Sea Mouse, Napier New Zealand, 2022

Sea Mouse

10th September 2022
Paisley Stage, Napier, New Zealand.

Review by Rob Harbers. Photography by Jessie Broad.

In 1974, Jon Landau famously said “I have seen rock ‘n’ roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen”, having encountered the nascent minstrel in a small and intimate setting and being utterly blown away by the experience. Last night I felt at least a touch of the same kind of vibe, courtesy of Sea Mouse and their brand of psychedelic blues, which threatened to lift the roof off Paisley Stage, where I completed the latest instalment in my ongoing residency (once a week for 5 weeks and counting – guess that shows the quality of the gigs being hosted!)

Local merchants of noise and fun, the irrepressible Yes Yes No, performed another impressive set of indie-infused rockin’ pops, getting the crowd nicely warmed up for the ensuing sounds. Their heart lies firmly in Britpop’s finest hour, the 20-odd years from 1985 onwards (give or take), and this informs their choice of cover material, but they are building an increasingly impressive repertoire of original songs, taking inspiration from this source and building something new from it. I have a feeling we’ll meet again, and I look forward to it!

Seamus (Seamouse-geddit?) Johnson then entered the hallowed stage, pumping out a solo blues-inflected number, before the rest of the band joined him to flesh out the sound – a hugely energetic one that gives substance to the line “The Blues had a baby, and they named it Rock and Roll”. Tearing through a set of high-powered garage rock with a hefty blues influence, the band proceeded to gain a new cohort of fans – your scribe included!

While there was no intermission, the set had a clear mid-point, at which the sound changed markedly (in conversation later, Seamus said the intention was for it to be like flipping over a record, which in hindsight was admirably achieved!). Overall, though, the experience was something of an exposition of the transition of blues into rock – the first half wearing its blues credentials on its sleeve, the second half showing where this was taken subsequently, in the hands of the next generation. While this may give the impression of a dry demonstration, rest assured it was anything but – at all times Seamus prowling the stage with an energy that recalls Pat Beers, of the Schizophonics (minus the gymnastics!). Spitting out words and chords in equal measure, with an unpredictability that could be just as likely to produce a burst of glorious guitar or be calling the song to a halt – these were songs that never overstayed their welcome, knowing just when to quit to leave us wanting more. Alongside the maelstrom that is the chief noise-maker Seamus, Scott Maynard and Thomas Friggens, on bass and drums respectively, have the job of providing the underpinnings of the sound, giving solid ground for the flights of fancy to return to – and this they do perfectly.

As is so often the case, my mere words are less than adequate to the task of trying to encapsulate the experience – so here’s the TL/DR version: This was one of the most powerful, energetic and inspiring gigs I’ve encountered in a while, by a band who proudly carry the legacy of both blues and garage rock for a new generation. Presented in the charming surroundings of Paisley Stage (negotiations continue over a permanent reservation…), warming up Saturday night for a wide age demographic, earning new fans as they go. Channelling the spirit of the Delta Blues and the MC5 via Jack White – more dates around the place still to come, catch them if you can!

Were you there at Paisley Stage for this rockin’ blues performance? Or have you seen Sea Mouse perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Setlist:

Sea Mouse Napier 2022 Setlist

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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