A Summer’s Day Live – Dragon, Jefferson Starship & Toto
Location: TSB Bowl of Brooklands, New Plymouth, NZ
Date: January 11th, 2019
Rating: 4/5 stars
Reviewer: ETHAN GRIFFITHS

 

After two shows in Mount Maunganui and Napier, the lineup of A Summer’s Day Live consisting of a trio of ‘80s rock groups descended on New Plymouth, welcomed by a blisteringly hot and humid west coast day.

It was the first summer event to arrive in New Plymouth for 2019, in what is set to be a hectic summer for entertainment at The Bowl.

We kicked things off with Dragon, led out by an incredibly energised lead guitarist and vocalist Mark Williams, rocking his trademark short dreads and jeans. It’s the second time they’ve performed at the Bowl in the last year, playing at the WOMAD festival last March.

While Dragon likely found the heat weak in comparison to the April Sun in Cuba, it didn’t dampen their energy whatsoever. Performing to a sea of 12,000 sweat-ridden shining foreheads, the band had the entire natural amphitheatre in the palm of their hand, singing along to classic hits such as Rain and Are You Old Enough. While the main queue for drinks extended well beyond 500 people, the remainder of the audience vibed out to much lesser known Dragon hits, enjoying a cold glass of wine or a chilled Tui.

Dragon Performing. Photo by Ethan Griffiths.

By the end of their set, everyone was reminded just how talented Mark Williams and his crew really are. After an hour on stage in 26-degree heat, 65-year-old Williams was just as energised as he was at the beginning; his love and passion for pleasing an audience ever so present.

Thirty minutes later, Jefferson Starship came out to wild applause, but twenty minutes into the set and a person next to me called it a “borefest”.

“I feel like I’m at a gypsy fair, and a crap one at that”

While the extremely talented lead vocalists made a clearly evident effort to connect with the crowd, they failed, only finally grasping the audiences full attention when they broke out classic Starship hits such as the likes of We Built This City and Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. While the crowd could passionately sing along for the 10-minute duration of these two songs, the remainder of the one hour set was left to other priorities, such as going to grab beers or talking to the person next to you. While the band oozed very evident musical talent, there were very few hits, crowd engagement was poor and the entertainment aspect was lost, with most in favour of lining up at drink stands and food trucks.

Once Toto reached the stage, the response was colossal. Opening with two lesser known songs and then their 1978 hit Hold The Line, the crowd was in awe. Lead singer Joseph Williams was roaming around the stage like there was no tomorrow, wearing John Lennon style sunglasses, with his scarf made out of gold chain bouncing up and down. Lead guitarist Steve Lukather was as passionate as ever, rocking out just as a stereotypical rockstar would.

However, similar to the problem Jefferson Starship faced, once the first few hits were done and dusted, they were left performing their ‘new’ music, as well as pretty much unheard of older numbers. While more and more people flocked to the food trucks and drink stands, with some people even heading out the gates, Steve Lukather came to the mic and got serious. He held up a guitar, which he said was owned by his good friend George Harrison of The Beatles. He talked about Harrison, who died in 2001, how they had written a song together and had become friends. And then, rapturous applause.

“George wrote this song, but we’ve put our own little spin on it”

They begin the tune to My Guitar Gently Weeps by The Beatles, commonly recognised as one of their best songs (and my personal all-time favourite). The audience was on their feet, their iPhone torches out, singing along and creating an atmosphere in the crowd that I will never forget. It was the highlight of my night. Not only was it pure entertainment, but it also was emotional, it was heartwarming, and best of all, it had a purpose.

Photo by Ethan Griffiths

The crowd was back into it, and there only seemed to be one thing left.

“Are you all ready for that song?”

Everyone was on their feet, screaming at the top of their lungs. Even the hundred or so people outside the gates who hadn’t bought tickets were going nuts.

And then, off they went, with the drums echoing, only whispers of extremely quiet conversation, and the stars above guiding us all to sweet, sweet musical salvation.

A ten-minute performance of Africa was beyond what anyone expected. Eccentric, energising and passionate. Throughout the whole audience, there was not a single person not on their feet or singing along. It was everything everyone hoped and more. One of, if not the most popular song of the 1980’s, and it was live, right before our eyes. It was incredible.

Photo by Ethan Griffiths

And with that, they were done. They left with everyone on a high, buzzing and extremely happy with the fact they spent a minimum of $119 on an event headlined by what some would say were old, irrelevant and tired bands.

But that’s entirely the opposite of what it was.

It was an evening fuelled by musical energy, incredible tunes and a crowd that was absolutely in love with the big hits. While the lack of well-known music and engaging entertainment through a large portion of the show was a shame, it was almost entirely made up for by the response from the crowd when the classics were rolled out.

The event really goes to show how beautiful the Bowl of Brooklands really is, and with the Taranaki heat beating down on us, and the lack of any rain to bless, it was a truly enjoyable night.

ETHAN GRIFFITHS is Tearaway’s Political Editor. Young, passionate and a wannabe babysitter for Neve Ardern, Ethan won’t stop talking about politics. Likes a bit of cricket, wearing trendy ties and is in love with Jeff the purple wiggle. 

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