By Poppy Tohill
Artist: Hollie Smith
Date / Venue: Wednesday June 11th, Kings Arms Tavern, Auckland
Being one of the first New Zealander's to have the honour of being selected to play at the prestigiousMontreal Jazz Festival in Canada, Hollie Smith held a fundraiser event to raise funds in order to get her and her band over to Canada for the festival on June 28th.
Beginning early, Hip Hop artist King Kapisi took to the stage to perform an energy-filled set to a fairly small crowd, although that didn't affect his performance slightly, encouraging the crowd to dance and shout in response to his quirky and enthusiastic stage banter.
The next act to hit the stage was drum and bass artist MC Tali, who performed an exceptional and energetic set of tunes which were a mixture from her forthcoming album ‘Walls,' and some old goodies with even a bit of freestyling thrown in there also. Not to be forgotten however, was her extraordinary cover of Kendrick Lamar's track ‘Swimming Pool' which resulted in a bit of audience interaction from the enthusiastic crowd. Definitely proving the ultimate highlight of Tali's entire set, her latest single ‘Forces' proved yet another highlight and made me want to buy her new upcoming album right away.
By the time her set was over, the Kings Arms was absolutely packed to the gunnels with friends, family and fans who were there in support of Hollie.
The last act before Smith took to the stage were The Means who were also joined by RnB, soul singer Bailey Wiley. Performing a fantastic selection of songs, some being from Wiley's own EP, the incredibly talented band backed Wiley's stunning vocals exquisitely. Perfectly setting the mood for Smith's performance which was soon to come.
With another little interlude, friends of Hollie's who were acting as the MC's for the night, kept the audience hyped and anticipated for Smith's performance as they went on to draw the winner's of the numerous raffle items which companies had generously donated to Hollie to help her in her quest to raise enough money to take her band with her to perform at the jazz festival in Montreal in just a few weeks.
With countless incredible items being won and taken away by some very happy winners, Smith took to the stage.
Although looking stunning as always, dressed in casual clothes, and hair beautifully bundled up tightly, you could pick up on the fact that she looked a little stressed. After filling the audience in on how busy the preparations and day had been, she laughed admitting that the actual performance itself would be the easiest part. Proving just this as she poured herself a glass of wine, and launched into what was an absolutely exceptional performance.
With a set contributing of mostly brand new songs, old time favourites such as ‘Can't Let You Down,' from her 2007 album Long Player, and 'Finding Home' from her 2010 album ‘Humour And The Misfortune Of Others'also made the setlist.
Smith's tight band were well on form tonight as they added the perfect touch, acting as a superb backdrop for Smith's remarkable soulful voice which echoed throughout the venue, evidently proving why she has been asked to represent New Zealand at the Montreal Jazz Festival, as soon as she opened her mouth.
Picking up the guitar numerous times throughout her performance, Smith admitted she's only recently began playing guitar again. But just like the singing- she proved a natural at it.
A new song titled ‘Make Believe' proved popular among the enthusiastic crowd, as they continued to dance the night away.
Following that, was another new song, which she informed us she had written only yesterday when she was supposed to be preparing and getting everything ready for this event, she laughed. "So be easy on us, because the band only learnt it today," she went on to say, as the tune began with only her on guitar and vocals, building up to what proved another very popular favourite among the energetic and loving crowd.
With the audience loving everything the band and Smith were throwing at them, the question of whether to play an old song or another new one next, received a deafening reply from the audience who were all very much in favour of hearing more new songs.
In that case, Smith went on to perform a very new song, which she humourously went on to explain, "It's still so new I actually don't know the lyrics too it and I'm not as good at freestyling as Tali is, so I hope you're okay with me just making up shit," she continued laughing. Well if that was her making stuff up on the spot, it was highly impressive. Apologising in advance, there proved absolutely no need, as Smith and the band were definitely on their full game that night, producing yet another incredible song which I hopefully look forward to hearing on the new album.
Pulling out jokes, and cute stories about her six year old son and his new girlfriend, and not to mention the actual performing of the music, Smith's set had drawn to an end too quickly for my liking. Filling the audience in on the fact that she doesn't do encore's because she finds it awkward she drew her set to an end with her popular hit and mesmerising cover of ‘Bathe In The River.' Smith, her band and the audience all seemed to enjoy it just as much as one another, as Smith's incredibly powerful and awe-aspiring vocals remained echoing throughout the venue as she left the stage.
Now I've had the privilege of seeing Hollie Smith perform a number of times now, and every time I've thought her voice couldn't possibly get any better, but tonight she literally blew my mind, along with the rest of the audience. The power, emotion and soul she brings to the stage as she performs is impeccable and no matter how cheesy this sounds, I undoubtedly agree with the MC's of the night when they said Hollie Smith's voice resembles that of an angel's.
There is undoubtedly no question as to why Hollie Smith was chosen and asked to perform at the Montreal Jazz Festival and I certainly hope they raised enough money to help fund their trip, as no artist New Zealand artist deserves this opportunity more so than she does.