Last night The Louisiana in Bristol had the pleasure of being graced by a truly great musician: Bic Runga from New Zealand.
In my humble opinion, she is one of the best singer/songwriters in the world, never mind New Zealand. I have been a huge fan for a few years and finally got to see her play live.
I was not disappointed. In fact it was better than I imagined it would be. There were some great surprises to be had for music fans last night.
The first surprise of the evening One was the opening act (and thus Bic’s band for the night), the Devastations from Melbourne. A little bit folk and a little bit rock, they reminded me at times of Nik Cave and Powderfinger, so for me I thought they were a good start to the evening. Considering how the lead singer had managed to disparage Bristol’s magnificent maritime history in one comment by describing our harbour and river as “that brown bit out the front”, I thought he managed to win the crowd round by the end of their set!!
Certainly they must win some sort of award for having strange song titles, namely “What’s a place like that doing in a girl like you?”.
The second surprise of the evening was finding out that Anika Moa was singing in Bic’s band! An equally talented singer, although not as yet well known, Anika has a wonderfully distinctive voice and a vibrant personality.
Anika decided to keep us entertained during the supposed interval by telling us of her West Country heritage (family in Stroud no less), trying to describe New Zealand, generally being very funny while attempting to tune her out of tune guitar, and playing some wonderful songs. Standout track was her famous (in NZ) single “Youthful” (done in a reggae/freestyle mode) but other highlights were “Picture me in the 70s” and the stunningly beautiful “Mother”. She certainly impressed the crowd and it was a wonderful bonus having her play.
So then at last the main attraction of the evening, and as the Devastations and Anika Moa clambered on stage, we had yet another surprise: the other backing singer with Anika Moa was Anna Coddington, lead singer of fast rising kiwi band Duchess.
She and Anika on backing vocals would prove superb accompaniment throughout the course of the evening.
Frankly, I wasn’t sure how many more nice surprises I could cope with!
Anyway, at last we came to Bic who, surprisingly started with the relatively unknown title track from her new album “Birds”. She played played 8 other tracks from it, such as the distinctive “Blue Blue Heart” and my favourite “Say After Me”.
Birds is definitely edgier and less radio friendly than her first 2 albums, but it reflects a more soulful period of time when Bic’s father Joe, passed away. Parts of Birds are quite dark and haunting, but the more you listen to it, the more it grows on you.
Bic also played a smattering of old favourites from her first two albums. The ever popular “Sway” and the moody, soulful “Drive” from her first album of the same name. The way Bic performed the latter (just her with her guitar) was for me, the highlight of the whole gig.
The other tracks were taking from the hugely successful second album Beautiful Collision and included “Something Good” (which kept the sing-along fans happy!) and “Honest Goodbyes”. Another track and the last of the night was “Get Some Sleep”, a crowd pleaser and guaranteed to send us home happy.
Bic seemed happiest when she was playing tracks by herself with just her guitar, but I think that reflects her gentle, quiet personality. Certainly she came across and humble and pleased to see us – she described the crowd as being “very sporting squashing yourselves all in together”! She definitely has a stage prescence but its not one that shouts aloud, rather one that speaks with a gentle strength.
It was great to be part of the audience last night, despite the small venue and the rising temperatures (can we have the air-con on next time?!) For longtime fans like myself, it was a rare treat; for those not familiar to her music, I am sure they will have been converted after last night’s performance.
And after waiting 4 years to see her live, I get the chance to see her again when she returns to The Louisiana on 22nd June!