27th August 2022
Toi Toi, Hastings, New Zealand.
Review by Rob Harbers. Photography by Andrew Caldwell.
The “Taster Series” previewing this year’s Hawkes Bay Arts Festival has now concluded, on a note that leaves palates fully appetised and anticipating the full board of fare on the horizon. Reb Fountain has sprinkled her magic dust over the ToiToi stage, entrancing those gathered therein, and showing the potential to gain much attention on her upcoming European jaunt. If that goes as successfully as it might, and she gets adopted by a whole new crowd of connoisseurs, this could’ve been a final opportunity to see her in such a setting, so kind of mixed hopes there, from an audience point of view…
Anyways, enough rumination, on with the bit you came here for: first opening act was local hero Arahi, continuing on his journey towards a high profile in the music world, with a trio of songs constituting an amuse-bouche for his own Festival show, including new single “Her Love Will Tear Me Apart”. Again, showing the raw talent and dedication that should see him go far-remember, you saw him here first!
Second opener Jazmine Mary then provided a charming set of around half a dozen or so deeply expressive and personal songs, after entering to a declaration of “hating the rich” which in the surroundings was a little reminiscent of John Lennon’s “rattle your jewelry” comment of nearly 60 years earlier! Played for the most part on a shiny blue Gretsch that looked nearly as big as her, there was a lot of feeling poured out, giving the impression that much like Leonard Cohen, she was born to sing, and had no choice – so pushes past a wall of introversion to do so. And the world is much better off for her doing so! I’ll be watching this star’s rising also…
After an intermission, Reb and her entourage took the stage. A relatively low-key entry, with her staying relatively static for the first few numbers, but like the unfurling of a flower (an Iris, perhaps?) from bud to full bloom, full efflorescence was inevitable and by the fourth song she was roaming the stage in her inimitably sylph-like fashion, taking an ownership that would not be relinquished from then on.
The setlist ranged across both the eponymous 2020 album and last year’s “Iris” (for which this was the final show in the release tour – dunno what happened there, something that some would have us believe we need to “move on” from, perhaps?). The earlier material showed the effects of having developed in the live setting, gaining extra expression and sonic depth, exemplified by “Samson”’s loveably noisy Karin Canzek bass intro. “Hey Mom”, an ode to celebrating loved ones and recognising their value, which was premiered on the same stage nearly two years earlier, showed a similar level of development, having grown from a nascent cocoon into full expression – and what a beautiful expression it is!
The integration of new and old songs was no more clearly demonstrated than in the segue of a powerful “Hawks and Doves” into “Psyche” and then “Fisherman”, all linked by the violin of Dave Kahn, masterfully infusing an additional element in to the sonic tapestry (beyond his keyboards, guitar and backing vocals, that is!). Sadly, for an audience that could’ve happily stayed on much longer, this trio was the lead-in to the end of the main set, in the form of “Intermission” which powerfully summed up the preceding material, both sonically and with its refrain of “This is how we make it out alive” – for indeed, it’s with regular injections of this feeling that we do get through!
The inevitable encore consisted of two songs, closing out with the crowd favourite “Don’t You Know Who I Am”, Reb possessing the stage again, channelling a hybrid of Nick Cave and Patti Smith, with both of whom her lyrics share a similar sense of being spiritually haunted – there’s a lot of depth there, if you choose to look! In any case, this proved to be a somewhat redundant title, in the best possible sense – Reb, we know who you are, indeed, and we love you for it! (Don’t forget us when you make it big!).
And with that, the lights came on, and we filed out, having witnessed the further unfurling of this beautiful flower, and waiting to see where it goes from here. In the meantime, there’s a whole two weeks of Arts Festival to carry us through – indeed, this is how we do make it out alive!
Were you there at Toi Toi for this magnificent performance? Or have you seen Reb Fountain perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below!
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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