Christchurch Arts Festival 2011
It was almost a packed house that were awaiting the show to start at 7..30pm when one minute later the earth threw a wobbly of the 4.0 variety. Comparing survival items with a group of strangers, one of whom moved her car keys and cellphone around her neck ''just in case''. Welcome to the new normal.
While mindful of the neon green exit signs, we nervous souls were well and truly won over by the soul, heart and exquisite arrangements offered by the CSO, conducted by Christchurch treasure Tom Rainey, and presented by classy headliner Whirimako Black, L.A. Mitchell and Mark Vanilau and sassy backing vocalists Lissel Stewart and Roslyn Langton.
After Black was introduced there was an awkward delay. Rainey turned to the audience and said ''I don't think this has ever happened before''. We chatted amongst ourselves and erratic smatterings of applause broke out for no apparent reason.
Eventually Black appeared, looking radiant, and said "Kia ora everyone, I just crawled out from under the table'' before launching into Feeling Good, best known by Nina Simone. Black nailed it. It was utterly exquisite and the clever arrangements and the way in which te reo Maori was interwoven made it uniquely hers.
I don't know how, but the CSO managed to create sounds in the glorified sports barn which were precise, beautiful and gloriously intimate. There were times when the arrangements literally had me holding my breath they were so delicately spellbinding, even if I did loudly applaud in the wrong place causing a woman with a face like a boiled goat to glare at me.
Black provided the soul, offering five numbers including covers of Feel Like Makin' Love, I Can't Stand the Rain, and the night's highlight, her version of It's A Man's Man's Man's World, during the more than two hour show but the Christchurch artists provided the heart which kept the night pumping.
Mitchell's performance was stunning. Her tiny frame roared out her own originals from throughout her career and covers such as Anyone Who Had A Heart. Mitchell has been carving a name for herself in recent years both with her group Dukes and alongside Vanilau in Dave Dobbyn's backing band. In my opinion she's a world class act.
Vanilau was equally compelling delivering What A Wonderful World and Seal's Kiss From A Rose.
In one guise or another, Kiwi Soul also featured all the members of superb Christchurch group Oval Office, sax man extraordinaire Gwyn Reynolds deserving special mention.
Backing vocalist Stewart, a New Zealand Idol contestant in 2005, drew rapturous applause for her version of Standing On Shaky Ground. Stewart used to perform regularly in SOL Square pre quake, keep an eye out for her performing around the suburbs.
Langton first caught my ears in an early incarnation of Cairo Knife Fight and hers is the sultry voice on A Hori Buzz track Glitter In the Gutter.. She impressed with her power and range, covering One Day I'll Fly Away.
My soul was warmed by these Kiwis.
- © Fairfax NZ News