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When The Cat's Away - Rare Tour Kicks Off This Weekend

A rare tour by New Zealand’s most cherished supergroup When The Cat’s Away -- the first in 34 years -- kicks off in Christchurch this Sunday night.

With mega hits including Melting Pot and Asian Paradise, the four original members of this Hall of Fame group Debbie Harwood, Annie Crummer, Dianne Swann and Kim Willoughby will perform in Christchurch, Wellington and return to Auckland by popular demand over three weekends. Great seats are still available from Ticketek, Ticketmaster and AAA Ticketing.

The concerts will see them reunited with their old friends Herbs whose hits like French Letter and Nuclear Waste provided the soundtrack to the anti-nuclear movement in the 80s expressed through the joy and unifying medium of beautiful music. Annie Crummer’s hit See What Love Can Do featured Herbs on vocals and permanently linked the bands who had become champions of the people in the eighties.

Fast-forward almost 40 years and these two bands maintain legions of fans and are classed as national treasures. Tickets to this historic tour – the first in three decades by the originals – go on sale today via Ticketek and Ticketmaster. Going by the speed in which the October concert sold, fans are urged to move quickly to avoid delay.

The event will also feature original members of the When the Cat’s Away backing band, Brett Adams and Gary Verberne on guitars, Mike Russell on trumpet and Holidaymakers’ maestro Barbara Griffin on keys, as well The Band of Gold.

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Founding member Debbie Harwood says the band, whose The Melting Pot Tour in 88/89 was the biggest tour in NZ music history (playing to over 85,000 people one summer), can’t wait to take the show out into the mōtū.

‘We were absolutely blown away by the love from our audience at the Town Hall event in Auckland’, says Debbie. ‘Walking on stage and seeing those beautiful, smiling faces – the same faces that looked up at us when it all began in 1986 - it was quite overwhelming. Unfortunately we sold out so quickly we couldn’t accommodate everyone and there were a lot of people from out of Auckland who told us they would have loved to have been there. So, we’re on our way!’.




About When the Cats Away

When the Cat's Away were a New Zealand vocal supergroup formed in 1986 for fun only to become one of our most successful bands ever. Inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame in 2021 as a group, all members have also been honoured individually as inductees. Some background of the artists:

About Debbie

In 1986 Debbie gathered together some young recording artists (and friends) to form the Kiwi phenomenon When the Cat's Away that in the late 80s was named ‘Top Group’ at the NZ Music Awards as well as celebrating a gold album and the No 1 single Melting Pot.

Debbie also won Most Promising Female Vocalist in 1985, Most Promising Group in 1987 and was a finalist in the category of Best Female Artist at the 2005 NZ Music Awards for her album Soothe Me. She has had a lasting impact on the NZ music scene both as a musician and in management and mentoring roles within the music industry. She has also been a broadcaster for radio and television including reviewing music on Newstalk ZB as well as hosting her own show on Viva. Debbie performed for the Queen and the Dalai Lama and sang on the official song for the Commonwealth Games in 1990. She joined Jimmy Barnes' and Diesel's bands as backing vocalist and toured Australia for two years in the early 90s.

Since 1996 Debbie has produced several albums (she was a finalist for Producer of the Year at the NZ Music Awards for her album Peaches) and owned a recording studio in Devonport with her former husband Rikki Morris called The Bus. For five years Debbie sat in the producer’s seat … singing on and producing numerous singles and albums.

When the Cat's Away toured and recorded again in 2001 and 2002 achieving Platinum sales for their live album with Sharon O'Neill and had yet another hit single with Asian Paradise.

Debbie worked solidly with her band Debbie Harwood & The Band of Gold from 2006 until a few years ago when she was diagnosed with heart failure. In 2019 she released an EP of her own songs called The Sun and cites this as the most fulfilling musical experience of her life. In 2022 all of When The Cat’s Away’s recordings were digitized and made available on streaming platforms. Performing at the Town Hall for her dear friend Margaret was a rare chance to see Debbie perform live.



About Annie

Her voice has become one of New Zealand’s best-loved and most travelled voices. That voice has taken her from Avondale to Paisley Park, from local talent quests to duets with Sting, and back to her Rarotongan heritage.

Annie’s first single went Top 20 in 1981 when she was just 16, but it would be 1985 when Annie was propelled to national prominence featuring on the Netherworld Dancing Toys #1 hit For Today.

This was backed up in 1987 with another #1 single, this time with When The Cat’s Away.

Annie released her first solo album, the platinum-selling Language in 1992, which featured the sounds of Cook Islands choirs and log drummers recorded during one of the many return trips Annie made to her parents’ homeland.

Over the next decade she toured extensively, both as a headliner and as opener for some of the biggest international names including Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney and Sting.

In 1998 she took a sabbatical from her solo career to join the cast of the first Australian production of Rent, returning to Aotearoa in 2001 for a When The Cat’s Away reunion tour.

In 2003, Annie took another musical theatrical role in Australia, this time as Killer Queen in the first international production of We Will Rock You. She also took a quick trip to the UK to re-record the Queen classic Another One Bites The Dust with original members Brian May and Roger Taylor, Brian May saying Annie had “the voice of one in a million”.

Annie musical output has been prolific, recording albums with her father Will Crummer, working with prisoners on Songs From The Inside series and contributing to her track Hina Ki Ti to Waiata Anthems, as well as constantly gigging across the country.

In 2001 Annie was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Pacific Music awards and in 2017 was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queens Birthday Honours.

About Dianne

Dianne began her career as vocalist and songwriter for her band Everything That Flies, she then went on to become one of the original members of When the Cats Away, and released a solo song Something Good, which achieved NZ Top 20 chart status and a Silver Scroll nomination.

Dianne left WTCA to continue her love of songwriting and moved to London and formed the critically acclaimed band The Julie Dolphin with Brett Adams. The couple moved back to New Zealand after 13 years in the UK and formed The Bads.

In 2018 The Bads were shortlisted for the coveted Taite Music prize, adding to an impressive list of achievements throughout her career including; playing live to 85,000 people, signing to two international labels, recording with Radiohead, having her song Birthday chosen as NME single of the week and touring Australia with Tim Finn and accepting an invitation to play at the Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.

About Kim

Kim’s career began as an 18-year-old when her flatmates asked her to join the band The Gurlz. She later signed up for the Supervised Performing Arts Training Scheme run out of TVNZ and led by Sir Howard Morrison. Her time was cut short when she was talent-scouted for Billy T James’ television show. Kim picked up her acting experience on the job in her roles on the Billy T James Show and her on-screen charm was magnetic, leading her to be cast in the seminal 1986 film, Queen City Rocker.

Kim met Annie Crummer during a performance on the TVNZ show Hui Pacific, the duo becoming in-demand vocalists for many groups of the era, notably both featuring on Netherworld Dancing Toys’ much-loved anthem, For Today.

Having already formed friendships with Debbie, Margaret & Annie, Kim was then drafted into When The Cat’s Away. Originally intended to be a side-project, the band caught everyone by surprise when it became a bone fide cultural phenomenon, selling out nationwide tours for years and establishing the singers as household names.

Kim took time out from performing in the 90s to raise a family, re-emerging in 2001 for a Cats reunion, and once again, selling out shows up and down the country. A live album of the tour reinforced Aotearoa’s love of the group, with Platinum-certified sales and a Top 10 chart position.

© Scoop Media

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