Worth it for the banter

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 10:09 07/05/2014

So we're sitting around the table, post-Christmas dinner, the kids in bed, the adults chatting. My aunty is asking me about gigs I've been to and then asks me if I am going to Michael Buble. I tell her that I am not going to see him - but add that I saw him when he first visited New Zealand around a decade ago and that he was really pretty great to see live.

I've had no interest in his music since that show, I don't need to ever see him again but he was such a great showman, he could have doubled as a stand-up comedian. He was almost worth it for the banter.

"Michael Buble is scum. He should be fed to the f**king pigs", announced my older brother.

That Michael Buble gig I saw popped into my head briefly on Sunday night while watching KT Tunstall. I've not always been a fan - I loved her most recent record though.

If I went to the KT Tunstall gig on Sunday night as a reviewer (and here's my review by the way) I certainly left a fan. You couldn't not be impressed - even if you didn't like the songs, you know, if you found yourself there reluctantly, your partner a huge fan perhaps - there was a lot to like about Tunstall. She has a great voice, she's a more than competent musician, she manages to do the loop pedal tricks without it all seeming like a silly gimmick. She stepped down to the piano to play (sans gimmick) too.

And there's now a decent range of material for him to draw from - not just those cutesy-jangle hits like the unctuous Suddenly I See. She's probably had to play Black Horse and The Cherry Tree at every single show she's performed for the last decade - but she made it seem like she loved it still. In fact I'm sure she still does, and not just for the lifestyle that having commercial success early on can create, for the range of options it's presented.

You watch Tunstall live and you not only fall under the spell of the best songs - she's improving with every album as a writer - but you like her. You like the version of her you see on the stage. And it seems that the version of her that performs the show isn't just an act. She was funny, she was self-effacing and irreverent. She endeared herself to the crowd.

So for a minute there - while she was playing - I drifted back to that post-Christmas conversation, to the example of Michael Buble as an act I've seen where the banter was very possibly the highlight of the show; certainly that was the case for me anyway.

Tunstall had more going for her than just some quips and sassiness, I don't want to reduce her efforts down to being all about the funny asides and adlibs - but it certainly helped to win me over. I was going because it was a job. I was going because I really do like her latest record. I was going because I wanted to see behind any hype around her being the great live performer I've regularly heard mentioned.

She certainly delivered. It was a great show. Banter

But even if I hadn't enjoyed that music I think I'd have got something from it just for the jokes and stories around the songs. That's not likely to ever be the reason you go and see a musician live. But there have to be times when the banter has been part of the magic, a big selling point to the show.

I wonder if you've got examples of when a musical gig has been worth it for the banter. What's the best banter you've heard at a gig? Who does this job - the between-song rambling, the read-the-crowd stories - the best? And maybe you've had a situation where you were dragged along to a show, your friend or partner's favourite act, and you left a fan because of the banter.

Here's my review of KT Tunstall from Sunday night at Bodega. I've given Bodega some grief before for sound troubles. Not the case this time around. The sound of this gig was wonderful. Nice to be able to report that for a change.

Oh, and my aunty is pretty excited about seeing Michael Buble. It's in Auckland, so it's pretty wonderful to think she will be staying with my brother. If only I could be a fly on the wall after. Worth it for the banter...

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