Louis Baker & Friends at The Hollywood Avondale 3 July 2021

A new sound is emerging from the soul singer/songwriter Louis Baker. A main of sentimental and a side of neo-soul was fashioned by the full-band and special guests who joined the artist last night at The Hollywood Avondale as they kicked off the nationwide tour of his Love Levitates EP.

But first up – Arjuna Oaks.

Arjuna Oakes

Arjuna OakesWellington based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Arjuna Oakes serenaded the audience with a minimal setup, himself accompanied by his keyboard. He began with a song off his 2019 Album, The Watcher titled Old School Heart.

His soulful voice echoed through the theatre and his effortless voice breaks found their way into each of his songs.

Arjuna was chatty to the audience between songs and his keyboard skills were out of this world into the world of Jazz, the chromatic disorientation made some of his tracks feel slightly psychedelic – very cool!

His cover of Almost Lost Detroit by American soul singer Gil Scott-Heron was fresh and groovy. Arjuna sprinted across the keys making sure he followed every vocal inflection.

My favorite song was definitely One For from his 2020 album Recovery, Pt. 1. The ballad glided through the room with its sentimental narrative captivating those who have ever loved and been loved.

Louis Baker

Louis BakerThe room fell quiet as the lights dimmed and a low frequency oscillated through the crowd. The neo-soul singer stepped out in a dark green tracksuit with his initials embroidered on the front of his jacket and “Louis” printed across the back, a comfortable outfit to perform in I am sure!

Band members Cory Champion on drums, Johnny Lawrence on bass, James Illingworth on keys, and backing vocalists Kirsten Te Rito and Moana Leota joined Louis on stage.

The band begin with a song from Louis’ 2019 album Open titled Black Crow. The ringing organ gave the track a Motown vibe and the audience began grooving to the beat.

Louis was getting us ready for the new EP it seemed as he followed with the track So Lo, another great tune off his 2019 album. He invited the audience to croon in unison as he sung the lead line – we were tight!

Kirsten Te Rito blessed us with her angelic vocals as she smashed out a solo line and the audience went wild before Louis took us to another level with a silky guitar solo on his Epiphone, and this was just the beginning.

The soulful harmonies were on point and the gentle yet driving force shedding from the drums and bass were deep in the pocket giving the audience a perfect beat to groove to.

The 5-piece was joined by a brass and woodwind section and a cover of Bad Bad News kicked off. Fans of Yoko Zuna would have recognised band member JY Lee who joined the party with an antique looking saxophone. The big jam began, and the keys swirled into epic climax.

Louis Baker

The energy escalated – more & more – and then BAM! – next jam! A rhythmic sax solo blasts from the stage and in comes the Michael Jaackson Billy Jean beat decorated in warm guitar scatts by Louis as the rest of the band moves from underneath gliding us into the next song.

Finally, the EP arrives. The sentimental themes of heritage, love, relationships and self-reflection begin. Louis introduces NZ’s revered producer and multi-instrumentalist Nathan Haines with flute in hand and the album’s title track Love Levitates shuffles into the spotlight.

Love Levitates has a busy jazz feel, a distinctly different vibe to Louis’ earlier works. It’s great to see him exploring different aspect of music while still keeping his soulful core.

Hopeful and catchy lyrics flooded the room during the upbeat song Brighter Day – “Dreams are never lost; time is all we need” are some of the insightful lyrics I found myself contemplating.

A surprise guest joins Louis on the stage, it’s Kings! The song Overdrive is in full swing. The song has a seductive narrative with its new love on the horizon theme. Kings invites the crowd to clap as he fuels the tune with his featured rap and we vibin.’

Finally, the encore!

Louis steps back on the stage to serenade us with his well-known and loved song Rainbow. Many audience members sing along, and I can feel the deep connection many have to this sentimental tune.

The last song of the evening The People is joined by the band and even Arjuna Oakes is up on stage. High energy that stays with the crowd as we leave the building.

Odessa Neilands

Click any image to view a set of stunning photos from Chris Zwaagdyk.

Louis Baker
Arjuna Oakes