DEAN LEWIS blazed his way into Auckland after sold-out concerts in Wellington and Christchurch, following up stadium gigs in his native Australia.
Aotearoa provided Lewis’ first opportunity to perform for a “foreign” audience, before he takes “The Future is Bright World Tour” off to the UK for sold out dates right across Europe, before moving onto Canada.
With an outstanding 7.5 billion streams of his songs and seemingly constant mainstream radio play, Lewis has had an impressive rise to stardom, taking only 7 years from quitting his job to playing arenas to crowds of 7000 devoted fellow Aussies. The audience at Auckland’s sold-out Civic was obviously smaller but no less devoted, in a frenzy as soon as he took to the stage. Lewis commented on the “great vibe” despite it being (theoretically) a seated show, saying that he’d “only done about 6 seated shows in his whole career”.
The night starts with support from Jack Grey, a young fellow Australian with similarities to Lewis both as a multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter and in his style of angst-ridden, relationship-based, indie-pop melodies. Alone on stage with a guitar and keyboard, he spoke about writing in his bedroom studio and responded to the audience’s enthusiastic welcome by thanking us for “coming early for the support – it means the world, I love New Zealand so much, it’s just the best!”. There’s nothing like acknowledging a kiwi crowd to get them on side and both Grey and Lewis made a fair number of thanks, references and amended song lyrics to mention our location. I can only assume that the [insert location name here] device will be used throughout the rest of the world tour, but for now it’s Auckland that’s “the frickin’ best”.
Starting out on guitar with new song Bullet, Grey is wistful and emotive. Fools and Still Want You Anyway follow, prompting an audience member to call “I want you, Jack!” creating laughter and applause to offset the falsetto-laden angst. Switching to the keyboard, Grey covered off the pain of long-distance relationships (clearly an evergreen source of fodder/inspiration for touring musos) in Winter City. Back on the acoustic guitar for some impressive self-accompaniment, Selfish got the crowd clapping along before Grey closed with I Got 3, using a backing track for the only time for a catchy, laid back vibe.
A young pretender snapping at the heels of Passenger and Jack Johnson, Grey’s 25 minute set was confident and won the audience over. He could definitely have gone on longer – and after the reception he received, surely solo dates in NZ won’t be far away?
He may only be 5 shows into the world tour, but Lewis’ set in Auckland was polished, well-structured and perfectly honed to keep the diverse audience involved and interested. It’s a clever performer who can attract pre-teens through to septuagenarians to their gigs – and keep them happy! – but Lewis pulled it off. His smooth voice was complemented by anecdotes and back stories about the songs, crowd encouragement, self-deprecating humour and humble appreciation of fan support.
Like Grey, Lewis is a multi-instrumentalist who shifts between keyboard and guitars throughout the set. He’s supported by another guy with the same versatility, as well as another guitarist and a drummer. They’re clearly “the band” rather than a group – in the background other than one impressive drum solo – but that’s fair enough, as it’s clearly Lewis who takes centre stage. Despite wearing black, he’s mesmerising throughout the concert, creating a real connection to the highly-engaged audience.
Starting with the big sound of Hurtless from his latest album The Hardest Love, there’s a singalong to the poignant lyrics before Lewis switches guitars and albums back to his debut A Place We Knew for Stay Awake. He’s reminiscent of Ed Sheeran when introducing Looks Like Me as “one of my only dancey songs – so stand up!” before moving on to 7 Minutes. A massive and familiar radio hit, this got the standing crowd clapping along and joining in with the catchy refrain “I forgot to love you, love you, love you” – a line which apparently just came to Lewis after a disastrous date in London.
There was an introduction, anecdote or insight provided for almost every song on the set list, with Lewis apparently keen to tell the audience about thwarted former relationships and difficulties in his love life. Half A Man was apparently written in the bathroom, with the existential question “how am I supposed to love you when I don’t know who I am?” also “just coming to (him)”. The Hardest Love was introduced by Lewis saying that he was “going to bring the mood down even further”, explaining that it was written for a friend who had subsequently died a couple of years ago. Obviously How Do I Say Goodbye, Lewis’ most recent and highly successful single, is also a tearjerker – famously written when his dad was suffering from a life-threatening illness. Lewis dedicated it to “anyone who’s losing or who has lost someone”. It brought the house down, with everyone singing along, and was probably the reason half the audience were there.
New song Into The Breeze started with Lewis sitting, Kermit-style, on the edge of the Civic stage, before going back to the keyboard. He messed up, ‘fessed up and restarted another new song Scares Me, telling the audience to “pretend it didn’t happen!” It was the only misstep in an otherwise flawless set, which only endeared the already devoted audience more. After For The Last Time (“the first song I wrote that didn’t suck”), Lewis teased Don’t Hold Me by saying “this is the last slow song…then you’ll love what comes next!” And we did. After almost an hour, he switched it up with an outstanding cover of Coldplay’s Yellow, complete with full-on light show and thrashy guitars. The energy stayed throughout the familiar fan favourite Be Alright, with massive singalong volume to “I know you love her, but it’s over, mate” before moving into the encore, starting with the upbeat Falling Up. Lewis kept us waiting until the very end for his breakthrough hit Waves, with pulsating lights and pounding drumbeats, which had the entire audience on their feet for a big finish.
Reflective – yes. Emotive – yes. Uplifting and engaging – definitely. The Future is (indeed) Bright for Dean Lewis, if his performance in Auckland is anything to go by.
Click on any image to view photos by Matt Henry Mendonca / Ambient Light:
DEAN LEWIS SETLIST:
- STAY AWAKE
- LOOKS LIKE ME
- 7 MINUTES
- THE HARDEST LOVE
- INTO THE BREEZE
- HOLD OF ME
- HALF A MAN
- SCARES ME
- FOR THE LAST TIME
- DON’T HOLD ME
- HOW DO I SAY GOODBYE
- YELLOW (Coldplay cover)
- BE ALRIGHT
- FALLING UP
JACK GREY SETLIST:
- STILL WANT YOU ANYWAY
- WINTER CITY
- I GOT 3
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