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Live Photos + Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Auckland Town Hall

Live Photos + Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Auckland Town Hall

Photography by Connor Crawford / Review by Soong Phoon / Monday 10th September, 2018 9:52AM

On Saturday, from 9.30PM sharp, Unknown Mortal Orchestra played a tidy, ninety minute set to a sold-out Auckland Town Hall. The show was hotly anticipated, in the two hours before the show I heard three UMO-related songs on bFM: 'Little Blu House', Mint Chicks' (bandleader Ruban Nielson's former band) 'Welcome to Nowhere' and Opossom's 'Blue Meanies' (Ruban's brother Kody Nielson's own project). Playing at the Town Hall comes with a certain amount of gravitas and Unknown Mortal Orchestra are a significant band for New Zealanders. Aside from seeing massive international success, the raw intensity of Nielson's history in the Mint Chicks with brother Kody Nielson, Mike Logie and Paul Roper has secured a dedicated, cult following. And there's always something about stories of families which people love.

On this particular night, the crowd downstairs was packed and enthused, lurching towards the warm pink and gold lights at the front. The band blazed through 'Ffunny Friends' and 'Necessary Evil' and it felt like they could've been in a big arena anywhere. At one point Nielson leapt offstage into the moshpit, microphone in hand, still singing, making his way to the sound desk,to the crowd's frenzied delight.

The show came alive most when family was involved. The brothers' dad Chris Nielson made an incredible appearance with his saxophone, which one show-goer described as "potent, powerful, sax jizzing," but really made you realise that this family is full of truly pure musicians. Kody's drumming was furious, impeccable (precisely mic-ed up) and these moments had the most intensity - when Ruban edged closer to his brother, literally shredding. Bic Runga, (Kody's partner) cameo-ed on 'Hunnybee' at the close of the show. "She has the sweeeeeetest voice!" someone shrieked.

Pop hits 'Can't Keep Checking My Phone', a gorgeous, rocked-up 'Multi-Love' and 'Not in Love We're Just High' had the crowd singing, often louder than the band. But the disaffection, the sad, almost solipsistic nature of these songs made these moments feel a little strange. It was the psych-rock jamming and songs like 'American Guilt' which had the most urgency.

Upstairs several show-goers stood up from their seats, doing the cool hipster nods and foot taps, but many stayed seated, spectating. At one point, when Ruban Nielson raised his guitar perfectly straight to get the perfect balance of golden feedback, you really could only admire his musicianship. And for the most part, I felt like a spectator, deeply admiring their music, but not quite engaged. It was a great show, but there was something missing for me. It felt like something had been withheld. And then I kind of wished I had a ticket to the post-show at Whammy Bar.

Click on the images below to view more of Connor Crawford's magnificent snaps of UMO and Divide and Dissolve's performance at the Auckland Town Hall...


Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Unknown Mortal Orchestra

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Links
unknownmortalorchestra.com/
facebook.com/CrawfordxPhotography/

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