written by Chris Familton
With recent tours from The Bats and The Verlaines, the prominence of 80s NZ bands has never been higher but the act many have been waiting for is of course The Clean – that seminal Velvets/krautrock/psych trio that pretty much kickstarted the NZ scene in the late 70s.
San Francisco’s Sonny & The Sunsets opened proceedings with a fun and artful romp through west coast surf and garage rock. Frontman Sonny Smith has a Jonathan Richman air about him – that kind of aloof cool that suited their jangly and propulsive pop grooves perfectly. Singer/songwriter Kelley Stoltz was also a standout, capturing the mood of their music perfectly behind the kit.
Smudge received a great response from the crowd, probably as a result of the average age of the punters meaning they were around the first time the band were playing their melodic grunge in the 90s. Smudge are always a band that balances a slacker vibe with effortless pop nous and they did just that on classic songs like Hot Potato and Outdoor Type.
The Clean have achieved mythical status in many quarters so this was always going to be an event just to see them play live. From start to finish they were simply superb, swinging between their heavier krautrock/psych songs like Point That Thing Somewhere Else and their concise pop songs like the gloriously pastoral Anything Could Happen. They showed they are still writing great songs with Factory Man and In The Dreamlife You Need a Rubber Soul from the recent Mister Pop album.
What made The Clean’s performance so absorbing was the way the trio worked so well both independently and as a unit – Drummer Hamish Kilgour often looked like a tranced out zen master, even playing with his hand when he lost a stick mid song. Robert Scott was rock solid with his throbbing and pulsing bass lines and David Kilgour showed what a great and underrated guitarist he is.
Their best known songs were treated with reverential applause from the audience. Getting Older was a surging tough version, Drawing To A Hole was light and uplifting and though the classic Tally Ho was cut short by a dead guitar it seemed appropriate in some perverse way. They joked they’re still a garage band but there is truth to the jibe – they still clearly retain that spark and vibe they had from the start of their career. Above all The Clean just proved just how timeless and magical their songs are.
this review first appeared in Drum Media