Troy Kingi Review

A review by Rob Harbers

Day eleven of the Harcourt’s Hawkes Bay Arts Festival was the scene of an astounding incident of time travel, wherein an audience that entered the venue in 2020 found themselves transported to the 1970s, at the ascendancy of funk. The provider of this astro-physical trans-location was none other than Troy Kingi, presenting his latest album “The Ghost of Freddie Cesar” to enthusiastic punters, with the support of current ensemble The Clutch.

Our introduction to the evening’s delights was in the way of a short set of mostly original material from teenage up-and-comer Neko. Her sweet and soulful voice combines with a touching lack of artifice, presenting a winning package that should take her far. An inspired supporting act, and definitely one to watch.

After a short interval, a documentary film played on the screen, explaining the genesis of the Freddie Cesar project. This was explored in Tim Gruar’s 5-star review of the album on this site, but the film provided even further depth to the story, introducing concepts around the nature of memories – are they always real? How much is truly a memory, and how much is projected from imagination? Will anyone ever know? Either way, the inspiration for the project came from Troy’s memories of his father who went missing in 2005, and the music he would play in the family household – a powerful wellspring of creativity, with the help of some therapy to extract the threads from the archives.

Having told the story, it was time for the music itself, with the 8-strong Clutch laying down a solid foundation before the triumphant entry of the man himself. A fur-lined velvet coat adorned his body, befitting the themes of the album (described as “Vietnam, guns, women and drugs”) and its 70s blaxploitation movie vibe – the artist as wannabe pimp. This coat didn’t leave his shoulders through the night, a tribute to stamina indeed, given its obvious heating effects! All in service of the art…

Through the next hour and a half, the ensemble of players proceeded to funk up the grande dame that is Toitoi. Anchoring the performance was bassist Marika Hodgson, providing the solid bottom end on which the house of funk is built, along with rhythm partner drummer Treye Liu. Material played ranged across Troy’s career, although largely drawn from the new album (this being the album release tour, after all!) – the new and old meshing together perfectly.

A solid contingent of the crowd occupied the front of the stage, officially designated as the place for shaking of skinny asses – testimony to the down and dirty nature of the groove. An ongoing stream of synchronous images was also projected on to the video screen, providing a further element for the rhythmically challenged among us, for whom “dance like no-one is watching” is a step too far!

Too soon, the end of the main set arrived, but the encore commenced with crowd favourite “Grandma’s Rocket Poem”, before closing out on a high note with “Mighty Invader” – a song whose theme resonates through history.

Once more, a satisfied audience spilled on to the streets of Hastings, continuing in the triumphant vindication of Festival organisers – another success for Pitsch and his crew!

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