Frazey Ford – Tuning Fork: October 15, 2022

Frazey Ford completed a trifecta of postponed shows including Tame Impala playing in the arena next door, and Mel Parsons out at Avondale.

Auckland’s status as a UNESCO ‘City of Music’ took a bit of a hammering during the peaks of the pandemic, but Saturday it seemed in catch-up mode.  With her U Kin B the Sun release to promote, Frazey brought her golden voice and solar warmth to the Tuning Fork.

Finn Johansson

First up was the super- talented and engaging Finn Johansson. Its not just the rather excellent moustache, but his unrelenting creativity, that reminds me at times of Frank Zappa. Tonight, however, he sported almost as much make-up as Alice Cooper and a spectacular – and soon discarded – white fur coat.

And it was a two-for one deal with pal Jazmine Mary on guitar. With hands-freed from attending to strings, we had Finn in full flight, arms flailing and embodying the title of his song Love Bomb.

With stripped back versions of his songs, Jazmine Mary’s gentle guitar chords carried the affective power of his raw and honest lyrics. A highlight? The beautiful I Know Exactly How Big My Heart Is. Almost Todd Rundgren lyrical beauty. That song title left us in little doubt of the scope of his feelings and songs.  If you haven’t seen Finn perform, do please. And soon.


Frazey Ford

Last here in 2017, this visit – the last stop on her tour – was honoured by a larger and more reverential audience.  And reverence was more than deserved. Her mesmerising voice is utterly distinctive and her genre hard to categorise. Soul? Americana? Maybe a bit of both, but perhaps Canadiana. For me, at least, her smooth rippled voice brings to mind the sheltered blue expansive waters of the Georgia Strait beyond her home city of Vancouver.

Like another distinctive voice from British Columbia, k d lang, Frazey Ford’s career began in another genre. What was the twang of country for lang was the folk of the Be Good Tanyas for Ford. Taking flight solo has seen her release three collections. At the Tuning Fork she dipped heavily into 2021’s U Kin B the Sun, a harmonically rich sonic tapestry.

Most of Ford’s songs are mystical evocations in which not-quite hearing all the doesn’t matter; it’s the places her voice takes you that counts. Their soaring, wavering landscapes are unforgettable heard live.

And then there are the minority of songs that reveal her activist family of upbringing (she spoke of her father escaping to Canada to avoid the FBI). The Kids are Having None of It is introduced as a ‘fuck the patriarchy’ song. And, left till the encore, Done speaks to women reclaiming their lives from the men getting in their way.

One thing striking about this show was the band’s tightness. For one whose voice can be so delicate, paradoxically, drums added a great deal. As did, more obviously, her long-time vocal accompanist Caroline Ballhorn.  But at the centre, always, is Frazey’s voice – given emphasis on stage with presumably intentionally low-lighting.

Highlights included Azad, written for her sister whom she describes as “the wildest human I’ve known” and the gorgeously languid September Fields from her second album, Indian Ocean.

While Auckland is blessed with many gigs these days as we surface from pandemic times, there are few occasions we are visited by such voices. As the person next to me said ‘How does Canada produce so many good songwriters?’ ‘The sharpness of the seasons maybe’ I replied, grasping at possibilities. The song Three Golden Trees continued to sway within as I walked to the ferry.

Robin Kearns

Frazey Ford set list

  1. I like you better
  2. Natural Law
  3. Money Can’t buy
  4. U and me
  5. The Kids are Having none of it
  6. Three golden trees
  7. Azad
  8. Holdin’ it down
  9. Purple and brown
  10. September fields
  11. U kin b the sun
  12. Done


Finn Johansson set list

  1. If this is love
  2. You Look Down At Me
  3. I know exactly how big my heart is
  4. Six Pack
  5. Love Bomb
  6. Maybe