Maori Showbands - Taking On the WorldReviewed by Lorraine Ward
Showbands - Taking On the World
The Maori Volcanics and The Maori Allstars
March 4 and 5
Wellington Town Hall
Crowds are arriving at the Wellington Town hall, waterproof coats over their nice frocks and suits. Inside, groups are already sitting downstairs, dining cabaret-style in front of the stage. In the stalls I take off my coat and ask the people around me why they've come along tonight.
"My wife made me," grins the man to my right.
"My cousin used to be in this band." The woman to my left points to the photograph on the program cover.
"I'm part Maori," says the youth behind me, "This is where I come from."
The chandeliers dim, and the show commences.
The Maori Allstars are a tribute band put together especially for the festival. Musically directed by Manny Abrahams, the band, with backing singers Arthur Selwyn and Stephanie Hearfield, proceed to take on the Wellington Town Hall. Performers Frankie Stevens and Waimihi Hotere have the audience hollering and stomping to standards such as 'Our Day Will Come' and ' Sweet Loving'. The first half of this 'celebration of what's gone before' ends with ends with 'What's The Time Mister Wolf' from Ranea Jerry Aperahama.
The Maori Volcanics start the second half with a moving rendition of 'No Reira Ke Te Reo'. They reveal themselves as strong, established polished performers. Any evening, which includes three large men in white suits playing the Blues Brothers Theme on saxophones is wonderful. When the three break into a simultaneous soft-shoe shuffle, they are such stuff as dreams are made of.
There is a wicked rendition of 'Guitar Boogie'; a tribute to the Maori High 5s; a version of 'Zorba the Greek' on twelve string guitar that has the Town Hall reverberating with foot stomping and hand clapping.
The bulk of their performance consists of tributes and impressions of other major performers of the group's heyday, which is also the heyday of most of the audience. Thus their Shirley Bassey sings 'I Who Have Nothing', and their Tom Jones sings 'Delilah'. In the ABBA sequence, we have not one but two 'Dancing Queens'.
There was a technical problem with sometimes poor quality from the sound system. But the experienced performers did not allow this to detract from the show.
At the end both the Maori Volcanics and the Maori All Stars unite on stage for two encores, including the inspirational 'Poi E'.
Rumours of a middle-aged pakeha reviewer boogying in the aisles are founded. I make no apologies.