Lucky Stars Album Release Tour
Paramount Theatre, Wellington | June 19
Don McGlashan played the Paramount Theatre on Friday night and treated the audience to a well-received two-part show. He played his new album Lucky Stars in full, then moved on to a selection of songs from his vast back catalogue. It was a good way to showcase McGlashan’s gifts as a songwriter—his new songs are thoughtful and meditative, resonating well with the audience, while his older numbers remain remarkably fresh. His great gift is finding poignant detail in the everyday. He does this deftly, so that each person can place himself or herself somewhere in the scene. This ability is by turns reassuring and unsettling.
McGlashan draws inspiration from dreams, from a conversation with his daughter, or from waiting in line at a petrol station. This last moment was the genesis of the title track on the new album—a beautiful song in which McGlashan captures a quiet epiphany experienced at dawn in the harsh light spilling across the forecourt. “Henderson Park is still in the dark, and I stop to put gas in the car,” he begins. It’s an entirely ordinary scene, and yet from this beginning, McGlashan describes how a humbling sense of good fortune can arrive at the least expected moment. Such insights are as fleeting as the half-light before sunrise. He describes dawn “creeping up the harbour mouth” in an image that somehow feels distinctly New Zealand—we instantly recognise the image of light moving across water.
The Paramount Theatre could have been Don McGlashan’s lounge as the audience reclined in their movie theatre seats and he introduced each song with warmth and candour. Explanations of the inspiration behind each of the new songs shed interesting light on his creative process. He wrote ‘Charles Kingsford Smith’ while waiting for a flight at Sydney airport. He was intrigued by the way the observation deck had been surrounded by new buildings, so that the planes taking off were no longer visible.
After being treated to McGlashan’s latest songs, full of everyday characters and scenes, it was fitting that the familiar chords of ‘Dominion Road’ introduced the second half of the show. This story of an Auckland battler struggling to find his feet is still compelling, over 20 years after its release. It captures the dramatic struggle that might go on unnoticed in an ordinary life: “see him trying to cross the street, he tests his footing like he was up ten thousand feet,” but really he’s only crossing Dominion Road, his struggles invisible to passers-by.
The stage set at Paramount was simple, and the curtain behind the band enhanced the lounge room atmosphere. McGlashan was accompanied only by a drummer and a guitarist, with his occasional use of the Tenor Horn adding a distinctive depth to some of the songs. The applause at the end of the show was rapturous as the audience rose from their seats and clamoured for an encore. McGlashan obliged them, finishing up with another Mutton Birds classic, ‘The Heater’. This show proved that Don McGlashan remains at the height of his powers and we should certainly hope for more of his acutely observed songs in future—whether they spring from petrol stations, dreams or airports, they will invite us to look at the everyday in a surprising new way, and will be something to look forward to.