NZ Arts Festival 2008, Pacific Blue Festival Club
Feb 27 | Reviewed by Tim G

THE NAME Dave Dobbyn almost induces a collective groan. The only time anyone will ever admit to really knowing his music is when it’s 3am, you’re with old school friends, you’re marinated in booze and you’re at one of those bars you really shouldn’t be, and no matter if it’s ‘Be mine tonight’ or ‘Slice of Heaven’, you know it, every word, every change in pitch. The Kiwi hit maker almost personifies cultural cringe. He’s been every Kiwi rock star cliché, the pub rocker, did a movie soundtrack for a loveable Kiwi cartoon, donated one of his songs to the militant patriots who couldn’t come to grips with the loss of the America’s Cup, and most recently become a moral social crusader. Yet he battles on and manages to produce songs which tug at Kiwis ‘heart strings.’ He is like the ginger ‘Uncle’ of Kiwi music. He’s a good guy, a bit dorky; reminds you of your 80s childhood, but you can’t remember a time when he wasn’t around.

I approached tonight’s show with smug bemusement. After Dave’s recent stint of shows with none other than Hayley Westenra I expected a predictable Dobbyn in pedestrian mode after trying to impress the Westenra/vineyard crowd.

The Pacific Blue Festival club is an enchanted place, with its stained glass windows and Teepee like roof it poses an intimate communal air. I typically arrived late during Dobbyn solo, at the grand piano tinkering through ‘Another Land.’ I didn’t know the song, yet it felt like I did. As he slowly worked through more obscure tracks the blossomed and I was completely amazed. The more obscure tracks he played such as ‘Hallelujah song’ and ‘Outrageous Design’ were captivating and revealed such a deep talent he posses to write heart felt songs. He is a master and knew when to move moods. As clichéd as it may sound, songs like ‘Language,’ ‘Whaling’ and ‘Oughtta be in love,’ were captivating and showed just why they’ve stood the test of time. His hits sounded fantastic and even the recently adapted informal song of boofhead patriotism ‘Loyal’ sounded fresh, as if all the ad campaigns and Americas Cup had never tainted this song.

In between songs Dave was humble and hilarious, like it could have been any pub show in New Zealand. He took banter and gave it back, as you would expect.
Dobbyn harked back to his Dudes days with ‘Be mine tonight,’ then invited Victoria Girling-Butcher from Lucid 3, Age Pryor and Barry Saunders on to stage to climatic ‘Welcome Home.’ This too was comical as Pryor played the ukulele and Saunders lurched around the stage, obviously unaware of the words and under the influence. But it was bloody kiwi and fantastic. Obviously the show wasn’t complete without ‘Slice of heaven’ a stripped back, but no less fun version.

After tonight’s show I felt guilty for my smugness and criticism of Dobbyn. Sure I didn’t come away with a desire to get loyal tattooed on my arm, but god I appreciate him now. His talent is remarkable. Every song and his delivery were incredible. They’re all so compelling and likeable. It was one of the best musical performances I’ve ever witnessed. It wasn’t so much as a warm feeling of seeing a Kiwi icon, but more of seeing an amazing musician and entertainer.