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Arts Festival Review: Don McGlashan

Arts Festival Review: Don McGlashan

Review by Nick van Dijk

Don McGlashan and Friends
Pacific Blue Festival Club
Wednesday 10th March

Don McGlashan is the metrosexual’s Dave Dobbyn. There, I’ve said it.

My listening appreciation for Don McGlashan began with a cassette of my brother’s by his early band Blam Blam Blam in the eighties. Although slightly left of the middle of the road, he is kiwi pop through and through. As a songwriter he is just too clever to be huge, but what a craftsman – always a bent but beautiful twist to the chord pattern lurks somewhere in each song. Also the melodies are as if built of the sinew of a high country farmer’s calf, electric blood running cold through number eight wire, jagged across the uneven landscapes of his tunes. In the literary tradition his songs contain stories and each has a satisfying arc and point to make.

Oh so Kiwi then, what else makes this worth seeing? Well there is a mix of old polished songs from the back-catalogue for the familiar fan, with a few new offerings – at least to my ears. Tunes such as Queens English, Don’t Fight It Marsha…, Too Close to the Sun, and the veritable hits Anchor Me, and No Depression show ample evidence of the skill of Don McGlashan to write clearly and get across. And his voice is well controlled and grounded in our typical cultural humility.

So, to the performance: the first half and three songs of the second half were all solo, his voice and guitar along with some loops. One suspects either a slight indulgence having the band in for only three tunes before the obligatory encores, or that rehearsal time with the full band was rather compressed.

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In Don't Fight it Marsha, I wanted to grab the baritone horn and play the line properly, although his phrasing was pretty sweet. The version was ok but perhaps he should arrange this piece or something. As I say, unfortunately the band was very underutilised. For me, he didn't really hold me with either his solo performances, horn playing nor pseudo comic banter. All these did add a sort of rustic charm, and I am sure Don McGlashan would make an affable dinner guest.

The backing singers were fun (their names may have been Lill McGlashan and Jenny Morris), and they sent up a song or two before really knuckling under and tuning in to the flow that was immediately evident at the appearance from Muttonbirder Dave Long on guitar and Chris O'Connor on drums. Delay pedals never really got me going, and the loops of baritone and guitar were distracting gimmickry to me, overplaying with the recent past.

In summary, a mild and pleasant journey through some classic material by a Kiwi songwriter icon, perfect for any self-respecting metrosexual, but finally just short of satisfying for those looking for a real musical synergy.


Press releases: New NZIAF Nightclub on the Wellington Waterfront, SchoolFest offers access to international artists, Students Get Unparalleled Access to NZIAF
Arts Festival website: Don McGlashan and Friends
Earlier: Arts Festival Review: Ship Songs
Scoop Full Coverage: Arts Festival 2010

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