Bret McKenzie, Hastings New Zealand, 2022

Bret McKenzie

13th September 2022
Toi Toi, Hastings, New Zealand.

Review by Rob Harbers. Photography by Andrew Caldwell.

On the penultimate date of the “Songs Without Jokes” tour, Bret McKenzie brought a killer band and a mix of ‘old songs, new songs, and new new songs’ to Hastings’ grande dame of entertainment, ToiToi, entertaining a crowd probably unused to having a reason to leave the house on a Tuesday night! Definitely not a show without jokes, though, Bret showing the trademark humour for which he is best known (among the serious songs) while still having time to compose a spontaneous song about an audience member’s love story – but more on that anon…

Taking the stage to the trad-jazz stylings of “A Little Tune”, the ensemble proceeded to work through songs covering a wide range of musical styles, interspersed with a lot of humour – so pretty much the mix you’d expect of a Conchord! The range of subjects was equally diverse, scanning such themes as the decline of the American Empire, global warming, existential musings about the very nature of life, conspiracy theories, part-time modelling, and of course, love!

In response to a question of why the overall sound was somewhat 80’s in nature, we were assured that it actually started out more 70’s, but there was a desire to make it a bit more contemporary. Just a bit, mind you! “Dave’s Place” had the potential to sound the most 80’s of all, with its synth-heavy sonic palette bolstered by a sax solo – all of which took it some way from its origins as being ‘a little country sounding’ – the process described as being one of the joys of working with a producer. On a quite different plain were the two songs with theatrical backgrounds, “Man Or Muppet“ and “We’re In Love” (from a production yet to see the light of day) both of them giving Bret the chance to bust out some of his most impassioned vocals. “All I Need”, one of the ‘new new’ songs, so new it’s not yet finished, relying on occasional lyrical filler courtesy of pomegranates (!), channelled a strong soul sound, and will be one to watch for.

Taking a very brave risk, Bret invited a volunteer from the audience to share their love story, which he then set to music – and thus was born the ballad of Setha and Roddy, and their growing passion! One that no other audience will ever hear – and how many concerts give you that?

Between the banter and the great songs, though, the night fairly raced along, and before we knew it, a song each from a couple of the other minor bands that Bret’s been involved in (something about Black Conchords, and Flying Seeds, or something??), in the forms of “(The most) Beautiful Girl (in the room)”, and “One By One” signalled the end of the main set. A situation swiftly remedied, though, by the encore duo of “Crazy Times” and “Rabbit Hole”. Exactly one week prior to this gig, I was at another gig where an audience member, named Dan, ended up on the stage playing tambourine for one song. Tonight, an audience volunteer was called for, to play tambourine – and would you believe it, his name was Dan too! At this stage, I don’t have any plans for next Tuesday night, but I’ll definitely try to stay clear of Dans. And tams. And Dans with tams – this could be the stuff of nightmares!!

In any case, tambourines aside, a great time was had by all – a man equally as talented a musician as he is a comedian, backed by a top-class ensemble (the individual names of whom I didn’t catch, unfortunately – so even though I’ve not mentioned them much, they were good!) bringing songs and jokes to the people, who greatly appreciated the experience. This tour has two more dates before concluding, both in Tamaki Makaurau – Aucklanders, don’t say you weren’t told! Go!!

Were you there at Toi Toi for this brilliant performance? Or have you seen Bret McKenzie perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below!


Bret McKenzie Setlist Hastings

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. This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase a product using an affiliate link, Ambient Light will automatically receive a small commission at no cost to you.

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