Ambient Music

Sneaky Bones, Hastings New Zealand, 2023

Sneaky Bones

19th January 2023
Common Room, Hastings, New Zealand.

Review by Rob Harbers, photography by Chris Kiely.

In a confluence of events, which for both acts, in different ways, amounted to a sort of homecoming – US folk duo Sneaky Bones have commenced their current tour of Aotearoa at the funky little shack that is The Common Room, supported by an alumnus of the institution, in the form of Stretch.

For Stretch, this represented a return to his (musical) roots in a way, as The Common Room was for some time, as good as his home ground. And then stuff, such as life and a worldwide pandemic happened, and a degree of separation ensued. But this night saw a triumphant return, bringing home the songs from the pandemic album. After some initial nerves, it was like he’d never been away, and an emotionally charged performance imbued with a nice strain of (un)holy noise provided the perfect intro to the main act.

After the briefest of pauses (such being the beauty of a minimal set-up on the part of the support act), Sneaky Bones took the stage. This is the performing name of Matthew Bean, who with co-conspirator Marshall Wildman brought a sound that stretches the boundaries of the folk music genre within which it finds itself placed. And as Mr Zimmerman will testify, these folk types don’t always take too well to genre-bending! (Wait till they see where the next album might be going…). But with an admirable dedication to the art, and a healthy dose of “Just fuckin’ do it” (the rejected Nike slogan?), he pushes on regardless, bringing his understated songs to willing audiences everywhere.

This tour marks a return to live music for Matthew, having been in hiatus since before lockdown. He toured this country in 2019, then went home to finalise his 4th album, “Little Words”, completing it in January of the year that dares not speak its name. And then did nothing live until this night! Not that it showed though, an accomplished set making some new fans in the house. These are songs that combine many an affecting turn of phrase with a sympathetic musical accompaniment that is never intrusive nor flashy, but is instead beautifully understated. There’s a definite sense of the skill that underpins this material, that could dominate if given free reign, but is held in check in service of the songs.

But as usual, I’ve blathered on too long already, and need to get this submitted soon and then go and earn a crust! These guys are gonna be all over the North Island for the next week or so – details at Check it out!

Were you there at the Common Room for this beautiful country tinged folk gig? Or have you seen Sneaky Bones perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below!

  1. Running
  2. Outlaw
  3. Little Words
  4. Switzerland
  5. Even If
  6. Up At Night
  7. Fragments
  8. Already There
  9. The Longing
  10. Matador
  11. Autobahn
  12. Sore Eyes
  13. Always & Exactly

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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