By Poppy Tohill
Artist: Thomas Oliver
Date / Venue: Friday July 18th, Tuning Fork, Auckland
Magical is the best word to describe the atmosphere that ran through Auckland's Tuning Fork on Friday night as Thomas Oliver filled the venue with his stunningly beautiful melodic tunes and rhythms.
As the show concluded there was no questioning needed as to why Oliver is internationally recognised as one of the leading players of the Weissenborn lap-steel guitar, showcasing all aspects of his multi-talented guitarist, songwriter and singer, self.
Taking to the stage, thanking the audience for supporting him, Oliver, with a steel-lap guitar perched on his knee, began his set with ‘The Strangest Feeling I'm Home,' varying the dynamics between his voice and guitar beautifully throughout the entire tune. Transitioning into another song, beginning with a magnificent instrumental that left the sliding notes ringing for that extra enchanting moment, Oliver broke out into a strum, singing that "You're the only reason I'm out so late," which in a sense was fairly ironic seen he was the only reason I was out that night.
Audience's at the Tuning Fork always cease to amaze me as once the music begins, it is quiet enough to hear a pin drop. The attentiveness of everyone present is always one of my favourite things about the venue and to the very moment Thomas Oliver was on stage, it proved no different. Not only could he captivate the entire audience with just his music, but he literally had everyone sitting in the palm of his hand, as he went on to tell humorous stories between each song, interacting with the attentive audience, who replied, applauded and laughed on cue perfectly.
Oliver's ability to draw on the intimacy was even more impressive, as he made the large space seem somewhat smaller, as the surrounding space vanished as everyone tuned in and focused on the tiny-spotlighted area of the stage, where the attention lay for the remainder of the night.
After informing the crowd he gets acrylic nails on his right hand so he can play guitar better, he continued, jokingly adding that if he was to create a profile on a dating site he would list one of his positives attributes as, "We can go get our nails done together." With that, he introduced a new song, blowing the audience away with his incredible vocal ability, as he sang, "If I move to mars will you come with me." (I would, by the way. Although I have a feeling it may have been a rhetorical question..)
Putting aside his original songs for a short few minutes, Oliver went on to perform an exceptional rendition of James Blake's, ‘I Am Sold,' using the body of his steel-guitar as a drum, feeding the beat through a loop before continuing singing and playing guitar as the soft rhythm he tapped out backed his voice adding the perfect touch to the already existing calm and soothing ambience that was present throughout the venue.
Proving an overall favourite for many was his next song, ‘Boy,' which told the story of a boy trying to find out when he became an adult. Again dynamically mastering the changing volume and projection of his voice as the vocals took president over the guitar throughout most of this song, with the somewhat comedic lyrics of, "I was fifteen when I first ran away from home, I had six beers inside me, a skateboard and one set of clothes... Now I'm older and I'm drunker and I still skateboard." Musically the song was also striking, ending with a piano instrumental that Oliver fed through a loop, while again using the body of his guitar as a drum, to tap an impressive rhythmic beat which intertwined exquisitely with the soft melody of the piano.
A tribute song dedicated to the ‘Havelock Crew' and recently passed away musician from the punk band ‘No Use For A Name' was next. As Oliver went on to explain that this is the first time the death of a musician has really saddened him, before continuing on to play the sentimental tune.
Beginning to worry he was talking to much, he went on to tell another story (after being reassured by the audience that he wasn't), about a young six year old boy who he met on a plane, that helped change his mind and view on the world when he was in a dark place. Then introducing the song as ‘Little Stranger,' he went on to perform the song, dedicating it to this little boy, he admitted he is still grateful to.
Drawing nearer the end of his set, ‘Around In Circles' was the next tune Oliver cheerfully belted out, after explaining that it is the wild card song for the night, because it's the first time he's performed it in about two years. Seeming to prove itself as a great crowd favourite, I think it's safe to say it was a good choice for a wild card, as the upbeat tempo and rhythm of the song got a few people moving around on the dance floor.
Oliver's single ‘Lead Me On,' featuring Drum N Bass artist Trei was the final song on his setlist. Again brilliantly showcasing his talent on the lap-steel guitar, he informed the crowd that the rest of his set, "will be improvised," before completely letting rip, launching into an instrumental which was at least three minutes long, where the guitar playing and rhythmic tapping which he fed through a loop before adding more guitar, left the entire crowd completely and utterly speechless, blowing every single person in the audience off their feet. Proving an obvious favourite and highlight for many, Oliver departed the stage when the level of energy from the audience was at its highest.
Beckoning for an encore, Oliver soon returned to the stage, much to the crowds delight. Performing just a one song encore, he brought the night to an end so magnificently, with his instrumental, ‘The Moment.' As each sliding note, echoed longer than the last, I highly doubt I was the only member of the audience left with goosebumps as the soothing, melodic lullaby faded to an end. Acting as the perfect choice of song to draw the night to an end and send everyone home to.
Having listened to the song at least five more times since returning home from the concert, the only word to describe Oliver's talent and performance is truly magical as his musical talent for both playing guitar, songwriting and singing is like no other I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing before. As cheesy as it sounds, it really was a true magical experience.