By Jake Ebdale
Artist: Sola Rosa
Date / Venue: Friday July 26th, Kings Arms Tavern, Auckland
On Friday at Auckland's Kings Arms, I experienced an incredible show on behalf of the one and only Sola Rosa. A funky, celebratory victory lap off the back of last year's exceptional release Low and Behold, High and Beyond, it was a night of world class funk chemistry.
The trifecta of Ben White, Matt Short and resident mastermind Andrew Spraggon locked into a nasty instrumental groove as introduction - a grinding, skewed clavinet heavy number that recalled Stevie Wonder's more cerebral moments. Vocalists Cherie Mathieson and new Rosa member Sam Allen, who has replaced Spikey Tee for this tour, then walked on stage, introduced themselves, and kicked the gig off with‘Spinning Top'.
From there, the group hardly let up. If you're well versed in all things Spraggon, the components were all there for a classic Rosa gig - ‘Redeemer' and ‘What If' from 2005's Moves On were given bottom heavy overhauls, and the 1-2 stun gun of ‘Wiggle' and ‘I'm Not That Guy' (both heavily influenced by soul man D'Angelo) made the punters drop their drinks. The more overtly Spikey Tee songs, like ‘Badman' and ‘Love Alone', were still effective, if not entirely successful - his presence in the band is pivotal to their sound. Still, Allen did a stellar job, a humble guy who's in tune with Sola Rosa's diverse sound. A great moment was hearing single ‘Turn Around' literally exploding, Mathieson also recreating Iva Lamkum's braggadocio from the recording. There were a few new songs thrown in for good measure, a stand out being a catchy future single called ‘To the Sun'.
Though the two vocalists had great stage presence, stomping and clapping in unison, the instrumentalists revealed Sola Rosa's true magic on the night - they are renowned as pillars, pioneers in organic soul, one of the tightest trios in the country, and all without a drummer (Spraggon uses beats from a computer based set up). ‘All You Need' was by far the highlight, off the still fresh Get It Together album. A true jam with a Spanish keys/guitar run as the payoff, it brought a beaming smile to my face: one of those fleeting moments that you hope will come when watching a band play...musical marksmanship at its finest. A triumphant triple header of ‘Promise', ‘Del Rey' and ‘Humanized' was the cherry on top of this funky, soulful weekend dessert. Completely unexpected, and an interest completely renewed, Sola Rosa should be the next act you see.