Genocide and Disillusionment aside, one of Hitler's unparalleled skills was as an orator. His charismatic and growling speeches would infect his listeners with an inflated sense of national pride and honor. Since his day it is often minorities that have used Hitler's orating techniques against his ideologies. Martin Luther King's 'I have a Dream' speech managed to inspire the hundreds of thousands assembled before him, casting pride and hope into the hearts of everybody around him. This back against the wall sentiment is embodied by a number of minorities, some using peaceful and some chaotic means to achieve their aims. One country that is a typical example of this is New Zealand, which can be compared to that nagging little brother constantly seeking the attention of the bigger folk.
New Zealand has created its own unique identity in the world that even self-obsessed Americans cannot ignore. As a kiwi myself, I cannot help but swell with pride seeing fellow kiwis fly off to show the world what we are made of, disproving the flightless bird notion. Fly My Pretties are a collaboration of Barnaby Weir and an assortment of talented musicians from the arts capital of New Zealand, Wellington. Barnaby Weir is the front man for the nationally acclaimed roots/reggae band The Black Seeds, whilst the hand-picked contributing artists include some of Wellington's finest musicians.
Live at Bats
was recorded over five concerts at the intimate Bats Theatre in the Capital City Wellington. Despite being a live album, and featuring no pre-recorded music at all, the album still manages to capture the aroma and feel of the five nights at Bats Theatre. Of course the album would be crisper if recorded in a studio, but the natural affectionate feel of Live at Bats
offsets any lack in recording quality.
Although the 17 track length hints at an epic album, Live at Bats
is far from it. The six introductions are merely used to usher in the contributing artists for certain songs. Live at Bats
is in essence a focused, intimate and often moody 11 song work of art. For confused Americans looking for a comparison, Live at Bats
is a primarily acoustic album, similar in feel to artists like Norah Jones, John Mayer
and David Gray
The sound of Live at Bats
is largely down to earth, with only the addictive Lets Roll
offering any sort of action. The distorted guitar in Lets Roll
is at times fuzzy. Yet the overall tone mixed in with the varied vocals of Barnaby Weir and subtle acoustic guitar melody help to create a catchy little chorus driven along by strong drumming and bass guitar playing. The verses could be considered slight lulls compared with the outstanding chorus, but this does not detract from an otherwise heart pounding and shiver-inducing song.
The meaning of Live at Bats
is fairly easy to understand. The opening song Family Tree
describes the temptations pulling us away from our roots, and emphasises the contributing musicians connection to Wellington and Aotearoa. References to Wellingtons windy weather can be heard "And the gale starts pushing and I wrap my hands around it, hold it tight."
The temptations of moving overseas away from the whanau (family) is also described quite ingeniously "Hear the birds calling, resting on the branches of your family tree."
brings the focus entirely on Barnaby's silky smooth voice, contrasted against the skilful acoustic slap-guitar playing. Although the album was recorded entirely live, Barnaby's vocals are highly detailed, and he rarely puts a foot wrong. With such a seductive voice, Barnaby allows listeners to focus in on the lyrics whilst at the same time taking an unprecedented joy out of the texture of the music. The overall sound of Family Tree
is incredibly seductive, and the aura of the concert is captured impeccably.
The funky side of Wellington life is also captured by Barnaby and the assorted collaborators. Bag of Money
and its funky rhythm enhances another vivid vocal performance, as if the artists were performing as one united soul. This vocal excellence is continued throughout Live at Bats
with the smooth and soulful Barnaby Weir vocals in Lucky
being one example of world-class New Zealand singing. The acoustic guitar in Lucky
is blatantly simple in structure, as is common throughout Live at Bats
. It is this no nonsense, mood driven guitar work that adds to the aroma of the album. Live at Bats
was never intended to be a technical showcase, nor a complex elitist art piece. Barnaby Weir and crew do what they set out to do remarkably well, capturing the essence of Wellington and creating a smooth silky album with it.
One of the songs that was designed specifically for the concert is Quiet Girl
. The bass guitar in the intro feels like it was taken directly from the vibrant streets of Wellington, with the murmurs from the audience strangely adding to the vibe. There is a strong honesty to the song, the very basic acoustic guitar and vocal purr creating an incredibly bounteous feel.
Turn it Around
starts off with a strangely psycadelic distorted guitar, but soon fades into a passionate emotional guitar rhythm. Barnaby's vocals feel as though he is yearning over lost love. Turn it Around
is deep with affection, heartfelt affection that easily sows its seed in the listener.
It is commonly uttered by teachers and guardians that anything is possible if you have the passion and desire to succeed. It is clear to this reviewer that all the artists in Live at bats
had an unparalleled devotion to creating a unified awe-inspiring experience for the audience. This unique sound has translated well into an album that captures the mood of those four nights at Bats Theatre. Some of the songs suffer in bits because of the live nature, with some of the detail lost. We Can Make a Life
offers a vocal duet between the audience and Barnaby Weird who simultaneously sing "We can make a life, we can make a life worth living," but thanks to this the song lacks appeal on the album. Fly My Pretties
would have been a more appropriate finale, with its rich in meaning lyrics not subtracting from the experience in album form. "Fly away, as long as you come back someday."
It could be said that the album is largely made for Wellingtonians only. Yet there are enough high quality songs on Live at Bats
that make it accessible to foreign soil listeners. Furthermore the themes intertwined in the lyrics are easily accessible to all, which make it easy for anybody to get wrapped up in the soulful vocals and heartfelt performances. Live at Bats
succeeded in mastering what it set out to do. It is done with superb spirit and drive that make Live at Bats
an enjoyable live album for all.