John Farnham – Live @ Villa Maria, Auckland 2019
Auckland delivered a stunning day Saturday, full of sun, with just enough breeze so those sitting didn’t melt as we waited with eager anticipation for John Farnham. After having to cancel last year due to illness Whispering Jack himself was worth the wait.
WORDS BY KIMBERLEY JONES | PHOTOS BY PETER SWEETMAN
With The Miltones and Opshop fronting the main act, they helped carry the crowd through till 8.30pm with a few dad jokes from Clint Harris with Jason backing him up, it was a good start to the evening. People of all ages were out last night to see the legend that is John Farnham, attendees dressed from singlet and jandals to wigs and some very out there fluro shoes and dresses.
Farnham came straight out on stage to play ‘We Will Rock You’ wearing a maroon jacket, white shirt with a black waistcoat and black dress pants. I could see how he was a heartthrob in his youth. At 70 years of age, you could be forgiven to think you had been transported back to his 1987 gig with just a little less hair. He can still groove!
‘Hearts on Fire’ was up next with Farnham adding, “I’m so glad we made it this time. I’m very grateful you came back. Thank you” at the end of the song. During the one and a half-hour set, Farnham took his time between songs to start with, sharing stories and introductions giving content to what was next being performed. Next was Age of Reason and with a quick “You people rock….this is fun” we were into Chain Reaction.
Everytime You Cry was introduced with the innuendo that Human Nature may join Farnham on stage but with a scoff he said, “that works every time….no they aren’t here tonight.” At this point, with the sun now set and dusk upon the vines, people took to their feet to get taken away with the melodies. This ended on a low note literally, as Kiwi Lindsay Field took the spotlight with bass vocals for the final line from the song that sent chills through the audience.
I can only assume that what unfolded next was due to the prompting of a fan yelling the song title as a request. Farnham said, “I have to dispel a myth, I have to tell you I love Sadie, the Cleaning Lady”. At this the crowd went wild and with a quick, “Now you’ve made me feel comfortable…. Look out!” were, of course, treated to the old favourite with a conveniently timed video on the main stage of the original music video.
“Now shut up and leave me alone” was thrown out to the crowd in jest, it was thrilling to watch how the crowd fed off the emotion and passion coming from the stage and vice versa. Getting back to his next introduction again, the next song was from an album from 35 years ago, Whispering Jack, Reasons.
As night fell at what is commonly known as the most idyllic outdoor venue in Auckland, Villa Maria Estate, after a false start ‘No One Comes Close’ featured bassist Craig Newman quickly followed by ‘Love To Shine’.
“If you know the words to this next song you are older than you think you are…..”, had Touch of Paradise blast through the sound system and with some well-timed camera work and of course audience participation, we had our very own Kiss Cam and those on the bank could see the front few rows had some couples standing to dance. Such a romantic setting it would have been foolish to not take advantage of such an amazing opportunity.
More than a decade after what was meant to be his retirement tour, Farnham delivered Talk of the Town, (also referred to as their rain dance) and the rest of the set ran one hit into another as none of them required any further explanation or introduction.
‘From Two Strong Hearts’ through to ‘Take the Pressure Down’ and ‘That’s Freedom’ more and more finally rose to their feet as the impulse to show their admiration for such a talent was too much to hold in. Or maybe it was just to shake out the stiff muscles from sitting too long, the point being, the aisles were lined with people getting closer to the stage and dancing like no one was watching.
The Voice, of course, was the final of the main set with Farnham allowing the crowd to take most choruses. Before leaving stage, Farnham acknowledged all those who worked behind the scenes and said this was the nicest set they had worked on. Introducing the encore as the best rock and roll song, and AC/DC cover, ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top’.
I didn’t know what I was really expecting, as I was one of the disappointed last year, but man oh man, the voice (pun intended) is exactly what I remember listening to on the radio as a child. Farnham delivered not only a spectacular vocal performance but he flawlessly connected with the crowd as well.
He has one more concert in Wellington tonight and if you are lucky enough to be going, you will have a blast! This is one experience that will stay with me as I was lucky enough to see a legend of music who can still deliver a live performance.