At the Auckland Folk Festival last year, {Tory Kingi} and {Delaney Davidson} premiered material from the forthcoming Black Sea Golden Ladder album, which they had written together when Troy had the Matairangi Mahi Toi Artist Residency in Wellington. Looking around the full marquee, at that time no-one knew we would be going back into extended lockdown, or the impact it would have on the forthcoming tour. Although some of the dates went ahead, much it had to be cancelled, including the date in Auckland. This was rescheduled, then again, and then finally again, with this gig being the fourth attempt, a year on from when it should have originally happened. Then, just three days before the gig was supposed to take place, Delaney contracted Covid himself. Was this gig fated never to take place?

Troy was determined that he was not going to be denied again, so he pulled in his band The Senses, asked Jed Parsons to learn all of Delaney’s vocals and the choreography in three days, and brought in Matt Nanai to help out on guitar. Originally, the shows were literally just Troy and Delaney, so they were performing the album plus a few more Troy’s songs and had put a lot of thought into what was needed to make this a spectacle, and now Troy was combining that with a much fuller sound. As I made my way to my seat, I looked at the stage and could see there was a gauze screen over the front and remembered reading about the projections which were going to be used as part of the show – I have attended literally hundreds of gigs over the years, and have only seen this used a few times, and certainly never in NZ. The stage was also set with room for two violinists and keyboard player huddled on one side, with drums, bass, and guitar on the other, leaving most of the stage empty apart from a small gong at the back and some candles.

The concept of the album is about life, and after the band quietly made their way onto the stage, Troy and Jed entered from opposite sides and lit the candles. They then went into Sleep, and with both singers wearing throat microphones they were able to act out parts, but here they stood perfectly still while the candles were projected onto the screen, creating an incredible atmosphere. Already this felt like a performance as opposed to just some guys playing music, and with the band coming in and out depending on the musical need, there was something always changing, so there were times when they could be accompanied just by keyboards, others a full band, with or without strings.

There were some incredibly poignant moments, probably none more than the pairing of Fork In The Road with Mighty Invader, as during these songs there were images and video being played of multiple different protests, from the likes of Bastion Point or the 1981 Springbok tour, and the images combined with the words and power of the music just led to the crowd reacting, and one could feel the anger against the injustices which had taken place. There were also elements of incredible drama, with Troy singing directly into a camera for You In My Arms, and his face then filling the front of the stage. It felt as if we were in a musical as opposed to a gig, and I was amazed at just how much work Jed must have undertaken to not only memorise the lyrics and melodies but also where he needed to be on the stage and what he was supposed to be doing at any point. I felt wrapped in a spell, and I am sure the rest of the audience were in the same mode, and we were all somewhat surprised to find us going into an intermission after only approx. 35 minutes. Mind you, this being Troy, we then had a film projected with the presenter urging us to boo Troy Kingi, so we did.

When Troy returned, he looked more relaxed, and actually talked to the audience, something which had been in short supply until then, telling us that he had written the next song for Marlon Williams, who didn’t like it, so he did it himself, Forgotten Like A Dream. This is a more psychedelic number, with plenty of guitar. After All Your Ships, Troy was presented with the award for best folk album (which normally takes place at the Auckland Folk Festival, which was cancelled this year ☹). This was accepted by Jed, wearing a Troy mask, who then encouraged Delaney onstage, which was of course Troy wearing a Delaney mask. He then sat at the back of the stage playing guitar, singing True Love, while Jed continued to pretend to be Troy, performing at the front. They got rid of the masks and invited people to come down the front to dance for the up-tempo Caught In The Rain, after which we had the interesting situation of people trying to find their seats again in the dark! For Never Take Me Away, Troy was centre stage singing directly into camera again, so he was projected across the front of the stage as he sang out his emotions and love, so incredibly powerful.   

The set finished of course with Sea of Death, with Troy and Jed then blowing out the candles. They came back for Trouble Weighs A Ton, with Jed and Troy singing facing each other with just Troy’s guitar for accompaniment. They finished by singing to a backing track as they danced to Gimme Hell and then all too soon it was over. This was one heck of a show and given that earlier that week it was only planned to be Troy and Delaney this was a massive accomplishment for all those involved. That was real performance, a real show, and one which deserved to be captured so that those unable to attend could also see it. Unfortunately, that was not the case, so those of us who were then were indeed treated to a very special night indeed.

Photo Credit: Chris Zwaagdyk / ZED Pics. Used with permission.