On a hot and sticky night the Capital’s fashionably late are still preening and showering after their day at the beach. So the Opera House remains a cavernous echo chamber when the first act Eden Mulholland and Adam Topeck open the show with a solid set from Eden’s latest release. Highlights include a souring “Utopia”, a glistening “The New Old Fashioned” and a splendid, stripped back rendition of “Wild Animal”. With only keys, a drum kit and guitar the duo manage to make a superb racket with experimental crescendos, cyclic drones backed by aching falsettos and all manner of pedal mayhem. Topeck’s presence behind the kit is impressive. It’s clear he’s more than just a time keeper breaking into free jazz motifs and orchestrated chaos in response Mullholland’s quirky keyboard playing and geeky guitar antics.
Next up tall, lanky Wellingtonian Luke Thompson lumbers on with a mix of a loose, dry humour and delicate neu-folk numbers from his ‘accidental’ album, recently recorded with Boy and Bear’s drummer/mate Tim Hart in between shifts as a barrister. Switching between acoustic guitar and a dodgy school knock-off electric he gives us simple tunes about stars and boxes, reminiscent of James Taylor or Ben Harper in his quiet phase.
For their second Wellington appearance (they were here two year’s ago) Aussie folk/popsters Boy and Bear have pretty much recycled their old stage set up, with Hart’s bright red kit up front, stage left, vocalist Dave Hosking dead centre, guitarist Killian Gavin to his right and the remaining band on low risers at the back. And it’s where they stay nailed to the stage for the night.
They open with a sparkling version of “Limit of Love”, the title track from the new album, followed by two more from the disc. By the fourth track it’s clear this venue is hopelessly inadequate for rock gigs, as the stage is gently swarmed by revellers. The ‘party’ faithful are here to kick it up and that’s exactly what they did. Perfectly clean-cut in a designer quiff, black shirt, skinny jeans and beat boots Hosking could of doubled for a young Brandon Flowers, albeit fronting One Republic. Still, the punters got a brilliant slice of just what Aussie mainstream is all about. “Three Headed Woman” got a big cheer. “Southern Sun” reminded me what a great hook is all about and “Feeding Lines” was encouraging, as more groovers politely bum rushed the stage until the front row finally had to get up and boogie along too.
A nice interlude was their grunty rendition of Amy’s “Back to Black”, originally performed for an Aussie Radio show “Like a version”. Sadly, the Neil Finn cover never surfaced.
The lighting team seemed to be having a rare off day, randomly dropping band mates into darkness and fading odd colour mixes like mauve, green or puce into the tall striped towers of light on the back of the stage. Perhaps the lighting designer had got his notes for tonight swapped with the show they’d done for the Cure back in ’88.
Towards the end Hosking casually says, more as a public announcement that anything else, that the band don’t do encores and at the end of the next three they’ll be popping off – so don’t feel too awkward about it. Then they rip into radio hugger “Harlequin dream”, pump out an extended “Part Time Believer” with Gavin finally giving his Gibson a decent workout before dropping a satisfying “Walk The Wire” to lead up to their departure.
For me, this B&B are a family friendly pop crew at the height of their powers. Slick, accurate, and sticking pretty closely to what it says on the box. Leave the fancy stuff to others – just give the people what they want. And no folks, no auditorium seats were harmed by dancing during this show.