“We came here to see The Feelers!” a beanied Hamiltronian shouts from the balcony as he argues with the compere on stage. The bellicose girl by his side agrees and bellows her disapproval of tonight’s choice of band, but this of course is all part of the act, like a younger, streetwise Kiwi version of the two old guys who heckle from the stalls in The Muppet Show. They soon quieten down however as the very Gilbert and Sullivan-like curtain goes up and we see a fully suited and booted Fat Freddy’s Drop against a starry sky backdrop ready to start the show. A blues harmonica lazily plays and slow dubbed-out beats start to shuffle into place, like a wayward Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry wandering along the banks of the Mississippi delta.
Vocalist Dallas Tamaira is immaculately turned out in a black suit and greets us with a simple wave as he repeatedly whispers “When the rain comes down, where will you be?” in tonight’s opener ‘Rain’ from their album Live At The Matterhorn as the stage is bathed in an emerald glow. It’s only after the gentle acoustic lilt of ‘Del Fuego’ swells to a crescendo that Dallas finally addresses the audience. “Kia Ora! How you fellas doin’?” he says, disarmingly cheerful, before the familiar 808 shaker intro to ‘Boondigga’ starts up and those trademark parping Freddy’s horns kick back in. And there’s no time for standing around either: when Dallas wraps up vocal duties on the washed-out reggae viber ‘Cay’s Crays’ he joins his backing singers in a simple, thrown-together choreographed dance with hand claps that’s part reach-for-the-heavens gospel and part get-down-low skank. The band then ditches the dub as the white lab-coated mad professor DJ Fitchie gradually works the beat into what eventually becomes a full-on hypnotic house groove that would make Carl Craig and Theo Parrish proud as Dallas softly sings the lyrics to ‘Sweet Dreams’ over the top and the crowd shouts their appreciation.