Friday night I was lucky enough to head along to The Tuning Fork to catch Jon Toogood perform some of his favourite songs (including his own) solo and acoustic to a seated audience for the second night in a row. Both shows were sold out so I figured I must be in for a treat. Though to be perfectly honest I had no idea what to expect from the Shihad front man. Would he sing Shihad songs? Would he sing covers? Both, it turns out, including some of his own nuggets.
I arrived at around 8:15 thinking I'd have plenty of time to grab a drink and head to the WC. Shame on me! I barely had 2 minutes to make it to my seat. Then from out of nowhere he came and took his place on a stool at the front of the stage.
Jon Toogood has definitely come along way from being 'that nice guy who worked behind the counter at Tandys Record Store' in Wellington's old Manners Mall. There's no denying the music from Shihad defined my late teens/early twenties, and really has stood the test of time. So much so they had sellout shows performing their recently released FVEY album. But how would Toogood fair performing an intimate solo show? Kind of like baring all to a bunch of strangers.
The answer is good, no in fact great. Actually this has to be one of the best live musical performances I have seen this year. And as a music photographer I see a lot! Jon is as kiwi as they come and such a humble bloke, no pretence, no bullshit just someone who is down-to-earth with a real passion for making music. Also the vibe was very mellow which is something of a specialty for The Tuning Fork. You couldn't have picked a better setting.
After a brief welcome and thank you to the audience Jon tells us he still gets really nervous before a gig, even after 25 years. First up was a track called Every Day I Wake Up from collaborative affair The Adults, followed by the first Shihad song of the night, Missionary, from their self-titled album that was written after some religious door-knockers woke him up after a very hard night out! And a cover of Wilco's Misunderstood. Next up we heard Run from the album Pacifier, followed by a beautiful cover of Reckless by rockers Australian Crawl. Jon tells us he grew up in the eighties and these are the songs he remembers most from his childhood. At this point in the performance Jon asks the audience to join in and sing along whenever they feel like it but we are all too shy (or not yet drunk enough) to get that involved.
So on to The General Electric where we hear Brightest Star and then another cover, this time it's Bliss by NZsTh' Dudes with a few ad lib lyrics which actually get the audience singing along a little. To wrap up the set (or so I thought) Jon knocked out It Was You and Coming Down. Imagine my surprise and delight at hearing we would be getting more! A thirsty Jon adds he hopes he sounds ok so far and jumps off the stage.
Twenty minutes (and two glasses of water) later I still haven't made it to the WC, so sit cross-legged in my seat awaiting part two of this magical evening. Up first after the break is a song, Anniversary Day, written by Toogood and fellow kiwi rocker (and ex Fur Patrol leading lady) Julia Deans. Deans also spends her days in Melbourne and will be performing live in Auckland later this month.
Next an old song from Auckland band Voom called Isn't That Good, followed by an amazing acoustic rendition of Think You're So Free from FVEY, we hear the band are really happy with due to a return to Shihad's heavier roots. Then much to everyone's delight we hear a cover of Oasis' What's The Story (Morning Glory) where Jon admits he always preferred Oasis over Blur. But then didn't we all? Now the audience have loosened up and we are instructed to sing even louder if we can. I begin to hear the voices around me signaling it was time to join in.
Pacifier is up next, and maybe it's the alcohol but folks are well and truly into the spirit of the night. We are told this track is significant because it was written for a friend suffering from depression. Dragon's Rainstarted the whole crowd singing and ended with the crowd singing along with Jon sans guitar. I thought was on purpose but at the end he added, "That's the first time the crowd has sung to cover a broken string." Quickly followed by "It's all covers from now on fuck it!" After a quick guitar change, straight into Split Enz I Got You. My childhood favourite! And just we you think it couldn't get any better, out comes a cover of Ziggy Stardust's Suffragette City! Like me, Jon was introduced to Bowie via this album through and older sibling. Could thus night get any better? Wait yes! Lucky Man from 90s Brit Indie Pop moguls The Verve. What a way to end a show and what a show it was!
The encore is only one song, it's Long Way but I can't remember who recorded the original - I'm completely buzzing by now as are the crowd around me. We clap we cheer we clap some more. I am on a total high and so is everyone else.
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