Shayne P. Carter – Kings Arms February 9, 2018

We just received this write-up from journalist Karen McCarthy who caught Shayne Carter (Dimmer/Straitjacket Fits)  at The Kings Arms this past weekend…

The clock is ticking on the venerable live music institution that is Auckland’s Kings Arms, but the Newton pub was packed to the gunnels Friday night for a one-off show by rock god Shayne Carter and  his band Dimmer to farewell the old girl of a series of many and varied goodbye gigs at the K.A before the doors shut for the last time at the end of this month. It shall be a sad day indeed.

Dimmer’s highly anticipated return to the stage was heightened by the mouthwatering prospect of the closest thing possible to a reformation of Straitjacket Fits – Carter promising a rare set of his earlier band’s songs with some of his actual old Fits bandmates. No surprise it was sold out. Expectations high.

Even with short back and sides and wearing a Dad-like preppy short-sleeved checked shirt, Shayne Carter oozed rock and roll swagger from the outset.

He took the stage in front of a mostly ageing, appreciative and hugely affectionate crowd, kicking off with a tight, muscular set of some of Dimmer’s finest,  including the one-chord splendour of Seed – truncated this evening. It has been extended to incredible 20-minute jams at past Shayne gigs but there was much to get through this night. The brooding magnificence of tracks like Pendulum, Degrees of Existence, I Believe You Are A Star, If I Were You, simmering groove of Evolution as well as more recent work What’s A Few Tears To The Ocean, and the older dissonant industrial instrumental Crystalator, a crowd favourite.  Carter was mesmerising, hunched and slouching over his guitar, wrestling the sounds out of it it seemed, moving and grooving, prowling within the confines of the stage, lost in sound.

Shayne was aided and abetted by trusty lieutenants James Duncan on guitar and  drummer Gary Sullivan working his magic, joined by Vaughan Williams on bass duties, who got special mention and thanks. Credit to the sound-man – it was mighty fine. The intensity of the music and performance tempered by Shayne’s brief but cheerful between-song banter.  I’d say he was having a ball. As were we.

After a short ten-minute break, came the icing on the cake – Carter returned with former Fits bandmates John Collie on drums (his first gig in 12 years we were told!) and guitarist Mark Petersen also ably taking on harmonies after all these years – a longtime and one of the best Kings Arms soundmen until recent months, great to see him up on stage instead of behind the desk. No mention of original guitarist and singer-songwriter Andrew Brough, but bass player David Woods (R.I.P) was remembered. The multi-talented James Duncan took on bass duties for this highly anticipated Fits set …a trawl through the rich seams of the band’s back catalogue including Dialling A Prayer, the wonderful Done, She Speeds, Bad Note For A Heart, Missing Presumed Drowned and Roller Ride.

I didn’t go out with the intention of reviewing so forgive lack of detail, any setlist errors, but the show could not go without mention. A brilliant evening with one of New Zealand’s perhaps most under-rated greatest bands. Am I talking about the Fits, or Dimmer? Doesn’t matter really. They were. They are.

And Shayne, I’m leaving the last word to you ‘cos you put it best a long time ago .. and despite the difficulties and the disappointments of the music biz, you have kept the faith and it is always a thrill to see you on stage and you never disappoint whether in support, flying solo, or with some or other of your tremendous bandmates  –  ‘I believe you are a star’.

Karen McCarthy