Anne and I were privileged to be part of the Elbow (UK band) concert at Auckland’s Powerstation on Sunday night. Elbow’s final concert for 2014. It was an amazing experience. We went with a bunch of friends including Alex who had introduced us to Elbow a couple of years ago. Five of us are (or soon will be) Presbyterian ministers – we identified that there is something in the way Elbow perform that is like the curation/crafting of church worship. One – listening; two – preparing; three – trusting; and four – executing, which combined make space for God to enter the room. This crafting requires some sort of discipline and talent as well as humility, for what actually happens on the night is contributed to by what you bring to it but much more goes on than you. There is a connection between (using Leonard Cohen’s phrase) the ‘Lord of Song’, the singers, and the congregation. This long-winded introduction is trying to convey that something bigger than all of us happened on Sunday night. It was a spiritually profound experience.
There is a real simplicity to Elbow – the music is carefully crafted but also quite minimalist – there is no covering with or hiding behind noise – there is no competition of egos – there is no hype… they simply performed their carefully crafted songs with a humility that conveys a posture of awe in what has come at them.
Are they religious? I don’t know. There are hints in many of their lyrics about the deeper things behind what we see and that seems to be enough. There is no need to be overt… it could be a Manchurian thing – kind of appealing to kiwis – just being real. They seem to be ordinary guys who you would enjoy a beer with at the pub who just happen to be immensely talented musical craftsmen. They simply seem to handle joy and lament with aplomb as if these are everyday things – and, of course, they are everyday things. There seems to be no ego stuff – no dark stuff, and no for its own sake rock and roll angst. Maybe that had a huge part to play in helping the experience be bigger and worshipful. This is a band who seem comfortable in their own skins. The church can learn from them!
The highlights… The warmth of Guy Garvey and his big arm welcoming the crowd in. The perfect blend of guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, strings and voice… really perfect yet also accessible – they lifted the crowd to a place alongside, and sometimes the crowd literally took over the songs. The new songs from The Take Off And Landing Of Everything were wonderful – bigger than the album. Anything from their magnificient The Seldom Seen Kid, where we all seemed to know the hymns. But mostly the sense that the crowd gave something back to the band – it seemed to be a genuine revelation to them that the best concert for them on this tour was this, the last concert. That’s how it should be if you are growing and connecting – the best being the latest. What a privilege to have been there and almost losing my voice having been swept up in it!
If they are new to you pop here for a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dELKUivJo4w
We have just returned from Auckland where we had an overnight trip to attend the Mumford & Sons concert in the Vector Arena.
Here are my impressions/thoughts:
1. great location/accessibility/leg room/acoustics at the Vector – not quite so in the CBS arena in Christchurch on all these accounts, thus the trip up there well justified. They perform here in ChCh on Tuesday.
2. very good opening act (there was another earlier that we missed) – Sarah Blasko from Sydney. She has a stunning voice, an understated but talented band, and some extraordinary rhythms and wails. Very pleasing!
3. Mumford & Sons – gentle start, amazing ability to draw the audience in, dynamic energy, incredible musicianship, three drummers in the band with Marcus, Ted & Ben delighting – esp Marcus & Ted (not many songs had full drum kit but when they did – oh my!), interesting and thoughtful lyrics (and, surprise surprise we could hear 90+% of them even with the decibels. Well done!!!), the young and old hopped often, and the almost 90min set was amazing and the guys looked stonkered afterwards. Thanks for giving it your all!
4. the gentle songs in Babel especially are very very good – Ghosts that we knew was a real highlight. Pity that a bank of young people at the back on the floor decided that such softer songs were an opportunity to talk about the weather and other equally important stuff all the way through! Annoying! Didn’t you pay good money for the gig? So shut up and listen!
5. Auckland. Nice to pop in and have a great experience. To be honest, while some South Islanders like to bag Auckland, I have only ever had fantastic experiences on my many trips up over the years. Good to go to a place that has a centre-city! Ours will come again, but I hope it has a bit of the soul that is developing in Auckland! The plethora of very good bands – Mumford & Sons, Black Seeds, Ben Harper & Coldplay all in 8 days is a sign that the city is a place to go to!!!
Peter Siddal-esq building and cloud in Auckland
I was at a meeting on a friary beside the wonderful Pah Homestead in the Hillsborough area in Auckland. In the late afternoon the homestead offered great light for a few snaps! See more: http://www.flickr.com/photos/53135686@N02/
cross and window
I have been in a little bit of contact with someone at St Paul’s because of some of the images I have posted on this page and my flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/53135686@N02/
The St Paul’s website is worth a read – their history in particular – a story of adapting to change but also one of being nurtured across the globe. Their webpage is simple and inviting… http://www.stpauls.org.nz/
I spent a few days in Auckland last week and was fascinated again by the dominance of the Sky Tower – and its beauty. Around the city centre it kept popping up on the landscape – but especially in the reflections off buildings that I increasingly began to look for.
Auckland's Sky Tower
Here I have captured a reflection that kind of has an element of apocalyptic judgement on it… it is an iconic and quite wonderful building, but it also houses a gambling house – a place of broken dreams, addictions, and this last week, some dodgy politics over the number of pokie machines!
The following impressionistic image is a lot less damning…
scene out my bedroom window
worship at St Paul's Symond's St, Auckland, NZ
I was very fortunate to attend church this morning with friends at St Paul’s Anglican Church in Central Auckland. This rejuvenated congregation offered a warm, casual community for worship with a thoughtful but also heart-felt message and a quite brilliant selection of songs at the end that were worshipful, well-played and low-key – no one grandstanding, and no one trying to conjure anything.
It was the highlight of a busy and interesting week in Auckland.
window of light at St Paul's