Ambient Music

Arahi, Napier New Zealand, 2023

Arahi – After Hours at Vinci’s

20th January 2023
Vinci’s Pizza, Napier, New Zealand.

Review by Rosheen Fitzgerald, photography by Jessie Broad.

A narrow corridor of a pizza parlour is not an obvious choice for a gig venue. But by now those who have been following the meteoric rise of Arahi’s star have learned to expect the unexpected. His loyal base are out in force, crammed in, quite literally to the rafters for this standing room only late night lock in.

Everyone’s favourite place in Napier for a New York slice is buzzing with a hum of excitement. The air’s alive with a whanau vibe, a closeness that comes from more than the close quarters. Those who have snared tickets to this unsurprisingly sold out show know Arahi specialises in unique immersive experiences. Everything he touches has a patina of magic to it, born from the marriage of innovation, dedication, collaboration and considerable talent.

The band squeeze into the window alcove – by day Hastings Street’s prime people watching spot – in a seemingly impossible feat for four not small men. They’re giving off clown car vibes, practically standing on one another, but somehow they make it work. If anyone got a drumstick in the eye or a melodica to the elbow they hid it well.

Armed with his faithful guitar, Arahi leads from the front with a microcosm of his Revelator band – Phill Jones on harmonies, chiming in with tambourine and aforementioned melodica, Chris Beernik on bass and Joe Dobson keeping the beat from the small end of the wedge. The sound bounces around the strangely shaped room. Any sacrifice in fidelity is more than compensated for by the fullness of the experience.

He opens, as he often does, with Everything’s About to Change. It’s a tone setter that lets us know, as with all his very special shows, that things will be different once he’s done with us. There’s an infectious vigour to the way they play that ripples through the hot as hell, heaving room, the crowd by necessity moving as one.

The short set peaks and troughs, an expertly guided journey through well loved originals and a couple of carefully selected covers. Her Love’s Gonna Tear Me Apart has us swaying, moving the heart and the hips. We’re electrified by an upbeat rendition of Searching in the Sun, a song which in his hands has had so many varied arrangements and iterations, then lulled by All That’s Left to Do is Sleep. It starts out dreamily quiet and ends in a shredding extended instrumental, showing us just what this boy can wring out of his simple instrument, should we be in any doubt about his prodigious skill.

Homage is paid to contemporary kiwi, Marlon Williams, with a cover from his back catalogue, Vampire Again, rendered with a full hearted passion that at the very least equals the original. Then he’s back to his roots with songs conceived in his teens, crowd favourite and his first release, The Purpose of this Man, followed by the deafening crescendo of what feels like the apex of the gig, My Baby’s Like a Hurricane. Rather than leaving us in our fervour he lets us down gently with a disarmingly tender cover of Lord Huron’s The Night We Met, a song that acted in part as inspiration for the one that went before.

There is no encore, no need for off again on again posturing – hard enough to wedge these boys into the space once. What we have been given is a complete offering, band and audience utterly satiated, squeezed of every drop of joy, every ounce of energy. Released into the night air there’s a shared sense of camaraderie in what we have witnessed. Change is in the making, a delicious aroma wafting on the breeze, held in the hearts of those of us lucky enough to be able to say we were there.

Were you there at Vinci’s Pizza for this very special late night lock-in? Or have you seen Arahi perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below!

  1. Everything’s About to Change
  2. Her Love’s Gonna Tear Me Apart
  3. Searching in the Sun
  4. All That’s Left to Do is Sleep
  5. Vampire Again (Marlon Williams cover)
  6. The Purpose of this Man
  7. My Baby’s Like a Hurricane
  8. The Night We Met (Lord Huron cover)

Note: Ambient Light was provided passes to review and photograph this concert. As always, this has not influenced the review in any way and the opinions expressed are those of Ambient Light’s only.

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