Stretch - Our Dreams are Changing
Review by Rosheen Fitzgerald
There’s a handkerchief in my pocket for tonight’s performance. Stretch is a man who has ruined my eyeliner on more than one occasion with his capacity for depth and vulnerability. From the first he claims the Toitoi stage as his own, hitting the ground running with his signature fire and brimstone sound, before unleashing the full power of his hand-picked six-piece band to fill the regal space to its vaulted ceiling with rich and beautiful music.
His is a body of work thick with aural terroir, anchored in time and place and memory, firmly rooted in the Hawke’s Bay, from the heights of the hill sweeping down to the sandy shores. His first set is a variation on a familiar theme, taken from his debut album, Bury All Horses, whose original recording band reassembled for a knock out Spiegeltent gig at the 2017 Arts Festival. Tonight it’s reworked and reimagined and imbued with hopefulness and passion, with the addition of the inimitable Paula Sugden on cello and rising star, Arahi Whaanga, on drums, beefed up by keys and bass and guitar. The chemistry between Stretch and Sugden hangs in the atmosphere like the fog that creeps the streets outside.
It’s a musical collaboration that has grown and blossomed and borne fruit. The second set comes from his recently released album, Our Dreams Are Changing. Intense and soul driven, these are songs that reverberate in the chest and wrap themselves around the heart. Included is the gut wrenching Lonely Star, which he shared in embryonic form at his 2018 Fringe in the ‘Stings gig, Songs Unsung. That night he placed post-it notes on the tables and invited the audience to contribute lyrics, some of which made it into the song.
Intentionality and integrity are at the core of what Stretch creates. Yes, this is music that screams heart and soul but there is a thread of head work that runs throughout. Backing up the messianic melodies and the passion wrought lyrics is a rare skill for arrangement. It’s about knowing when to let loose and when to hold back. When to push something further and when to leave it alone. With talk of finding songs, of them coming tapping on his shoulder in the night, there’s an intuitive grace to the music that makes each Stretch gig a wholistic experience you can tuck away in a pocket to be pulled out when you need it most.
Images by Ian Cooper