Delaney Davidson with full band

Delaney Davidson at Haumoana Hall

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30 May 2019 /
Sitting Room Session /
By Rosheen FitzGerald

It’s a special night. I mean, every night Jamie creates is special, unique, quintessentially quirky and lovely, but this is an extra special night. Sitting Room Sessions are celebrating their century — the hundredth gig in a series that has not yet failed to delight. Olivia gifts Jamie a blue-and-white strippit jug, to contain the cream (not milk, darling, cream…we serve the cream here). Exactly one hundred tickets have been sold. A spiritual synchronicity befitting of the occasion.

First up is Anita Clark, formerly of Devilish Mary and the Holy Rollers, Sitting Room Sessions alumni; currently of Motte; tonight one of Delaney Davidson’s cobbled together band of misfits. Perched on the edge of the stage, all blunt cut fringe, winged glasses and blood-red lipstick, she loops her violin with haunting beauty. Wringing bass from her instrument she evokes a punishing roughness that makes the subtle delicacies of her harmonies all the more poignant. Interspersed sparse vocals are sung in a voice with a pile as lush as the velvet of her little black dress. It’s like the soundtrack to a black and white movie of an ever-disappearing road to nowhere tinged with a slight nails-on-the-blackboard otherworldliness. She concludes with a crescendo of barely contained tension that swings and soars tantalisingly before being broken by our breathless applause.

Formalities concluded, Delaney strides on stage, his band at his back. A larger ensemble than I’ve seen accompany him in the past, tonight he’s backed up by Phoenix Foundation’s Chris O’Connor on drums, the notorious SJD on guitar and our as-of-the-first-act-new-best-friend Anita Clark on violin. It’s an explosive concoction from the start, the boom boom of the big bass drum, the clash of the electric lead, the whomp whomp of the bass, the scream of the violin, and above it all Delaney holds court like Satan’s evangelist, gravelly-voiced, preaching a truth from the depths of his soul to each individual listener’s heart of darkness.

It’s heel-tapping, head-shaking, snake-hipped, good old-fashioned 1950’s ballroom teddy boy rock ‘n’ roll. Quiffs and flick knives. The scent of leather and petrol. It’s Nick Cave and the Pixies, the sweaty Indie rock basement sessions of my childhood. It’s Delaney like we’ve not seen him before: big-band, sold-my-soul-to-the-devil hard rock. In his west-of-Memphis/south-of-Christchurch drawl, Delaney urges us to our feet, incites us to make this a Sitting Room Session in name only. At the back a pack of frenetic boogiers comply, stomping and whirling like dervishes to a beat that tangs like the taste of blood on a metal blade. They thrash out three-minute countrified pop songs, cloaked in atmosphere, dripping in passion, to elated response. There’s a transubstantive wizardry here, a religious zealotry transmuted into glorious sound. Delaney raises his arms in the gesture of one of heaven’s devils channelling creative energy into an auditory soup, real, raw, alive.

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