“This is our house now. We can do what we want!” beams SIX60’s Matiu Walters, looking out at 50,000 adoring fans packed into Auckland’s Eden Park stadium.
By now it’s no secret that as the live entertainment industry across most of the world remains on a knife edge, Aotearoa, New Zealand is one of few places where the fight against Covid has been successful and mass music events can go ahead.
If this is good news for anyone, it’s SIX60. Since forming as students in 2008 (they take their title from the number of their shared uni house in Dunedin) this soulful five-piece have become a household name throughout NZ. Over the summer they’ve topped festival bills and played their own huge headline gigs nationwide and tonight they become the first band ever to play Eden Park, the country’s national stadium. It has been labeled the biggest live music event on the planet since Covid struck. It’s sold out.
Inside, folks of all ages pour in as the sun sets and a stacked support bill reflects the family-friendly atmosphere: guitar slicker Troy Kingi and his band deliver sepia-tinged R&B followed by heritage champ Sir Dave Dobbyn, whose 80s throwback cuts ‘Bliss’ and ‘Slice of Heaven’ go down with the same sing-along ubiquity as any Oasis song would in the UK. Wellington popsters Drax Project see in nightfall with their polished, brassy dance anthems as the anticipation swells.
Tonight is as historic for SIX60 as it is for Eden Park; a fraught campaign to allow music in the stadium, built over a century ago, was met with fierce opposition from, among others, former PM Helen Clark. So when Matiu Walters announces proudly “we finally made it!” the sense of triumph is palpable.
The set is a no holds barred spectacle from the start with the five-piece joined by a Māori kapa haka cultural group for ‘Don’t Forget Your Roots’. The track, sung in both English and Māori, celebrates the indigenous culture of New Zealand and makes for a pop show introduction like no other. From there unfolds 90 minutes of blissful, electronic rock with a slick production that includes fireworks, a stunning light show and the band playing from a long runway amongst their adoring throng. Matiu et al have the wide-eyed on-stage energy of a boyband and the affable charisma of dads at a barbecue, and you sense that, although not all of their songs have ground breaking musicality, they truly deserve such a monumental reception.
Aotearoa New Zealand conquered, SIX60 are setting their sights on the rest of the world. With a run of UK tour dates including a huge night at London’s Ally Pally just announced for November, it will be interesting to see how their Kiwi charm translates to a European market, but if one thing is for sure, it’s that SIX60 are riding high and don’t look like they’ll be stopping any time soon.
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Words: Alex Cabré
Photo Credit: Matthew Clode
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