The call came from a regular reader for this topic - and it was supported, in the best way people know how to show support these days. Yes, there were "likes" on Facebook. It runs that deep. So here we go then...
A popular way for bands to remind people of their relevance (particularly of when they were relevant) and a clever way to generate new back-catalogue sales, appealing also for the old-fashioned music fan who loves the idea of the album as much as he/she actually loves the album, is the tour where an artist performs their "classic" record in its entirety.
I was disappointed seeing the Pixies show in Auckland where the band performed Doolittle. Well, not so much disappointed as underwhelmed - there were moments, I guess. But in the end I didn't need to see it happen. It didn't do it for me.
But that doesn't automatically dissuade me from the concept. There have been other classic-album shows I would have liked to see. Dinosaur Jr performing You're Living All Over Me, definitely! And two big, really big, international tours that are racking up sales worldwide are Paul Simon performing Graceland and Peter Gabriel playing So. I would love to see those shows; those albums are part of my musical DNA. (Just the other week I wrote about Gabriel's Don't Give Up, the centrepiece of So.)
But what about Kiwi bands playing one of their albums live - working through their classic album; are there, in fact, any candidates?
There are no decent full albums by New Zealand musicians, you might want to write.
That's just silly. There are loads - in some ways I can think, instantly, of more classic Kiwi albums I would love to hear performed live in their entirety than I can albums from international artists. But maybe that's because I have the chance to see so many Kiwi acts, so easily, and this would be the "something different" that might be required to make seeing a band in a bar for the umpteenth time a necessary experience. And it could be that the likelihood of it happening here is, ironically, less likely - so that make makes the thought of it seem so enticing.
You see, however cynical one might like to be about the intentions of the classic album gig - as I outlined above, a reminder of relevance, a cash-injection attempt for the back-catalogue - there's nothing wrong with that. I want to see the best material by an artist live - yes, I want to see and hear risks taken and all of that but sometimes the best material would be just one classic album, if we believe in the story an album tells/sells - the arc of the ideas, the arrangement and order of songs. We need to believe in that for this to work - if you don't, fair enough. I'm all for seeing a Greatest Hits set by a band I love. Absolutely. But for repeat business, and that's (often) what seeing a Kiwi band in New Zealand is - we're more likely to see them again and again, if we like them, than we are the international acts - so a classic album show could liven things up a bit.
Shihad did this - touring both Killjoy and The General Electric. I chose to see the Killjoy show, not because I think it's their best album, more because their live sets (always great) are more often filled with more songs from The General Electric than any other album. The General Electric is the band's best album for me - I've covered that already. But the Killjoy show was superb.
Most of the great Kiwi albums I'd love to see live come from that time-frame - the 1990s. It was a great time for New Zealand music - silly quotas and over-funding of tame, radio-filler pop had not yet ruined the market. Bands were enjoying the chance to release CDs - sometimes via major labels - and there was a lot going on.
So I'd love to see Stereo Bus' self-titled debut album performed in full. Same with Bressa Creeting Cake - two perfect pop albums that I love today just as I loved them 15 years ago. Add Superette's Tiger to the mix too.
But for me it'll always be Dave Dobbyn who gets the nod. I wrote, here, about his great album trilogy. And I can imagine hearing any one of those albums live - with a selection of his hits as an encore. He could do Lament for the Numb, Twist and The Islander across three nights, a gig-series, much as Paul Kelly has created his A-Z show.
But much as I really love The Islander and think that it could be the perfect "classic" album to hear - what could really work is hearing Dobbyn perform Lament and Twist back to back - short albums, two sets, perfect pacing. It was the start of the magic for Dobbyn - a chance to hear him outside and away from just the obvious anthems. And I think there's nothing wrong with those anthems; great songs and all - but this sort of show would offer so much more than just the obvious hits, it would go a long way toward showing the genius of his songwriting to people convinced that Dobbyn's music consists only of the overplayed radio staples. Also it would feel like two sides to a coin, those albums (Lament for the Numb and Twist) arriving so close together.
It would also reward the fans. Because the true fans know that those three albums - Lament, Twist and Islander - are the classic trilogy.
I would love to hear any one of those (or a combination) performed in a concert setting.
If I go back beyond the 90s then I'm convinced that something possibly brilliant - and worth the punt - would be hearing Mental Notes performed by a version of Split Enz that features Tim Finn and Phil Judd. I guess we'll never hear that - but that's what dreams are for. I think that would be magical.
So who's with me on the Dobbyn? Or the Bressa Creeting Cake? Or the Superette? Or the Stereo Bus? And if not - then what's your pick for the classic Kiwi album you'd like to hear in its entirety?
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