Mission musical invasion goes off with a bang

1 April 2014

Mission musical invasion goes off with a bang
By Roger Moroney
12:37 PM Monday Feb 17, 2014

Once the gates were opened and crowd allowed into the ground, the dash for the best seats in the house began.

The words of one smiling member of the Mission Concert crowd as it began heading for the gates pretty well summed up Saturday night's great UK and Irish invasion of a Greenmeadows hillside.

"That was a great gig," the happy man said.

While the hard-toiling concert organisers and administrators may shiver at the word "gig" emerging rather than "concert" - this event was actually like a warm, diverse, rocking, swaying, lilting, highly charged, orchestral, get-up-and-dance, singalong (have I missed anything out?) gig.

It was a very good show.

It worked because the artists were slick and possessed faultless voices... even the remarkable Leo Sayer (who also provided some comic moments) and Billy Ocean - who are each into their seventh decade.

And because the song choices were spot on.

And because they individually covered the music of the '70s through until today.

And because their "backing band", the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Marc Taddei, was sharp and sweet to the point of being, quite simply, awesome.

The line-up was diverse and the way they were introduced to the disappointingly smaller than usual crowd of around 11,000 was spectacular.

Billy Ocean stepped out first, his white suit complementing his silver tied-back dreadlocks.

And he charged straight in with Love Really Hurts Without You.

The crowd was good and ready and erupted with dance and vocal accompaniment, as they would all night as the well-known hits emerged from all five performers.

Billy's voice was dynamic.

Then Mel C stepped on stage to deliver Never Been the Same Again and her sparkling voice wrapped around the remarkable orchestra beautifully.

Leo Sayer was next to introduce himself, and he became an instant crowd favourite as apart from retaining every note and vocal octave perfectly, he looked like a lad who was out for a bit of fun.

He delivered More Than I Can Say and ensured the singalong continued.

Sharon Corr glided onto the stage in a scarlet dress and was sophisticated and serenely engaging. Her voice was magic, and the orchestra turned on some thunder behind her.

The screaming and yelling stepped up a notch as Ronan Keating rocked into his introduction, gripping the mic stand like a serious rocker and firing the hillside up.

Then the artists returned to deliver their individual sets.

Leo won the crowd when he remarked "jeez it's good to be back in Hawke's Bay" and rolled out the hits.

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing had the hillside moving, and crowd duet inclusion was hilarious.

When I Need You had the light sticks glowing and swaying.

Sharon Corr began with a hauntingly beautiful violin piece before delivering a smooth and faultless set.

Listen to the Radio charged the crowd up and the sounds coming from her, the orchestra and the band, who work with John Farnham, were as good as it could get.

A startling and smart set, and as expected she drew out the great So Young which fired the folks up.

The Irish flags flew high.

A roar went up for Billy Ocean as well as cries of "do Get Into My Car?!"...which he did deliver after rocking into the mood first with Loverboy.

His voice was so strong it was almost spine-tingling. This was from my era and while I did not quite get up to boogie I was bopping and foot-tapping.

It was very much singalong time as the hits flowed and the roar as he left the stage after Caribbean Queen was a clear and sincere "how about some more?" signal.

But, after a break, it was time for Mel C to take the stage and she rocked into a smooth set with the bass and drums behind her keeping the hillside moving.

She was slick and sassy, and provided a beautiful version of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now as well as songs like If That Were Me from her first solo album and the gently swaying Northern Star.

Then it was time for a Spice Girl to make way for a Boyzone boy - Ronan Keating stepped out to deliver a performance as tight as his jeans.

There was plenty of between-song banter - from a simple "how y'all doin'?" to telling the stories behind some of the songs.

He got a roar of approval when he poured himself a glass of red wine after delivering a great duet with Mel C where they rolled out No Matter What.

"It would be rude not to," he laughed as he took a sip.

Later, complimenting the beauty of the Bay, he said he was in awe of so many beautiful vineyards.

"I'm an Irishman... not a good mix."

The crowd rose to When You Say Nothing at All and If Tomorrow Never Comes and he really engaged top gear with Life is a Rollercoaster.

To close the gig - I mean concert - all five rocked through Love Train and delivered a ballistic finale.

Musically, there was a touch of pretty well everything - it was quite a party.

Celine and Samantha Toner set the day off nicely with a string of dance-inspiring numbers and turned in a superb cover of the Eagles' Heartache Tonight which sparked much audience singing. Finishing with the Proclaimers' I Will Walk 500 Miles was inspired - given their Scottish roots.

Legendary Bay band Sir Duke rolled out the hits too and had the crowd onside straight away with Hotel California. Blistering guitars and gutsy vocals, everything from Son of a Preacher Man to a rollicking cover of Dragon's Rain, the boys, and girl, were in good form.


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