Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Number 2. 11th March 1976]
Enz of the Earth
Enz of the Earth
From the moment that the group ripped itself from a bag and was strobed so dramatically on stage, the heart and imagination of a packed Town Hall was captured and enveloped for 90 minutes. It was the totality of an act which could only be Split Enz.
Tim Finn cramped his way around the stage like a jazzed up version of Wilfred Bramble (of Steptoe & Son fame with his fellow jesters in support. It was hard not to believe you were at the Enz of the Earth. This pot-pourri of Harlequin-type characters controlled the mood. The music, the visual effects created a sensual experience which would have done justice to Ken Russell.
The audience never wanted to recover from this traumatic (pleasantly so) experience as colours from the groups costumes were tossed about by the flashing lighting - splayed and flashing in reckless motion.
Paint your face as a mask and wear it until it breathes and lives...... Tin Finn fired so many arrows into the target (the audience) - in the form of facial contortions, extraordinary vocal expression and prowling, prancing, creeping across the stage - that the audience was overwhelmed with the splendour of its execution. The feeling was warm toast spread with marmalade.
The rare sight of a superb New Zealand rock group was drunk greedily by the appreciative audience. Split Enz - a light at the end of a dark monotonous passage.
The line-up of personnel in the group has changed slightly since their last tour. Guitarist Wally Wilkinson (who also appeared on the Mental Notes L.P.) stayed in Australia and Robert Fillies (who was with the group about two years ago) comes in to add trumpet and saxophone to an already impressive instrument range. The visual theatrics are also now indicating a willingness on the part of the group to experiment and at the same time demonstrating an enthusiasm for their work.
The stage act was inventive and at times unpredictable. For example during one particular number the percussionist suddenly picked up an electric guitar which up to that moment had lain hidden. He began to play - tortuosly and agonisingly. The rest of the group all look at him. Finn calls him 'stupid!' Percussionist looks sad, wistfully so, and slowly put the guitar down. As if in a hurry to forget the 'incident', Finn tells the drummer to 'take it from the top', and once more sound poured forth.
Frantic spoon nonsense
During the final number the percussionist picks up the spoons, taps them into sound and dances, half walks across the stage. Whilst on the back the rest of the group look at each other with puzzled stares, then crowd together towards the exit backstage. Suddenly they turn, producing spoons themsleves. They begin flailing them everywhere, hopelessly trying to imitate the percussionist. The audience loved it.
The music? Those of you who have seen Split Enz before or have heard their recordings need not fear - I shall not bore you with the same adjectives which nebulously attempt to express what the music really is.
For those who have an idea what the music is, one or two introductory lessons: brilliant use of jazz and rock, changing moods and rhythms produced by a splendiferous array of instruments (including numerous keyboards).
Take 'Spellbound' for instance. Phil Judd (lead guitarist) introduced it with meaty acoustic guitar. Later the malotron added depth to the song as it progressed, whilst a strong sax line ran through the whole number.
A complete composition is 'Lovey-dovey' - introduced by Finn as a cynical love-song, it was just that. Some sharp jazz piano from Eddie Raynor expressed (amongst other things) the fickleness, shallowness of lovey-doveyness.
It is perhaps a waste of time to once again list the drawbacks of holding a concert such as this in the Town Hall but to put it bluntly, the visual experience of this show saved it from being a disaster. The acoustics were so bad that even when sitting five rows from the front downstairs it was well nigh impossible to pick out the vocals.
This complaint was common to all sections of the Town Hall and one has to wonder whether the group's knowledge of this major structural defect had anything to do with its decision to make its N.Z. tour substantially a visual display. The lighting was generally good but at times it was rather slow in picking out who was doing the vocals. This was particularly so in the couple of songs where Phil Judd took over the vocals from Tim Finn ('Under the Wheel' and 'Spellbound').
All in all it was an excellent performance. What more can be said? The local groupie set tells me that the group was overwhelmed by the audience response but they all say that about Wellington audiences, don't they?