Bic Runga: Review

A review by Rob Harbers

And now, the end is here, and we have faced the final curtain…the day has drawn in on the Harcourts Hawkes Bay Arts Festival. Seeing out the angels was Bic Runga, one on whom the overused status of “iconic” can justifiably be endowed.

In these uncertain times, to even think of creating such an event as this festival may be regarded in some quarters as foolhardy. And yet, it’s the very nature of these times that makes things like this all the more essential. The fact this event was able to proceed, with appreciative audiences, and no bubbles burst, is a credit to the foresight, endeavour and tenacity of the organisers, and for that alone they are worthy of applause (as well as a good rest!) But the act of gathering together the sheer depth of talent that was on display through the full 15-day run is praiseworthy indeed.

The icing on this rich confection came in the form of NZ music royalty, creator of 3 #1 albums and member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, Bic Runga. Her lineage is Ngati Kahungunu, so this was an overdue return to her turangawaewae. From the first bar of opener “Get Some Sleep”, the audience were carried along on a journey by her angelic voice and beautiful arrangements, covering many of the highlights of a long career over the 17-song set.

Backing band members Cass Mitchell on bass, Michael Logie on keyboards, and drummer Kody Nielson provided the perfect level of support to proceedings. There was a nice degree of “will it or won’t it” tension provided by “She Left on a Monday”‘s three fluffed starts, caused by the star herself showing its not always easy at the top, and humanising her at the same time.

A solo rendition of “Drive”, bringing the first part of the set to a close was a standout, showing its strength after so many years.

Second-half opener “Everything Is Beautiful and New” was followed by Bic taking to the keyboard for the trio of “Beautiful Collision” , “Precious Things”, and “Listening For The Weather” , before it was back to the guitar for “Something Good”, and first closer of the night “Haere Mai Ra” – the Te Reo version of the lesser-known tune you may know by the name of “Sway”, from 2019’s “Waiata” project, led by Hinewehi Mohi.

Returning for the encore, solo renditions of early songs “When I See You Smile” and “The Be All & End All” led into the full band taking to the stage one last time for Eagles cover “I Can’t Tell You Why”, which closed out the night, and the festival, sending the crowd off after a night of (almost) pure professionalism, with a warm glow and anticipation of next year’s delights.

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