo EP.

There are also brace of brand-new songs ranging from mournful and dramatic storytelling, to playful and rhythmic Folk Pop like the seventies Paul Simon.

They close with Kids Like Me. Isla plays flute with some jazz accents and work this one up to a racy Indie-Pop number. Maybe with a bit of Prog in there.

Colette Rivers

Colette Rivers plays acoustic guitar and mandolin. She has two fellow musicians tonight. Sarah on electric guitar and banjo, Brooke on acoustic bass guitar. Not an instrument I see very often and fascinating in its sound.

The mixing board again delivers the high-quality sound that can handle many different genres that we have come to expect at the Wine Cellar.

Out of the Cage. She is grounded in classic Country and in a small venue this has a powerful effect.

Kamikaze Girlfriend is about diving into a relationship. Bound to be some messiness and from that inspiration comes. The bass leads this number. The drums are missing but then I see her left foot is tapping an effects block. Appreciate the single note shimmers from the electric guitar.

Hurricane brings out the banjo ringing. A Country beginning, then it takes off with a bounce into Indie-Pop.

Bury Me is a more traditional Roots Country song echoing the continuity of home. Starts slow and measured but then reaches uplifting peaks with a powerful voice.

Washington Sun is a highlight from the album and has a different arrangement tonight to stunning effect. The mandolin carries the rhythm. A personified bass. Short phrases from the electric guitar. Surprisingly, more a Folk tune tonight.

Pick-up Truck, also a favourite off the album, is a nice, jaunty, strutting song. A happy divorce song.

The banjo can be very versatile. On Sunday Morning it is a nice hook for a Folk Pop tune. On Quiet Places, the sound is more Appalachian.

Dipshit can only be about an ex, of course. Funny and scathing and sung with more than a little ferocity. Nice mandolin picking.

The closer tonight is also a highlight. Memory Lake. Quite different and special from the rest of the material. Tonight, the bass leads with the same riff as Mongoloid by Devo. Shivery atmospherics, turbulence in the depths. A great song.

A highly enjoyable show from a “new” artist who has actually been making music for quite a while. A very distinctive take on Americana. A great album and a warm recommendation to catch the tour as it winds around the country.

Rev Orange Peel   

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