Troy Kingi – Auckland Town Hall: August 19, 2022

Troy Kingi spreads his musical canvas wide, in time and space, in featuring his folk album Black Sea Golden Ladder released a year ago. It was supposed to be Troy and Delaney Davidson, but Delaney’s not here! even though he’s furiously banging on the Town Hall door trying to get in.

Davidson is sick in bed with Covid. Jed Parsons steps up to fill those shoes tonight and the show rolls on.

The pair did debut the album prior to its release at the last Auckland Folk Festival. Maybe some of those folkie jaws dropped at the use of an electric guitar. The overall tone tonight is not too different from then, even with a full band playing on most songs.

Troy KingiKingi stretches the boundaries of folk to make it much more inclusive. It has always been that way. A pre-fame Bob Dylan encounters Thelonius Monk, be-bop hero, playing in a New York night club. I play folk music, sir he stumbles to say. We all play folk music, son is the reply, as the legend goes.

Opening song Sleep is folk with a generous amount of melodic pop. Feel the darkness start descending/ How long can we stay apart? Two violins carry it along. Candles are lit on stage ceremoniously, and appear as holograms in front of the performers.

I am told later it is a fine mesh screen being projected on to, but it is a stunning effect and features throughout the show.

One of the best is Fork in the Road. The theme of the song is choices. The montage is a history of protest in New Zealand which takes in the Land Marches, Dame Whina Cooper, Bastion Point, the 1981 Springbok Tour, the anti-nuclear movement, Māori sovereignty and a lot more. The images of the riot squads and their long batons still brings up the immediate adrenaline rush even after 41 years. There’s a new law emerging/ Torn between nature and binary code.

Troy KingiSeveral songs, such as Forgotten Like a Dream have resonance in 70s soul and Black (mostly) American music. Black was empowerment then, in the wake of the death of Martin Luther King.

Come Around starts as pastoral folk, then becomes gospel when they get to the lines Reach for the water/ As it lights me on fire.

Hunt Down Happiness is magnified on stage into a theatrical experience. Incantatory ritual music.

It is the songs outside of the Black Sea album that carry a lot of the soul content.

Mighty Invader from the Hot Colony Burning Acres album loses some of its reggae rhythm from the recorded version and comes across as hard-edged Seventies Soul. The attitude of Gil Scott-Heron or Sly Stone rather than Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues.

Caught in the Rain from the Ghost of Freddie Cesar album is loose-limbed and backbone-skanking funk which is the one that gets the audience out of their seats and dancing. Of course, you should be dancin’.  

All Your Ships Have Sailed, from the same album, is a folk pop singalong, and it’s lead by the booming drums. The Great Hall has the deep bass echo and reverb that you don’t find anywhere else.

Twilight is a curious song from Black Sea. Has the Fifties cadence of Green Door or a Marty Robbin’s number. A Hawaiian twang strum, maybe a little Cuban. Unassuming but insinuates itself as a perfect little pop song. Comes from the mythical Fifties when innocence lost after the war was briefly regained. Ended with Elvis going to the army.

The band comes back to encore with two more.

First, a cover of Dan Auerbach’s Trouble Weighs a Ton. Done as a gospel soul duet, in a similar folk manner to Simon and Garfunkel.

Gimmie Hell comes from where I don’t know, but it’s an arresting closing number. Starts with tribal beat soul. Moves to the rock’n’roll of Chuck Berry and Here come ole flat-top/ Movin’ up quickly. Better leave it at that to avoid Morris Levy calling.

That’s Troy Kingi and a mighty show. It’s all folk music that he plays.

Rev Orange Peel

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