Concert Review: Miles Calder with Jazmine Mary, Wine Cellar 13/5/21

Miles Calder was in top form at the Wine Cellar Thursday night, with a well-oiled performance, sprinkled with new songs. Robin Kearns files this review:

It’s an indication of the respect afforded a touring musician when a quick glance in the semi-dark reveals members of three well-known Auckland bands spanning two generations. Such was the homage paid to Miles Calder at the Wine Cellar last night. But while allowing more room to move, the sparse audience was perplexing. With a tight band and a suite of new songs, Miles was in top form.

Jazmine Mary

Jazmine MaryBut first things first. Jazmine Mary, the support, was a revelation – as support acts so often are.  Alone in a black dress and guitar of the same hue, she launched into a set of beautifully melancholic songs delivered with an astonishing vocal range. A few songs in came recent album title-track The Licking of a Tangerine (Introduced with “Don’t ask me what it means because I won’t tell you”, suggesting the intensely private depths from which her lyrics arise). In Australia I heard an echo of Missy Higgins, but Jazmine’s songs are closer to the darker lyrical journey of a Leonard Cohen or PJ Harvey.

With Dancer, Jazmine chokes up, saying today is the birthday of one who has passed on, so she’d taken a boat out that morning to reflect. This window into the artist’s spirit and creative process held the audience in rare reverence throughout her set. It was a respectful two-way energy leading her to say “it’s a special thing to be in a room full of people you don’t know willing to be quiet and listen. It means the world”. Oh that all Auckland audiences would take note!

Miles Calder

Miles CalderIn thanking Jazmine, Miles Calder later said hers was ‘arguably a headline set’. A fully deserved compliment. But Miles was emphatically the headliner last night. He’d darkened the doors of the Wine Cellar with his band only five months before. But this time, their performance was more oiled from touring, and populated with a few new songs.

The opener Take Me Back to How it Was offered a tone for the set, guitarist Chris Armour making his presence known and Miles’ lyrics speaking of reaching  out from a current Autopilot Life.  That album title cut came up third with its wistful yearning complemented by both Miles and Dayle Jellyman playing keys.

In between we’re treated to Workman Song a standout new offering that had Miles grabbing the mic in one hand, tambourine in the other and sounding just a little Tom Petty with his slightly nasally annunciation. We’re soon treated to Miles alone upfront with the album’s last track What We’re In evoking a road-weary almost Springsteen-esque delivery.

An unexpected highlight in the set was a NZ Music Month special: Miles accompanied by Chris on guitar singing Aldous Harding’s Weight of the Planets. Then back to the rocking waves of Greener Grass and standout album tracks Chelsea and Lake Geneva (that theme of longing again). Hints of War on Drugs and Kurt Vile at times, but distinctly Miles. Mention must be made of the other superb members of his band: Steve Moodie (bass) and Nick George (drums).

After another new lockdown song Keeping Up (it felt somewhat familiar despite being new: a mark of great songwriting), Miles finished with the rolling momentum of Bad for Me. Then (after the Wine Cellar pretend-exit) his ‘encore’: a searing rendition of Lennons’ Jealous Guy.

Yes, the Wine Cellar should have been sold out. But those present witnessed an evening of first transcendent, then riveting, musicianship.

Robin Kearns

Click any icon to view a full size gallery from each band.

Miles Calder
Jazmine Mary