Dominic Blaazer & Jan Hellriegel – The Pumphouse Theatre May 5, 2018


Long-time sideman Dominic Blaazer took centre stage last night at Takapuna’s Pumphouse Theatre to show off the songs that comprise his debut album, The Lights Of Te Atatu.

Opening the show was another artist who has been in the shadows for far too long.

Jan Hellriegel was one of New Zealand’s top up and coming talents in the early to mid 90s, with two albums released on Warners and a clutch of hit singles.

But after being dropped by her label, Jan has been relatively quiet musically, with the odd single release and one more album, All Grown Up, in 2009. Jan has, however, remained active in the NZ music biz, working behind the scenes in publishing.

Judging by last night’s performance, she’s ready to step out front again.

Sitting behand a grand piano, Jan presented us with seven songs, four of which are currently unreleased.

She opened with Sportsman Of The Year, a song she dedicated to her 12-year-old self. Back then, she won the award at her school, but then rejected it after she noticed that “none of the boys liked me anymore”. The song ultimately is a reaction to anyone who tried to hold her back in the past and a realization that now, today, “these are your power years”, despite the fact that “everyone looks through you now”.

She sang the song with a power and conviction that took some audience members by surprise.

Other new tunes included the poetic Neptune And Me, with its rippling piano runs and Love And Conviction, a song about “loving your job”, that found Hellriegel adopting a Dylanesque drawl while also reminding me a bit of Patti Smith’s Piss Factory.

Hopefully these new songs will see the light of day soon.

Meanwhile Dominic Blaazer has been around even longer than Jan, playing with a myriad of bands including The Chills, SJD, The Peter Stuyvesant Hitlist and, more recently, Ghost Town.

Now, finally, the accomplished keyboard and guitar player gets to put his songwriting and singing chops on display with his album, The Lights Of Te Atatu.

The seldom-used Pumphouse Theatre turned out to be an ideal venue for the live presentation of Dom’s songs…it’s an intimate space, holding about 250 people…but it had a stage large enough to handle his 7-piece band comfortably.

Despite of lack of experience as a front man, Blaazer proved to be no shrinking violet. He began his set solo, just acoustic guitar and voice…no mic or amplification…playing in front of the curtain.

“I’m not young…but I think I got my mojo back”, Dom sang, and the audience cheered him on.

He seemed to be loving the limelight.

The curtain then raised, revealing the band, including Ghost Town drummer Bryan Shaw and pianist/flugelhorn player Jon Cook.

After treating us to a new song, Everybody’s Name Is Jane, Blaazer and his crew proceeded to performed the 10 songs from his album, beginning with the reggae-tinged Whatever You Need.

Dominic himself played mostly electric guitar, but switch to piano several times during the show to allow Cook to play his horn.

And as anyone who has heard the album can attest, Dominic Blaazer is a formidable songwriter.

His Baby, What Can I Say is a deeply soulful tune, reminiscent of Tony Joe White’s Rainy Night In Georgia and his Nothing Lasts Forever immediately calls to mind the best of Bacharach/David with its lilting beat and use of horns.

He’s also a fine storyteller, whether it be the almost comical Gang Brawl…inspired by the catastrophe that was the  Sweetwaters Festival of 2000, or Sunday Morning, which beautifully captures the warm afterglow of a particularly satisfying Saturday night.

Simple Love was an audience favourite with its use of strings (violin and cello) and Cook’s lovely flugelhorn solo.

As he sings in Simple Love, Blaazer’s songwriting revolves around, “these are the thing that I know”.

He even makes the Auckland suburb of Te Atatu sound inviting!

Marty Duda

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

Jan Hellriegel set list:

  1. Sportsman Of The Year
  2. Neptune And Me
  3. Love And Conviction
  4. The Way I Feel
  5. Melusine
  6. He’s Gone
  7. Home Not Home

Dominic Blaazer set list:

  1. I Haven’t Played Guitar For A While
  2. Everybody’s Name Is Jane
  3. Whatever You Need
  4. Baby, What Can I Say?
  5. Sunday Morning
  6. Gang Brawl
  7. Nothing Lasts Forever
  8. Simple Love
  9. The Lights Of Te Atatu
  10. I Never Said That I’d Be True!
  11. The Reason I Care
  12. Baby Says She Cares