Concert Review: Reb Fountain – Mercury Theatre November 14, 2020

It’s official! After attending last night’s Reb Fountain show, this has to be the best place on earth for any music fan.

With most of the world still in some kind of lockdown and live shows as rare as hen’s teeth, the New Zealand music scene has taken this opportunity to shine like a beacon.

Not only was Reb Fountain finally getting to play her much-delayed album release show, but just a  few short metres down the road, Tami Neilson was holding court at The Civic. Elsewhere Fly My Pretties were raising a ruckus…and that’s just central Auckland.

Alas, I can only be at one place at a time, and there was no way I was going to miss Reb’s, especially as we came this close to lockdown again the previous day and everyone was on pins and needles waiting for the decision from on high.

Fortunately Jacinda spoke and we rocked.

Doors opened later than I planned but finally we were in the hallowed halls of the Mercury Theatre. It still looks splendid. I was surprised who many folks I spoke to had never been in the place. It has been the site of several memorable shows over the years (Lloyd Cole, Fly My Pretties) and as Reb reminded us, her performance at The Others Way Festival last year.

One positive aspect of having your record release show delayed (the album was released May 1) is that everyone has had plenty of time to get to know the new songs…and, in this case, Reb’s new sound.

Until the release of this album, Reb has been primarily considered a folk/ kind of gal. And she was very good at it.

The way she has re-defined her sound and, in turn, re-created her “image” is both striking and brave. To put herself out there on vinyl and in person as she has done is truly remarkable.

It’s even more remarkable in a close-up and closed-down musical community that is the NZ scene. Everyone knows everyone and the mere pretence of creating a “personae” i.e., something fake and manufactured, is looked down upon. “Authenticity” is everything.

So when this album came it is was a giant step in Reb’s musical evolution and possibly a bigger step for her fans.

Sure, she still sings and plays an acoustic guitar from time to time. But there is a sense of darkness, of emotional honesty in these songs and this sound that is very different to what has come before. For a bit of clarification, perhaps check out my interview with Reb conducted just as the album was released and hear her discuss influences such as Nick Cave and Patti Smith and her working relationship with guitarist/co-producer Dave Khan.

Now, on to the show.

Having Shayne P Carter as your opening act is special enough. With his electric guitar slung over his shoulder he treated us to a 45 minute set marred only by some talkative audience members who were eventually pointed at and castigated by the artist. Good on him!

Then, after a brief dance from drag queen Medulla (love that nod to inclusion) Reb and band took the stage to what sounded like The Doors’ The End.

It wasn’t, of course, but that shows just how Reb has changed. It was Hawkes & Doves, the lead track on the album beginning with the rather significant lyric, “Changes, I made some changes”.

She did indeed, and I for one am an even bigger fan because of them.

Performing the entire album, Reb threw in a few other gems…old favourite Gold, new “B-Side” Hey Mom and a couple of new tunes.

Apparently Reb has been busy during lockdown and a new album is recorded and almost ready to go!

I will avoid going song by song (setlist below) and just say that every song performed had its own special emotional pull. The one that got me was Hey Mom. I’m sure everyone in the audience had their own fave.

The set ended with an explosive version of Don’t You Know Who I Am, which left most of us breathless.

Fortunately, we were able to call for an encore and were rewarded with Lighthouse, followed by a stunning version of Nick Cave’s 15 Feet Of Pure White Snow.

It seemed only right that Nick should get the last word having served as such an inspiration to Reb.

This was one of the absolute highlights of a strange and twisted year.
Reb and band return to the Mercury tonight and tomorrow. Then it’s one last (sold out) show at Leigh Sawmill.

Do yourself a favour and see Reb Fountain if you can.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Ivan Karczewski:


Reb Fountain set list:

  1. Hawks & Doves
  2. Strangers
  3. Quiet Like The Rain
  4. Faster
  5. Gold
  6. It’s A Bird (It’s A Plane)
  7. Hey Mom
  8. New song? Stars Glisten?
  9. New Song
  10. Samson
  11. When Gods Lie
  12. The Last Word
  13. Don’t You Know Who I Am
  14. Lighthouse
  15. 15 Feet Of Pure White Snow