Sunday 9th September

CSO Presents: NZ Music of the 80s - The Press review

First published on Press.co.nz on 9th September 2018

Laughton Kora, Anna Coddington, Bella Kalolo and Ria Hall (vocals), with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, conductor David Kay.
Horncastle Arena,  September 8.

Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd

It is curious that, just over a week ago, I reviewed a similar crossover concert that utterly missed the mark whereas this one absolutely hit the spot.

The prospect of a cold night and a big venue, coupled with an All Blacks game, may all have contributed to the low turnout, but once the audience warmed up they got a generous helping of memorable music sung by committed singers in arrangements that actually used the orchestra as an orchestra.

Granted, there were occasional balance issues and the overall boominess of the amplification heightened the cavernous feel of being in a large space, but these barely detracted from what was a feelgood gig that had plenty of nostalgia seekers up on their feet dancing.

The stars of the show were the frontline singers who rotated through songs by the likes of Dave Dobbyn, Split Enz, The Chills and the Dance Exponents. Picking a few highlights, Ria Hall was stunning in I Hope I Never, ramping it up for Something So Strong and Outlook for Thursday. She handled For Today really well and I liked the feel she brought to all her songs.

Anna Coddington delivered a moody Escaping, owning the song and the stage with her power, while Watchin' U was gentle and understated. Tears was punchy and helped jump-start the first half and I loved the commitment she brought to the declamatory She Speeds.

For soul, look no further than Bella Kalolo – I look forward to hearing much more from this artist. Kalolo has a natural warmth and humour and a gorgeously syrupy sound, with Loyal and You Oughta Be In Love cases in point. Last, but definitely not least, Laughton Kora worked hard to keep the energy levels high. He opened with Counting the Beat, did a similarly good job of Slice of Heaven and relished E Ipo, absolutely his type of song, whereas Victoria probably wasn't.

With a groovy Latin duet from Kalolo and Kora, plenty of ensemble backing stuff and the group belter at the end, the vocalists shone in what was their night. However, the orchestra was very much an equal partner and they looked like they were enjoying themselves under the relaxed baton of David Kay.

Mention must also go to the fine arrangements by Tom Rainey, Hamish Oliver, Pablo Ruiz Henao and Cam Pearce, all skilfully utilising the forces they had to add something to what was a strong set of songs.