Tuesday, 25 February 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

The best Whitianga Summer Concert yet

Memories of the 60s and early 70s came flooding back to me in the days preceding last Sunday’s Whitianga Summer Concert. Sadly, as various friends from out of town arrived for the event, I couldn’t help but be reminded that the 70s’ “child of god” was becoming much closer to God than child. “Not enough time to worry about this,” I told myself. After all, this year’s Summer Concert promised to be a big one and we were all to enjoy it while we could.

Our first guests arrived on Thursday last week and we entertained them with tours of the excellent Mercury Bay Golf Course and various watering holes in Whitianga. The town does well out of the concert and this became obvious by Friday last week with the CBD filling up with both locals and visitors.

The remainder of guests turned up on Saturday and ruined our plans for a quiet night before the concert. Our guests were determined to give up any thoughts of preserving themselves for the big day. Saturday night was long with a few drinks and listening to old music.

Sunday dawned and after a quick breakfast we were off to the Whitianga Waterways Arena, for the sixth year in a row the Summer Concert venue. Excitement was in the air as we trudged in.

We paid a bit extra to get in early and as we found a spot to stake out and call or own, the sound check guys were making a noise reminiscent of early Pink Floyd.

A local band, Crimson Coast, was first up with a set of five self-penned songs. They finished well with a large number of the crowd getting onto their feet. It was great to see the organisers giving local talent an opportunity.

The first international act was Californian band, Smash Mouth. They have been playing together since 1994, with lead singer, Steven Harwell, and bass player, Paul de Lisle, the only constant members of the four-piece. These two were to the fore, sharing the vocal duties and using feedback on the bass to create some interesting sound effects during a few tunes. The set started off with “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby,” and finished with Neil Diamond’s “I’m a Believer and the band’s own hit, “Hey Now You’re an All Star.” The crowd was on their feet from the first song, not the norm for concerts of this nature and a good challenge for the performances that were to follow.

Many in the crowd was into the spirit of things as well. Among the characters I spotted were Shrek and one Billy Idol tragic with a wedding veil.

The pace didn’t stop with Creedence Clearwater Revisited coming to the stage, including two members of the original lineup who have been playing together for 61 years. I guess they get on. Every song in the set was a hit, such is the legacy of CCR. The crowd was on their feet singing along and having a great time.

The third international act was Anastacia, a performer I wasn’t familiar with and was not sure what to expect. What we got was a professional band with a great performance. Still the lack of familiarity with the music meant the crowd struggled to get into it until a couple of Bon Jovi and Guns ‘n Roses covers were played. After this there was a period where I caught up with some much-needed kip before a strong finish stirred me back into awareness.

George Thorogood and the Destroyers were announced as the Whitianga Summer Concert lead act a couple of years ago, but had to cancel which disappointed many of us. So, we were all keen to see the band and were anticipating a good show. And George delivered. The band started at full speed with “Old Rock Party” and the pace continued for the full hour. George had the crowd eating out of his hand with classics such “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” and “Bad to the Bone.” I was pleasantly surprised by the skill he showed on the guitar and to say that he had some of the ladies in the mosh pit mesmerized, is an understatement.

The final act of the concert belonged to Billy Idol. We were a bit unsure about how his performance would turn out as we heard he didn’t go down too well at the Queenstown Summer Concert a week earlier. The set was well constructed though, initially building up to a great version of the Doors’ classic, “LA Woman,” before slowing things down with an emotional song for Billy’s deceased father called “Ghosts in My Guitar.” From this point things built up again with “Eyes Without a Face” and climaxing with the hit, “Rebel Yell.” The encore was a brilliant performance of “White Wedding,” leaving the tragic with the wedding veil forlorn and alone in the mosh pit.

General comments from the crowd were that this was the best Whitianga Summer Concert yet. Well done to Greenstone Entertainment, the concert promoters. They are this year celebrating a decade of bringing an annual “summer tour” of classic rock concerts to New Zealand. Fingers crossed Whitianga remains part of their itinerary for the next 10 years.

Pictured: An aerial photo of the Whitianga Summer Concert on Sunday with a sell-out crowd of 16,000 people.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.