The Full Stretch

A chance to walk into the seductively intriguing Spiegeltent, sitting so handsome on Havelock North’s newly renovated domain, felt like fate. I had the opportunity to listen to Stretch, a talented local singer-songwriter I had become curious about since a brief meeting recently in Napier’s Tennyson Gallery.

The tent was filling up. Warm colours, soft lighting, with intimate booths lining the circumference. Lavishly decorated, wooden floors, and mirrors. My mind briefly wandered back to Belgium when the Spiegeltent was used as a mobile dance hall in towns that didn’t have a permanent venue. I imagined the excitement of the townsfolk as the tent was assembled. The bar was busy as the audience bought local beer and glasses of wine. There was an air of a summer’s evening in beautiful Hawke’s Bay.

A mix of audience: men and women of differing age groups, looking gorgeous, dressed in summer shades. Stretch has a robust local following. The audience settled as he appeared on the stage. Guitar in hand and harmonica around his neck, immediately the place lit up, his enthusiasm, his energy – exquisite.

He opened with a tribute to Tom Petty, ‘I Won’t Back Down’. The audience shared a moment of remembrance for the legendary rock musician as Stretch ‘sung it up’ for Tom.

While the audience were accustomed to experiencing Stretch as a solo artist, for a one-night-only performance the entire band – The Full Stretch – was to perform together. And what a treat that was.

As The Full Stretch moved through a series of songs, toes got tapping, and hands rhythmically started patting on thighs. The Havelock North audience couldn’t hold back the desire to move. Top buttons sprung undone, and skirt hems were raised a little higher. Stretch rolled out an eclectic mix of songs that extended from rock ‘n’ roll to good ol’ country. Appreciative sounds of joy were unconditionally given from the audience as each song concluded and the night was rounded off with a standing ovation.

As we stood around the outdoor fire, beer in hand, a fan commented: “I have always loved seeing Stretch as a solo performer, he is always full of energy and connects with his audience so well. To see him with his full band was awesome, quite a different experience, the band added real depth to his music.”

A great evening. A truly talented local artist, in the Spiegeltent, in Havelock North. I came home feeling like I had been part of something wonderful.



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