Friday, June 22, 2007

Battlefield Band Concert Review, Dunedin

It was not without trepidation that I waited for the doors to open at the Regent Theatre at 7pm. I tried to suppress an initial flush of optimism as a few people fronted up right away and headed for the ticket counter. I allowed myself a small increase in positivity as an orderly queue of twenty or thirty assembled at the auditorium door. By the time those doors opened and the bow-tied and suited ushers were tearing tabs off tickets, I was something approaching elated. This was a big financial undertaking for the club and it was looking like any bath we might take would at least be a warm one.

A healthy Thursday-night cohort of about 450 people settled in and Lindsey Shields cut a dapper figure as she strolled into the limelight to welcome everybody and introduce the support act, Ben the Hoose. Bob and Kenny played a sterling set, Kenny’s Scottish fiddle styles were sublime and Bob delivered his self-penned songs in what proved to be the pick of the voices this night. His warm tones rang around the Victorian alabaster and shut the Scottish cold out. It was pleasing to see a New Zealand act every bit the equal of the international act to follow.

And follow they did. The first half of the Battlefield Band concert seem to set them all up individually, featuring each in turn playing to their strengths: a rugged set of pipe tunes from Mike Katz, an inspired set of strathspeys and reels from Alisdair White who has just released a solo album (“The White Album” – no mention of The Beatles) and songs from Sean O’Donnell (the Tom Waites Shiver Me Timbers being a particular favourite) and band kaumatua, Alan Reid. Reid took great delight in the theatre’s Yamaha grand piano which enabled him to move away from his twin keyboards for a more traditional Scottish accompaniment.

In the second half the band delivered en force tunes and songs that made the wee hairs stand up. The unison playing of pipes and fiddle were perfect to the finest ornament – it is only in a sound-reinforced concert or studio recording that these two instruments could be equal in volume, so it is pleasing to be able to experience the synergy of both. And as for the sound, while for the most part perfectly balanced, I did find the overly lavish reverb left a harsh tail on the vocals, fiddle and whistles which I found quite distracting.

All in all though, it was the most pleasing way to spend one of the coldest Dunedin nights for a while.

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