I had been looking forward to tonight for quite some time as here was an amazing opportunity to catch two of our most iconic bands. {Mi-Sex} are touring in celebration of the 40th anniversary of their debut album, Graffiti Crimes, which of course featured probably their biggest hit, Computer Games. Along for the ride were {stellar*}, whose wonderful debut Mix is also more than twenty years old now, and I was so looking forward to finally hearing {Boh Runga} sing live. Then if that was not enough, the evening was commencing with Rodney Fisher who I saw perform solo last year, but is probably best known for fronting {Goodshirt}. Before the gig I was chatting with the manager of the venue, and she was showing me some of the great bands they have coming up. They have a charity gig arranged with 11 bands on 15th March starting at 4:00 in the afternoon, with all proceeds going to efforts for people suffering due to the extreme weather we have had recently.  

Rodney started the night with no fanfare, just got up on the stage and started playing and singing – nice to see some dry ice and subdued lighting to create the right mood. You Know I Would was a nice gentle opener, and unlike the last time I saw him there was no use of loops, just keeping it simple with picked electric guitar and his emotive vocals. It was well received, and he went into Timeline, but it was obvious he was up against it tonight as there were way too many people talking and not listening. That is always a risk when being a solo performer being followed by two well-known bands, but when someone is performing at the level Rodney is, it is not only unfair but downright rude. Those of us who were paying attention were being given a treat as Rodney has years of experience behind him, with some great songs, with the more upbeat Keeping Up Appearances showing a different side to his style. I C U saw him bring in some loops and additional tracks for the first time, but even though this was a fuller song it is a song which is slowed down and packed with emotion, and he even showed his range with some falsetto which was pained and full of hurt. We then had By The Sea, another from his “lockdown” album which he recorded remotely with some musicians from Christchurch – this has him combining singer/songwriter with electronic beats and styles, creating a powerful blend of very different musical styles. He ended his short set with Fiji Baby, the title cut from the second Goodshirt album, in itself also most 20 years old. A different style again, rockier in its approach, this was the perfect way to take us into the rest of the night.

Again, there was no announcement and stellar* were just there, and straight away we were all transported with Every Girl. This set was going to be hit after hit – remember they may have only released three albums but two went to #1 and the other was Top Ten, while they also had massive single success as well, and they followed that Top 3 single with another from the Top 20, Undone. While people had been sat and talking through Rodney’s set, that was not going to be the case with these guys as Boh Runga (vocals), Andrew Maclaren (drums, programming), Chris van de Geer (guitar) and Kurt Shanks (bass) had the audience right where they wanted them from the first note. They have that easy familiarity which only comes from a band who have played together a lot over the years, and while the magic was being brought (there were some additional backing tracks for keyboards) at the heart of it all is Boh. I have loved her voice for years, and the reason for coming tonight was primarily to hear her sing, and I was not disappointed at all as she was at the heart of everything which was taking place.

She strapped on a guitar for the next number, and when she announced it was Maxine, the floor suddenly filled with dancers. They had gradually been coming forward until then, but this was like a button had been pressed and everyone was up having a groove. This is a harder hitting rocker, still very much with the pop edge, and Boh’s vocals were lifted accordingly. By now everyone was really into what was taking place in front of them and as soon as the first notes were struck for One More Day there were cheers of recognition. The rockier numbers allows the guys to demonstrate just how tight they are, providing the powering foundation for Boh to shine. She announced the next number was one of her favourites from their debut, Nerve & Consequences, showing a very different style to what had gone before with a huge focus on drums and vocals, the bass playing a repeated melody and the guitar slipping in and out. It felt like a reset, a very different feel indeed to what had gone previously. Then we were into the filthy guitar led Part of Me, where Chris allowed the music to move past at one level and would then put in these dirty phased riffs which totally transformed the song, all while Andrew and Kurt kept it tight, with Boh providing additional guitar and singing sweetly, but often keeping it is demurer and more restrained. 

When the riffs started for Star there were more cries of recognition, with Andrew hitting the kit incredibly hard, Kurt playing some lovely counter notes up the neck, and then we were off and rocking with two guitars and Boh powering her vocals. All It Takes was soon turned into another belter, and the band were really cooking. This was followed by their first ever chart success, What You Do (Bastard), where the guitars were compressed together and the song was driven by the rhythm section underneath, with the bass providing the underlying melody as they moved almost into New Order territory with Boh then cutting through the wall of sound with her clear vocals. They brought in a section from The Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony, with nice harmony vocals from Boh and Kurt, which worked very well indeed, fitting in well and extending the song. All good things come to an end, and of course they finished the night with Violent, and if you weren’t already up and dancing then you were going to be now, and when they hit the chorus everyone in the house was jumping up and down. I had high expectations for stellar* and I was certainly not disappointed. This is a class band with great songs and if they are ever in your area then you cannot afford to miss out. Surely it must be time for a new album? Please??

