Concert Review: Six60 – Eden Park  April 24, 2021

New Zealand’s own Super Group Six60 make a grand theatrical and triumphant procession to the centre of the pitch at Eden Park, to launch what is about to be a genuinely historic event for this country. It is being shared as a live-stream around the Pacific Basin and beyond.

This is the eve of Anzac Day when over a hundred years ago New Zealand came of age. Eden Park is still the most iconic sports stadium in the country despite the many fractious arguments over the years about its very existence.

Lead singer and guitarist Matiu Walters is both humble and justifiably bursting with pride when he tells us what this means for him and for many of us here as well.

I’ve been coming here ever since I was a kid. My grandfather played here as a Maori All Black. Him and all my family are here. All our families are here.

The band are Ji Fraser lead guitar, Chris Mac bass, Marlon Gerbes synths and Eli Paewai drums.

I had some prior trepidation but the Park does look magnificent tonight when the guys hit the stage, after being tracked by the camera from dressing room to the bare small stage in the middle of the field.

They begin with Don’t Forget Your Roots. On the large Main Stage is a Haka Group which span the entire area. Poi dancers and taiahas. The ensemble builds up to a powerful presentation of the Ka Mate Haka. That which the All Blacks have presented many times here. Art, sport and theatre.

It’s a massive show in all respects and it begins midafternoon.

Maimoa are relatively new as an ensemble but garnering a lot of popularity and music industry respect with performances largely in te reo maori.

A version of Patea Maori Club’s Poi E gets a cheer from the early gatherers in front of stage. The song receiving the Legacy prize at the Taite Music Awards within the last week.

JessB is also rising fast with her take on Rap and Hip-Hop. A former netball star turned musician. She spans the different styles of the genre right back to Old Skool. Behind her is DJ Half Queen. There is a drummer on stage who supplies the heavy break-beats for the whole set and would easily fill the chair for the JB’s. The metronomic precision of the late John Jabo Starks.

Four dancers whip up the energy and help transmit the, at times, furious pace.

Troy Kingi and Clutch. Whip up the Funk motor with massive helpings of Seventies Soul and we get some of the best cuts of recent album The Ghost of Freddie Cesar. Horns, nice bass lines, short rhythm riffs from the guitars to embellish the beats.

They also do Aztechknowledgey and Grandma’s Rocket Poem where Kingi’s great slower Soul voice gets to shine.

Nam Must Stay closes his set and there is little Reggae in behind the Funk and it gets the close-up audience cheering and singing along.

Sir Dave Dobbyn and it’s the Old Kiwi Rock’n’Roll King gracing the Young Turks with his presence. The same band that has been playing on his country-wide tour over the last year. Veterans and some hot younger talent. A great three-piece horn section.

He presents the classic songs in reverential fashion and they all get a cheer as those familiar chords kick in.

Outlook For Thursday. Loyal. Be Mine Tonight. Bliss. Slice of Heaven. All classic Kiwi Pop with Dobbyn’s very familiar and iconic tenor vocals. Finish with the ballad Welcome Home.

All the acts so far suffer from a bit of underpowered volume. I suspect this is primarily from the restrictions on noise levels that were part of the lengthy negotiations and compromises that had to be reached to get this massive event finally to this stage of fruition. It does get a lot better with the headliners.

Drax Project work in a similar eclectic style to Six60. Elements of Dub, Drum’n’Bass, R’n’B and Soul. The baritone saxophone of leader Shaan Singh lends a bit of Jazz colour and also some Ska and Reggae deep in the mix there somewhere.

Started as buskers and that informs their fun approach to music which is very much designed to get the hips moving and the dance going.

Their new single Over It featured here is a perfect example. A Kiwi Pop Rap with Drum’n’Bass bottom which gets you up and ready to move.

They all come on to the stage to join Six60 later in their set, on a superb version of Catching Feelings. Going crazy over you/ Hope you’re crazy too. Inspirational Pop with a bit of Two-Tone Ska breaking out briefly there from inside the mix, courtesy of the baritone sax.

Six60 aren’t known to use a horn section, at least not the last time I saw them live, which was their second sell-out Western Springs show in 2020.

But it’s Anzac tomorrow and a big Defence Force military band march on stage and help bring up the power and majesty of one of their Pop Anthems Fade Away. Trumpets and trombones!

Then they top that with the next, White Lines. The guys are out in the middle again. The military are letting their hair down and shaking booty on the Main Stage.

Rise Up is a good example of Walters range and ability as a singer. Soulful and inspirational and at times he can bring in some Gospel emotions.

They write songs full of great hooks and simple little touches. They don’t over-burden anything and they manage to lift off and soar on pretty much all the two dozen plus songs they do tonight.

A lot of that comes down to the voice and its versatility. I expect all great Pop bands to have a killer engine room rhythm section. They have that.

The graphics are stunning, but you really have to be there to appreciate it. The fireworks are a little limp and could have been left out. I suspect constraints on ordnance. The Military were the much better option.

Towards the end and they lay out Tomorrow. The song opens and evokes the subtle ringing charms of The Weight and the singer drives this home with some Gospel tones.

They encore with latest single All She Wrote. Just trying to find my way/ You laugh and you cry/ You live and die.

I had no doubts about Six60’s ability to put on a massive show of superior Soulful Pop music. I had some doubts about the venue and the ability to pull off such a massive undertaking.

Let me just say the headliners recreated the power and huge emotion of that other historic night at the Park in 2015 when the All Blacks won the World Cup in such nail-biting circumstances.

Six60 were without the tension. Thanks, guys, for delivering such a great occasion.

Rev Orange Peel