Nathan Haines: The Civic
There is something quite fascinating about jazz. The syncopation, its intricacies, the structure of the music itself, or sometimes the lack of it. The fact that it features in or has influenced so many other musicians work; like the fantastic Jordan Rakei who performed just the night before at Auckland’s Powerstation.
I will be the first to admit that I am no expert on the genre; however, I know what I like and thanks to growing up in such a music-centred household, I have certainly been exposed to jazz, blues hip-hop and soul as well as everything in between. Jazz can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Just let it speak.
For many aficionados, The Civic show was one of great excitement. Not only would Nathan Haines be performing his entire debut album Shift Left in full live, but he would be doing so with the original Shift Left live band, some of the members having flown in from around the world just to do so. Evidence surely of how well-respected Nathan Haines truly is.
Taking a seat upstairs in the circle area, I could feel nothing but exhilaration in the air, no doubt amplified by such a beautiful setting. The richness of The Civic’s surroundings reflecting that of the music itself. Taking the stage alongside Nathan Haines was his brother Joel Haines, Kevin Field, Richard Hammond, drummer Mickey Ututaonga, Miguel Fuentes and of course Manuel Bundy. There would also be a few special guests pop up throughout the night (including Dei Hamo!).
Bathed in cascading stage lights, Haines and the Shift Left live band eased the audience in, their harmonies filling the room and putting everyone at ease. Tracks such as ‘East River Drive’ soon tickling the senses as the tempo picked up and that iconic scratch from Bundy came through. I was soon informed that some of the members before me on stage had not played together in several years; not that you would have guessed it. The transitions, the melodies, the embodiment of the music itself was all there, flowing from their instruments as if it was 1994 again. The music itself did not feel dated though, far from it; there was a freshness, a brightness that could only come from such a group of performers and their learned experience over the last twenty-five years, each of them adding their own splash of colour to this musical cocktail.
Haines himself was at peak performance despite a mic feedback issue early on hurting his ear; the only indication that he had been ill (Haines was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2017) the huskiness of his voice. Moving between his three key instruments of flute, tenor and soprano saxophone, he looked to be having the time of his life, the occasional hand flourish in the air capping it off. Around me patrons absorbed the music, some taking it all in with their heads thrown back, others every so often softly punching the air or exclaiming ‘Yes!’ and ‘Wow!’ at certain notes, their enthusiasm rather infectious.
‘Sonovabitch’ – a favourite of mine – ‘Lady J’ and ‘Just Like That’ melted into me, as I melted into the seat. This was good, so very, very good.
Nathan’s brother Joel (who has recently been nominated for a APRA Silver Scroll) had his moment to shine as a recent piece penned by him was played, the unreleased track sending shivers of excitement rippling across the venue, older tracks such as ‘Believe’ from the Sound Travels album that had been included in the set list for this commemoration having much the same effect. The encore seeing many in the audience spill forth from their seats, their applause as exuberant as they were heartfelt.
This was a show that was obviously treasured as much by its performers as its fans, each and every person in the room celebrating not only this amazing genre of music but the artists who live and breathe it; frankly, it was an honour to be part of it.
Published by Ambient Light Blog
Review by James Edwards. Photography by Chris Zwaagdyk