You Am I will forever be associated with the halcyon days of the Big Day Out Festivals that were so much a part of NZ/AUS music culture in the 1990s and early 2000s.
They emerged in the tradition of Australian alternative rock bands that connect to their cousins across the sea, the likes of Hunters & Collectors, Hoodoo Gurus and The Church, tonight is a chance to reconnect with You Am I
Ekko Park, local band that have seen success at home and abroad in the mid 2010’s, returned after five years in 2020 with a third album, and now in 2022 with a trifecta of singles. This is the first time I’ve seen them with the newish line up, featuring Jessie Booth (She Loves You & Elemeno P) and since 2021, Bryan Bell (Dead Flowers & Jordan Luck band) Their sound echoes Elemeno P, Placebo and dare I say it U2 (though that could be the Irish accent of singer Joe Walsh) Fresh from supporting Jordan Luck, the band are focussed around singer Joe Walsh, he is the driving force, Jessie Booth’s skills as a guitarist, especially lead are ferocious, while Bryan Bell is a stoic figure, connecting well with drummer Nick Douch. Tonight’s show, though, isn’t to their fan base, and while they do have a few enthusiastic followers, perhaps they were not quite the right opening act for tonight? Perhaps something much more left field like Warm Leather or Video Nasty would’ve suited better.
’15 years? 16 years? 17years? since You Am I graced our shores?’ a conversation that echoes the room, as anticipation grows for You Am I to take stage. The never-ending tuning of the large rack of guitars, stage left, by a consummate guitar tech, only raises expectations as the audience shuffles collectively toward the front, but in a polite way as one would expect from this crowd of seasoned concert goers (the bar area feels at time like an impromptu meeting of ex 95bFM DJs from the 90’s) Galatos is comfortably full so the need for another drink or a visit to the convenience isn’t a life or death struggle, just a simple timing issue (they might play Cathy’s Clown when I’m in the loo!)
To a fanfare of cheers and applause, the stars are on-board, but one shines brighter, perhaps it is the man with a fabulous mane of grey hair, chops and his trademark suit (outlandishly orange tonight) cut low and displaying a mysterious chest tattoo, yes, it’s Tim Rogers.
No words (or a few words) sorry I was still stunned by the suit, and they launch into Rumble (#4 Record 1998) blistering, followed quickly by Minor Byrd (Hi Fi Way 1995) and both are cleverly counterpoised by The Waterboy (The Lives of Others 2022) the obvious radio single from their 2022 album, it’s a magnificently crafted song, (in a The Replacements kind of way) and the live version tonight holds true to the studio version, but with a tinge of energised excitement, it’s great to see the band back at the top of the Australian album charts after a 20 year drought.
About a third of the way into the journey, and the band start to interact with the audience, Tim (and band mates) seem happy to be back in New Zealand, and he mutters appreciation for the fans that have come out. There is banter over old stuff versus new songs, a madcap story about losing guitarist Davey Long and picking up ‘Ernesto’ (or is it Manuel from Barcelona) at Auckland Airport for the tour (Aussies always trying to put one over the Kiwis) Reports that drummer Rusty Hopkinson needs to borrow a barge to ship all the records he bought at Slowboat and Real Groovy back home, can someone in the audience help? (Fun-Fact: Rusty was the drummer in Radio Birdman when they played at Auckland’s Kings Arms back in 2006 – another awesome show.) And the outing of Andy Kent, bassist and the bands Manager, as Wellingtonian escapee, though I believe he went across the ditch for punk and cheap beer at the age of 15 or that could be 17?
You Am I are back after a tumultuous two decades, energetic and revitalized, the experience continues with songs from their extensive catalogue, largely concentrated in the golden years: Who Put The Devil in you (from the highly underrated Deliverance album 2002), crowd pleaser Cathy’s Clown (Hi Fi Way 1995) as if they weren’t going to play it tonight, a new Tim Roger’s favourite We All Went Deaf (Overnight) (Lives of Others 2022) A passing comment about anybody wanting milk announces Mr Milk (Hourly Daily 1996) I’m sure there were crowd wooo-woooo’s in all the right places.
Of course, there was going to be the ballad, and Heavy Heart (#4 Record 1998) fits the bill, not a favourite of mine on vinyl, but tonight’s live version is stunning, the band transforms it into a highlight of the night. With such an extensive catalogue, there is plenty more, at least another half dozen, but they conclude with two gems: Good Mornin’ (Hourly Daily 1996) and obviously, of course it’s obvious, the Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth) produced Berlin Chair (Sound As Ever 1993)
No encore, just a group bow (and a leg kick from Tim) and a bit clowning as they exit stage left, hopefully to return a bit sooner next time.
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You Am I:
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