The plane descends over what looks a heavy Tasman Sea into a thick bank of cloud covering the land mass. Soon we’re in the soupy gloom that spells rain. The droplets form fast moving lines that angle upwards across the windows. The engines are muted in the enveloping moisture. The plane rocks and lurches a little. We peer downwards in search of the sight of terra firma. The rushing air catches the lowering landing gear with a great yawn. The coast appears dimly at a few hundred feet and we’re down in what appears to be Glasgow airport. This is the furthest any of us have ever been from home and it’s British weather. It’s a half hour trip in driving rain to our sky-tower digs. Modern. The Do Not Disturb is a button by your door that makes your room number glow red in the corridor.
We are treated to food in a rooftop gaff by our promoter, Stuart, an old friend whose inaugural T in the Park festival we played in 1994. That event became a touchstone of the Scottish cultural economy and a rite of passage for every teenager in the country. Stuart came out here some twenty years ago and he gives us the lowdown on New Zealand life. The pseudo house music in the bar eventually grinds us down and I flop into my big white bed at midnight and do not emerge till three the next afternoon. Auckland immediately hits me with its energy. In its multicultural buzz it feels way different to the Australian cities we’ve stopped in. It has the vibe of a major Oceania port with its mix of the many peoples of the south west Pacific. There seem to be fifty different languages being spoken. I turn a corner and see a man dressed in orange fall from the sky. He may or may not be attached to a wire suspended from the Sky Tower under which I have coffee, sharing a bench with a (possibly) Polynesian family who, even though we’re outdoors, ask me if I mind that they smoke. Bring it on. The centre is a mess of exuberant modernism between which stand charming early 20th buildings you might still find in New York or Glasgow. There’s rainforest on the surrounding hills. It’s tropical, it’s temperate, it’s a confluence of climates and cultures. There are boozy old characters who look like retired pirates, students in flip-flops, young couples with shopping bags. A huge drop of warm rain hits my head and the sun comes out, slanting from a more forgiving angle than Melbourne’s overhead death ray. It’s cool enough to wear jeans, warm enough to lounge about. The breeze carries the sweetness of the sea, fresh and reassuring.
Meandering to the venue I pass a performance poetry event in a pleasant square and a man with a green Māori face tattoo in an electric wheelchair. We nod hello. After an annoyingly long soundcheck in a venue that could be any number of Victorian city halls in Britain I wander off to a restaurant with a friend of a friend who moved out here yonks ago. I’m introduced to a charming group but make my excuses to save my voice. I pose for a selfie with a nice couple as I leave. I’m somewhat somnambulant after the time zone jump. I drift uphill to a park where a drunk man is giving a security guy lip by a rococo fountain. A tinny church bell rings. I feel like I’m in a tropical version of Eastbourne, with delicate flowerbeds ringed by high palms. Crickets call, birds twitter and the fountain’s spouts splash hypnotically. A Queen Victoria bronze stands on a marble plinth looking down upon her imperial possession. There are a few fallen trees from the recent cyclone. It’s warm and utterly serene and my mind is in pre-show neutral. I force myself to consider the catastrophe of home, willing this bounteous screen dissolve to reveal a gaping tomb. But instead a fat man jumps into the fountain and surfaces, miraculously, smoking a fag.
7 Responses to “Auckland, NZ”
Thank you, thank you, thank you. My absolute favourite band, I last saw you in Oxford, over 20 years ago and having emigrated to NZ, had given up hope of ever seeing you perform live again! So thank you, sincerely, with all my heart.
I’m not the first person to describe your music as the soundtrack of my life, but it truly is. With 3 marriages and an abortion behind me, your back-catalogue has literally punctuated my life and resonates with every fibre of my soul.
It was a wondrous evening; I drank, I cried, I laughed, I sang till I was hoarse. You mean so much to so many; please, please come back again soon!
Such a treat to have you play Aotearoa and as a 25 year ex-pat still in love with Auckland it’s so fantastic to relive first impressions through fresh eyes. The gig was tremendous, musically, atmospherically, exuberantly and a little nostalgically. Cheers for bringing the sounds to our corner of the Pacific – come and see us again soon. Haere ra
Thanks for a fabulous show. It was like being back in Scotland, surrounded by all the Kiwi Scots and English! My girls (16 and 13) and I had the best night, with all our old and new favourites. Come back soon!
Beautiful piece of bilge about Auckland – after having lived here for so long, it’s refreshing to hear someone else’s first impressions of the city’s contrasts and curiosities, the atmosphere and the street theatre. This city loves you back.
For one night in 26 years…
You made a wee fella fae Castlemilk and one younger (but not by much!) fella fae swanky Clarkston… feel like 20-something invincible heroes at our first gig.
It wasn’t the Barras, but it might as well have been…
You could have played all night and it still wouldn’t have been long enough.
Polished perfection, but now… you’re gone.
Thank you so much guys.
Great show Saturday xx
Loved your Auckland show. So happy you all came to see us. Hope you enjoyed your time here too.
Such a fantastic night. Thank you much !!!