Concert Review: Finn Johansson and Jazmine Mary, Wine Cellar, 8 October 2020

Intense, emotional and committed performances from Finn Johansson and Jazmine Mary, as they do their final show of this North Island tour. A few weeks ago, they could not get here. Stopped at Border Control Auckland. Some spirit was investing the Cellar tonight and channeling through the musicians and ultimately us. Take a load off Fanny and you put the load right on me.

Jazmine Mary starts the evening and has a beautiful blue Gretsch electric guitar. Accompanying her is partner Courtney on drums.

From the first song the mood is conjured for her six-song set. A measured melancholy haunting voice which effortlessly and startingly hits raw peaks of emotion. And then subsides back into dreamy reverie. Nothern Gothic. Wild and windy moors and Shakespeares Sister.

First two, can you hear me and a long way over the ocean I let myself be high are deliberate and measured. Lyrics standing in for the titles. From the album in progress, which I believe will come out of Neil “Fleetwood” Finn’s Roundhead Studios.

Dancer begins with soft guitar riffs. Tom-tom drums like Moe Tucker with the Velvets. He’s lost his body and soul/ You wouldn’t like me if you met me. Minimalist and melancholy.

Next song has the keyboards. The slow tone builds in momentum and anxiety until an anguished BRAVE!! pierces through the room like a laser.

Last song Pop Music has a great rolling Folky guitar riff. Pop wedded to anxious and edgy Folk.

First saw Jazmine at the recent Deep Dive Underground Festival a few months ago, on the same stage. How did that one get through between lockdowns? Same ability to weave the magic velvet and captivate the room. Quiet commanding presence and can’t help thinking she will be getting more attention.

Finn Johansson, who comes from Wellington, tells us it’s great to be in a city for a change. They have wound their way up the land into Virus Central.

Bad Heart starts his set. Pop sung with soulful intensity. If This is Love continues in the same vein and the song stretches out with great hooks added. Cribbed from Bill Lake we are told. Capital City legend from a long time back.

I Know Exactly How Big My Heart Is. Great song title which could be a Smiths, but it’s his. A rhythm- box beat energizes this and sparks up the audience.  Dreamy Pop with rising emotion and rawness reminding me of Jeff Buckley.  Blondie Stevie Nicks appears and dances around the stage. Doesn’t faze him and builds the song with melodic guitar riffs. We worked so hard to make it work. Spontaneously recreates the famous on-stage breakup of real Stevie and Lindsay Buckingham way back in time Western Springs 1976.

But funny as the faux-anger and banter continues a bit longer between the stage and the Groundlings. Realise the sparks you miss with all this social isolation rubbish.

Love Bomb is more measured. Melodic and pretty but the rawness bubbles just under the surface. We worked so hard to make it work/ Let me go, let me go.

Reassure Me and Overcome are piano ballads. Soft soulful voice on both. Weeping tones from the electronic effects. The latter especially has Alt Country overtones as again Finn wrings raw emotions as he winds up the intensity and passion. Resolves in peace.

Six Pack is the current single. A well-crafted Pop song with lots of hooks and tempo changes. Guitar rhythm riffs strutting and Prince-like incantations.

Maybe takes this energy and winds it all up to a great finale. Guitar shredding and Power-pop anger.

Two contrasting styles but both share a talent for finely crafted songs. And again, with excellent sound in our favourite Cellar.  A lot of pent-up tension from this strange time being worked out and you know it’s good for you.

Rev Orange Peel.