Now it was the time for the headliners, {Mi-Sex}, who are touring the fortieth anniversary of their debut album, Graffiti Crimes. Of course, it would be incredibly unusual for the original line-up to still be together after all these years, and sadly some of the original members are no longer with us but Murray Burns (keyboards) and Colin Bayley (rhythm guitar) have brought in others to keep the name alive, with the line-up now including Steve Balbi (vocals), Jak Housden (lead guitar), Dario Bortolin (bass) and Jordan McDonald (drums).

The set started with Space Race, a hit on both sides of the Tasman, and right from the off it was obvious that Steve is one of those singers who was born to be a frontman, ensuring he is always the centre of attention, doing whatever he could to get the crowd going. Graffiti Crimes followed straight afterwards, another banger with more than a hint of Split Enz about it, but both bands were playing originally at the same time so would have had similar influences. One would never know that Steve was not the original singer in that he was living everything he was doing, and stopped during But You Don’t Care to get everyone to join in, and it really did feel as if we had been taken back 40 years when bands like Mi-Sex were playing in all the great pub venues up and down the country. It has that solid Seventies rock feel which bands of today may try to emulate but fail, with a perfectly formed proper guitar solo in the middle which stayed true to the melody of the whole song as opposed to being an excuse for ego. 

The rhythm section were keeping it tight, and then we had two guitars and keyboards providing the melody, while Steve was being way more than just a singer, a dramatic frontman of the old school. He even provided a really nice scream in this one. The band kept rocking hard, belying the age of some of those on the stage, and they were not taking time for breaks or talking as they were soon blasting through Falling In & Out which had some wonderfully dated but oh so nice keyboards leads in the introduction. They are certainly much heavier than I expected them to be, plus they were nice and loud. Down the Line showed a far more emotional side of the band, with some twin guitar harmonies here and there while the keyboards were playing a key role with some lovely runs. Here Steve had the opportunity to show that while he lives and breathes the role of frontman, he also has a great voice. Jordan then provided a drum fill, the riffs started, and we were into Bad Boy, which was way more dramatic. Then everything quietened down, and Steve got the crowd shouting, before they took off to finish the dramatic choppy staccato number which by now was one of the heaviest of the night. I must confess I have never seen anyone spin a microphone stand quite like Steve.

Steve paid homage to Don Martin before the next number, and then the band went into Blue Day, the last song of theirs to chart on both sides of the Tasman, all the way back in 1984, which soon went from something emotional and thoughtful to a blaster with nice lead keyboards, harmony guitars and Steve the centre of everything. The next number was Stills, which is based mostly on drums and bass with melody from the keyboards and then the guitars kicking in later. Taken from the Graffiti Crimes album they were celebrating, this is far more art rock, and one can imagine David Byrne or Bowie coming up with something like this as there are times when it is very different indeed to the rest of the set. It goes through many different styles and sections, ending as a blistering rocker with a great guitar solo.

Steve then announced that the next number was a new song, My Sex Your Sex (which is actually from their 2016 album Not From Here), and we were off into a blasting rocker which could easily have been written back when the band were at their peak and is guaranteed to get people moving as it has an infectious melody, powering chorus with great hooks. It Only Hurts When I’m Laughing is yet another blaster with some incredibly powerful drumming, a great guitar solo, and the band all building to a climax, demonstrating just how rocking these guys are, if you had ever doubted it. Steve asked if the crowd wanted anymore, and after finally getting a loud enough response we were into Castaway, yet another massive single in Australia which fairly belts along, with the keyboard melodies and Steve’s vocals cutting through.

There was never any doubt the song people were waiting for, and when the samples kicked in the crowd reacted as they knew what was coming, the worldwide hit, Computer Games. This finally got most of the laggards up and dancing, and with its infectious beat and chorus combined with the synths and guitar one can see why it was such a smash when it came out in 1979, but here it has way more life than the original, powering through. Steve got the crowd singing along, and it really is one of those joyful numbers where everyone has fun, including the band.

The band left the stage to allow the crowd to shout for more, but they were soon back, blasting through Living in September from the second album, Space Race. This is what Split Enz would sound like if they were more heavily influenced by punk, brutal in some ways and incredibly melodic in others. A kick drum intro led us into the last number of the night, People, which was yet again a smash on both sides of the ditch.

This really was an incredible gig and on Friday they do it all again at Power Station. From a gentle beginning from Rodney, we were then treated to two bands who proved the reason they are still going after so many years is that they are awesome at what they do. I only hope I see them all again soon, as this was quite some night and it felt very special indeed.Mi-Sex, stellar*