Erny Belle Wintergarden, The Civic December 8, 2023

Erny Belle

Erny Belle treated fans to a very special show, tucked away in the Wintergarden at Auckland’s Civic Theatre. Erny’s new album, Not Your Cupid, was being showcased as was her extraordinary band.

Not Your Cupid is Erny’s (Aimee Renata) second long player and first for Flying Nun and it’s a beauty. So, there was plenty to celebrate on this busy Friday night as Cavemen, Mermaidens and year-end holiday parties dotted the city.

Nicky By Nicky

Doors opened at the Civic at 7:30, though the opening act, Nicky By Nicky, didn’t appear until 8:30. Was the wait worth it? Sadly, I must say “no”.

Nicky By NickyNicky is Cut Off Your Hands’ Nick Johnston and this iteration of him finds the artist crouching over effects pedals, making “mystical” sounds on his guitar while his voice is drenched in reverb and other efx.

Nicky played for 30 minutes, opening with Just The Wind, from his 4 Songs EP. As the birdsong was being sampled from his cell phone I was having flashbacks of Jon Anderson solo albums from the 70s I thought I had long forgotten.  The final nail came with his cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams. Sorry, this is just not my thing…

Erny Belle

Finally, at 9:30 Erny Belle and her band took to the stage and it quickly became obvious this WAS worth the wait.

Erny BelleThe band consists of the omni-present Dave Khan, playing most everything but mostly guitar and violin. We’ve got Jackson Hobbs on drums, Navakatoa Tekela-Pale playing bass (and some guitar), Rewi McLay playing some beautiful pedal steel and, tonight’s MVP is keyboard/backing vocalist and sitar player Tiare Kelly.

Things get underway with Midnight Madness, the fifth track on the new album and Erny is sounding wonderful. The song itself reminds me a bit of The Ronettes’ Be My Baby, melodically and I must say I love those “sha-la la-las”.

Then we’re reminded just how good Erny’s debut album, 2022’s Venus Is Home is, with three tunes from the record.

“I’m not ready to talk yet”, confesses Erny after Baby Blue, so she lets the music do the talking with a wondrous Burning Heaven complete with an ethereal vocal and a few Aldous-like yelps.

The spritely Pitt Stop brings us back to the new record and Erny loosens up a bit, telling us her little sister is in attendance…”It’s her first gig”.

Erny BelleLater, mum is called upon to buy a parched Erny a glass of red wine…it’s a family affair.

Things went from good to great when Tiare took to her sitar for a dreamy, woozy Bowman. I had visions of The Beatles’ Within You Without You running through my head.

And then a super-psychedelic Crypto followed…definitely the musical highlight of the evening.

The crowd responded accordingly and the band dug in, finishing the set with Hell Hole and Unchained.

Of course there was an encore… how could we let them go?

An hour after they started, Erny and the band wrapped things up with Inertia featuring Dave Knan’s violin and Tiare’s tinkling keyboard. I was getting a Marianne Faithfull/As Tears Go By vibe and that is a very good thing.

Great songs, a fantastic band and a powerfully nuanced performance from Erny Belle.

Marty Duda

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Erny Belle Setlist:

  1. Midnight Madness
  2. Island Time
  3. Baby Blue
  4. Burning Heaven
  5. Pitt Stop
  6. Stay Golden
  7. Not Your Cupid
  8. Venus Is Home
  9. Sorry Not Sorry
  10. Bowman
  11. Crypto
  12. Hell Hole
  13. Unchained
  14. Inertia

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Marty Duda
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