This was the first thing I went to after I arrived in Auckland for the Auckland Arts Festival 2013. It was a fantastic way to start, not least of which was running into people I know. I saw more people that I knew in the 15 mins before the show started than I ever do on the streets of Wellington. (So what if most of them were from Wellington…)
According to the Festival website, Everything is ka pai “In a nutshell: Kiwi crooners, class acts and good times” which is a pretty accurate description of what we got. (It’s missing out on the ‘heart’ bit of the equation but I guess there was a word count.) It was held in the Auckland Town Hall, a lovely fancy venue. The audience were ready to engage with the performers and the performers were warm towards the audience.
So it starts in the dark with Hinewehi Mohi and Tama Nathan performing Haere Mai (Everything is ka pai), kicks into gear with house band The Yoots (THE YOOTS), digs into my heart with Seth Haapu and Blue Smoke (marred by an annoying buzzing but still beautiful), then brings the cheeky with the Modern Maori Quartet’s version of Pokarekare Ana. Four tracks in, there are people dancing in the aisles and smiles all over the place. Our first chance to sing along is Tutira Mai Nga Iwi. It’s a bit dodgy (the band has solos which are fantastic but confuse us) which adds to the charm of the night. It feels like we are all responsible for how it goes. Maisey Rika with the St Joseph’s Maori Girls Choir sing a Hirini Melbourne waiata, then Te Waka Huia (TE WAKA HUIA) take us Round the Motu with waiata from all over NZ. It’s a fantastic combination of songs in English and songs in Maori. The Modern Maori Quartet are back with Cruise (arranged by Tama Waipara who arranged the evening), then Ten Guitars played by Ten Good Wa(hine)s (hahaha) featuring Anika Moa and Julia Deans. The two featured women have a wonderful rapport, hilariously trying to out do each other’s vocals. The Ten Good Wa’s include a string quartet, several guitars and a ukulele. The first half closes with Ria Hall belting out Whakaaria Mai. Actually, that undersells what she does but I can’t think of some other way to describe it. I guess it’s that she sings her spirit into the waiata.
In the break I nip out to get a couple glasses of wine (1 for me and 1 for a friend) only to almost spill them when Stan Walker bumps into me. I find my friend again and she invites me to sit at her table. It was fun sitting at the back being able to see almost the whole audience but not so fun not being able to see past the sound guy who kept standing up. (Sit down bro, you’re in the way.) Her table is halfway down on the side. Immediately I spot another two friends. I’ve been at this new table for 10 seconds and already I’m ignoring them. Happily there’s enough time to be introduced to everyone. I also have a good chat with my closest table mate. He and his partner have been in the country for 5 weeks. They love the concert, particularly the MMQ. (Not surprising I guess. Gorgeous men with lovely voices and a little bit cheeky.)
The second half starts with a conga line around the hall. Somehow I’m dragged in (actually I know how, Miria George *glares*) and dance my way around the tables. Will and Annie Crummer with The Rarotongans sing three songs. Song number two Aue Taku Tane has the whole crowd spellbound. Maisey Rika, Ria Hall and Annie Crummer are back with a song celebrating Ethnic Beauty. I’m not entirely sure about the lyrics although once again, I guess there’s a limit to how many ideas you can get into a thing. Finally John Rowles sings Cheryl Moana Marie and If I Only Had Time. My friend was so excited that we had to stand to the side. She couldn’t stay seated. It was a little like seeing a living legend…actually, it was exactly that. I can’t exactly remember what happened next – either Te Waka Huia came back out and sang Poi E OR the marching band came out playing Maori Battalion March to Victory. All I remember at the end was an overwhelming sense of good humour and aroha. Not a bad way to finish a performance.