Selling out and cashing in all at once
A couple of weeks ago I went to the Acoustic Church tour featuring Anika Moa, Boh Runga and Hollie Smith. Here's how I saw it.
You have to dig the branding. Together In Concert - that's to make you think back to when Dave Dobbyn, Bic Runga and Tim Finn did their trio tour of the country. And Acoustic Church. It sells tickets. And the first song featured acoustic guitar and voices. After that there was electric guitar, bass and keys on every song. So not really all that acoustic up in this church. But there was most certainly a feeling of preaching to the converted.
For me it was one-sided: I believe Anika Moa's songs - and believe in them. She gives so much of herself, of her story, her life in musical vignettes. And her material stood head and shoulders above Boh Runga's light tunes about vague characters and Hollie Smith's faux-soul stomps about vague concepts.
That said, there was an easy-going pleasantness to proceedings - nothing musically remarkable and perhaps that is why it worked for so many, an easy stab in the general direction of genial collaboration. Never mind that the new songs rode along lazily on simple, repetitive phrases and contained a few awkward attempts at rock-out moments and that many of the songs from the individual writers might have been better served without newly arranged harmonies. The three voices don't actually blend to create added beauty, they merely sit together without further ruining things. Nothing was improved for having any combination of Boh, Anika or Hollie cooing behind whichever one of the three was lead voice on any given tune.
But then, if that were not the setup, we would not have this tour; it couldn't have this billing. And that is what sells tickets - the idea that three peers share the stage, three equals sharing the workload. And for those standing to cheer them all back to the stage to hear Bathe in the River, that is exactly what they saw and heard.
And that was how I had to report that show. That's all I could say. It would be unfair to call it outright awful - but really there wasn't anything much happening. People seemed to applaud Hollie Smith the loudest, never mind that her star has been reduced. Here the people who really only know her from the first album, which they really only know because of Bathe in the River, were sure they were seeing something wonderful.
I don't really want to rain on anyone's parade - I know it takes all sorts. But these package-tours are just getting a bit much, don't you think? We're stretching the boundaries of belief here. I have nothing against Boh Runga but what's she really doing with music these days? Nothing. Waiting for package-tours to elevate her to the status of Smith and Moa just by being on the bill.
And what's Smith's status? We don't hear from her - but here she is on the bill so she must be good.
The music that the three of them are writing by committee is not strong. Their best material individually doesn't sound any better at all for having the others alongside them.
But this epidemic will continue.
I see that Tiki Taane and Opshop are performing together. And if you needed an extra push toward believing that these acts have any artistic integrity - or credibility - there's an orchestra you see.
What do you think about these collaborations and packaged-up shows? Are you a fan? Do you think that it's killing three birds with one stone (that's not intended as a slur against Moa/Smith/Runga by the way - just to clarify) or do you think that it's a clever marketing trick because it works? Are you happy to see these sorts of shows carry on around the country? Or do you never support these obvious cash-ins?
What are your thoughts on this? And did you see this latest Acoustic Church farce? One acoustic song does not an acoustic show make.