George Ezra – Live @ Spark Arena, Auckland 2019
Out on a school night to see George Ezra at Spark Arena on Monday night, what a thrill!! Heading to my seat, I thought I was early – hardly anyone outside or getting drinks, then I realised it was because they were all already inside and mostly seated. With 90% of the half arena seated and half the floor taken I hunted for my own seat to witness the evening unfold, knowing full well plenty missed out on the sold-out concert.
WORDS BY KIMBERLEY JONES | PHOTOS BY BRAD HOLLAND
A highlight at the very beginning was when YMCA played in the background and so many in the crowd seated and standing, young and not as young, all threw their hands up to dance along.
The stage was bathed in red lights upon entry, while the crowd noisily waited for the lead act Paige.
Accompanied by her band, Paige got the crowd silenced and went on to perform her set with enthusiasm and plenty of bounce helped along by the bass I am sure.
During the break watching kids run around the back trying to grab stray confetti falling from the ceiling and some lovely ladies give me a neon purple bracelet with instructions to make sure I wave my arms so George can see us all. There are dancing couples and such a blissed out feel to the evening.
Anticipation was definitely building.
The British pop singer/songwriter took to the stage with symphonic strings piped through the sound system to begin the night of his first ever New Zealand show with Don’t Matter Now. The bustling crowd, dressed for the current heatwave, welcomed Ezra in good ol’ NZ fashion with thunderous applause and proceeded to clap all through Get Away.
A quick guitar change and short speech introducing Barcelona no doubt reflecting his time spent in the city incognito and we were quickly underway again.
Pretty Shining People up next with a scream from the crowd and the stage was soaked with orange lights illuminating those right up the front. The audience didn’t need much encouragement to join in with vocals as Ezra handed over to all in attendance early on.
Listen To The Man had many on their feet dancing and singing to the chorus. Vocals were just like their radio edits with more than enough inflection to know the UK star can hold his own. Newer song, Saviour, gave us the chance to rest taking the beat down a bit so everyone could get the full impact of vocals.
Promoting his 2018 album, Staying at Tamara’s, who was his host while staying in Barcelona, Ezra lead us into Did You Hear The Rain and rocked like he was from a heavy metal background. Amazing guitar skills and didn’t skip a beat.
Ezra’s band consisting of trumpet, trombone, keys, drums and both bass and electric guitars, supported the whole evening with backup vocals and getting the crowd on their feet. Wowee, when Paradise came up people left their seats in favour of the floor so they had space to jump and rock with everyone on stage.
Song 6 had Spark Arena lit up like it was midday with all the cell phone lights. It is always a breath-taking sight.
Then we were next told of an idea to sing karaoke to his own songs while having a few drinks. Into the 2nd video that his producers wanted, shirt loosened and jacket discarded Ezra said Hold My Girl was his choice of song.
Writing songs of places he has been to, Sugar Coat represents Ezra and the bands time in South Africa. All My Love started with some serious baritone notes from Ezra and with purple lights as his back drop he continued to wow everyone. Then I spot a father dancing with his daughter right at the back. It’s great to see people taking to hear the dance like no one is watching and making memories of their own. Perfect setting with the perfect song to groove to. A trombone solo took All my love to the next level though.
Asked to join the for a dance Blame It On Me had the majority of those seated finally off their feet and getting down. Just when we thought the song was done the band break out into a dance of their own with whistles going crazy. Ezra almost blew the speakers with the force he threw into the performance.
Rounding out the main set with Budapest it was a very popular way to take a break before the encore. And who would have guessed that Budapest had nothing to do with the city itself.
“Kinda hard to explain that one to journalists” so we were told.
Treated to an encore of Cassey O’ at first, the band, still all dressed in black, came back on stage after thunderous applause and stamping. The song everyone was waiting for, of course, was last up. Shotgun, the biggest hit with kids for the summer family road trips this year, finished the evening for everyone on a perfect Auckland night.
With the sell-out crowd, to me it is a clear indicator that George Ezra was long overdue to headline in NZ and will likely fill the entire stadium upon his next return. Last nights’ performance was fit to be a family show and next time he heads to our shores, I recommend getting tickets early to avoid disappointment.