A-Ha & Rick Astley – Live @ Villa Maria, Auckland 2020

A-Ha & Rick Astley – Live @ Villa Maria, Auckland 2020

Getting “Rick-rolled” (that internet sensation linked to that song) took on a whole different meaning last night at Auckland’s scenic Villa Maria Winery. Nordic Pop sensations (who didn’t like Take On Me?) Aha together with support from Rick Astley and local Grunge Pop merchants The Beths, had the picnic-hamper clad crowd dancing and swaying in the vines, reliving their (sordid) memories of past from the Live Aid era. Luckily The Beths provided some present-day context to pull it back into the 21st century.

WORD BY WAL REID | PHOTOS BY BRAD HOLLAND

“C’mon you buggers” urged Astley to the crowd as he vigorously traipsed the stage to the surprise of his band.

He had the exuberance of a “Jack the lad” getting the crowd to wave their hands in the air, flanked by his two backing singers in perfect sync, clicking their fingers with wreathed smiles. Together Forever and Whenever You Need Somebody sounding as good as it did in its heyday, as Astley & Co took the audience on a magical trip down memory lane.

It always makes smile when these ‘legacy’ events roll into town as the Gen-X crowd take to their social media. Actually it was a mix of all ages, ethnicities, sexes and the odd 80s throwback (that Goth who has refused to grow up) that made the atmosphere electric.

The clement evening sky glowing into a dusky haze an added bonus as revellers forgot about their kids and indulged the music of their youth – if only until relinquishing the baby sitter for the night.

A-ha had teething problems apparent on their first song as the backing track to some of their songs “shitted itself”. The band took a longer than expected break as the crowd amused themselves, everybody was nicely lubricated (winery styles) so no biggie. As they returned to the stage keyboardist Magne Furuholmen joked they’d start again and play their eponymous hit Take on Me Again for free – bonus.

It was a more sombre affair than Rick’s festive gathering, however, it was hard to believe it was the first time both artists had ever played in New Zealand. The haunting Hunting High and Low included a vocal sing-a-long with the packed out crowd, as singer Morten Harket conducted the Auckland chorale with mobile phones lighting up the night sky to the delight of the band.

Mega hits The Sun Always Shines on TV and Crying In The Rain (Carole King) rounded out a setlist that would’ve satisfied the most diehard A-ha fan, but for me, I prevaricated around the haze of whether or not I preferred them to Rick Astley.

For me Astley won the night, his rapport and singing voice were on point and his story about Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over lyrics on the inside of his wedding band ring resonated with this child of the 80s.

How Rick Astley became ‘cool’ again is not hard to see why. He has a naturally latent knack to be likeable; plus his impactful music and voice add credence to his persona. If Covid 19 was an issue it didn’t deter the crowds turning up en masse to see two of the most influential artists that predate today’s laptop manufactured dross.

In all honesty, I was just happy to tick them off my bucket list and hear two of the best songs ever written before leaving this mortal coil. Me happy.

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