By Poppy Tohill
Date / Venue: Friday August 29th, The Tuning Fork, Auckland
When interviewing Henry Wagons, front man of the Americana indie rock band Wagons, a few weeks prior to their arrival and shows in New Zealand, he promised me that they were going to blow the roof off ofAuckland's Tuning Fork and absolutely demolish the stage. Of course having to see this for myself I headed along to one of Auckland's greatest venues, to see what was one hell of a great show, where indeed the roof was blown and the stage was literally demolished.
With fantastic support from opening bands Will Wood and Swampland, the audience which packed out the entire venue, were well and truly warmed up and ready for Wagons, by the time they whole heartedly rocked the stage.
As guitarist Richard Blaze, bass player Mark "Tuckerbag" Dawson and drummer Si "The Philanthropist,"took to the stage and began playing their instruments, lead vocalist, guitarist, and obvious entertainer Henry Wagons soon followed, enthusiastically bounding onto the stage dressed in what was one very impressive sparkly silver suit jacket. Roaring into an extremely strong and energetic performance of ‘Goodtown' from their fourth studio album ‘The Rise And Fall Of Goodtown,' the band gave it their absolute all while Wagons crazily danced around the stage, definitely kicking off their set in full force, giving everyone a taste of the immense level of energy and craziness that was still to come.
The eccentric dancing and extraordinary level of energy from each member of the band continued as they went on to perform ‘Chase The Eclipse' from their most recently released album, ‘Acid Rain And Sugar Cane.'Which also featured a very impressive instrumental driven by the drums and numerous guitars.
With Wagons sheer excitement when bounding onto the stage in the beginning, he stopped to announce that he was so excited he literally unplugged every wire possible on stage, resulting in a little technical issue where his guitar wasn't working, joking that they'd now have to cut out all of ‘Nirvana's unplugged' acoustic covers they were going to play. After a few minutes of jokes and laughs while fidgeting around with wires, he managed to get there in the end, taking up no more time, before launching into, ‘I Blew It.' Which included an epic guitar solo from Blaze as Wagons introduced him to the audience.
It was clear by now that what sets Wagons apart from other rock and rollers, is Henry's stage presence. When seeing him up there, you just simply can't imagine him anywhere else, but centre stage. Showing no signs of lacking confidence, he sure knows how to work a crowd, with the entire audience that filled the Tuning Fork, simply urging to be in the palm of his sweaty hands.
Heightening the energy even more so proving a great highlight for many, was the slick ‘Talk To Her,' which found Henry prowling around the stage like a mad man.
Stopping once more to chat with the audience, Wagons admitted that despite the band being around for a very long time, they've only just recently begun crossing the ditch to perform in New Zealand, with their last performance here being in November last year. "We've been foolish not to have come earlier," he announced. "But now I've got to admit I have a crush on New Zealand and I very much want to wine, dine and treasure this relationship we have," Wagons added before launching into the slightly slower ‘Why Do You Always Cry,'which involved yet another impressive instrumental and roaring outbursts between the softer verses.
Following ‘Search The Streets' Wagons jokingly ordered his band to "get the fuck off the stage," as he launched into fingerpicking the melodic tune of ‘Moon Into The Sun,' executing a wonderful performance that truly showcased the slightly more delicate side to his voice and songwriting skills.
On occasion, dedicating songs to different audience members, Wagons picked on a guy he stated had been, "suspiciously looking backstage for quite some time now." Encouraging the man to come up on stage, after a few questions and introductions, Wagons once again joined by his band went on to perform ‘Keep Your Eyes Off My Sister' as the guest Wagons had picked on, danced and chuckled alongside him, on stage.
Having had enough of the slower songs, the band launched into a raucous version of Bruce Springsteen's‘State Trooper' the followed by the Elvis-style version of Hoyt Axton's ‘Never Been To Spain,' where the insane guitar riffs, and berserk dancing continued, as Wagons waded through the audience, jumping back on stage humorously declaring, "I just got groped so many times and I sincerely thank you," as the legendary covers came to an end.
Creeping closer to drawing their set to an end, the band led the crowd in a tribute to country legend Willie Nelson. Encouraging a sing-a-long, the venue echoed with the ringing shouts and screams of the chorus, which slowly built up to an erupting, impressive climax. As they went on to wrap things up with ‘Beer Barrel Bar'; which saw Henry wade through the entire crowd to the bar at the back of the room, containing singing as the music went on, stealing one man's beer for himself along the way. Wagons then ordered three beers for his band mates ones reaching the bar, before wading right back through the crowd to the stage where he handed out the beers to his band, continuing to sing the last part of the song, before having one last boogie throughout the instrumental, then departing the stage as the band concluded the song.
When returning to the stage for their well deserved encore, Henry admits, "to be honest I'm so fucked, I've been prancing around like a fucking retard, I don't know if I have another song in me right now, so I'm going to hand it over to Si ‘The Philanthropist' who took centre stage, surprising and wowing everyone as he belted out an impressively fast rap, while Henry held down the drumming duties.
Giving Henry time to rest his dancing legs, it was back to the normal formation for the all in all rockin' finale of ‘Drive All Night Til Dawn,' again from their 2009 album, ‘The Rise And Fall Of Goodtown,' concluding the night the way things had begun, with one hell of an energetic, rocking and strong performance, leaving everyone to go home with the dirty, rock and roll guitar licks, ringing throughout their ears.
Also playing Saturday at the Leigh Sawmill, if you ended up missing them entirely, I highly recommend you add them to your list and be sure to see them next time they grace our shores with their presence, as Wagons sure as hell know how to party like rockstars!