Friday, September 14, 2012

Herbs at Silver Scrolls

Herbs with APRA's Anthony Healey. Photo: NZ Herald/Natalie Slade
The APRA Silver Scrolls is a night dedicated to celebrating our songwriters. It's a magnificent event, now in its 47th year. The finalists get to hear their songs interpreted by other artists on the night - it makes for some interesting listening.

The main reason I went to the APRA Silver Scrolls last night tho was to see Herbs inducted to the NZ Music Hall Of Fame. Sure, it's a grand night, and there were some entertaining performances, but Herbs, that's some history right there.

Herbs are one of the most important bands this country has ever produced, especially if you have an interest in reggae.

They were introduced onto the stage by Che Fu, who talked about when he was growing up, he used to call the band Uncles. Because back then, there were two reggae bands in New Zealand - his dad's band, and Herbs.

Che talked about going round to the Herbs' place with his dad to drop off packages and being sent outside to play, while the adults talked inside and this funny smelling smoke came out the windows.

He talked about the records the band made, the importance of French Letter (later, in a tribute video to the band, Graham Reid highlighted the amusing choice of using the accordion, a very French instrument, in a song taking aim at the French).

And he talked about the band's inclusion on Slice of Heaven with Dave Dobbyn, "Or as we liked to call him, Yoda." And now, from this day forward, everyone in New Zealand will call Dobbyn Yoda. Shot, Che.

Then Che closed by saying "And that's my 21st speech over with..." and invited us to be upstanding for the members of Herbs, and the past and present members walked up onstage to a standing ovation.

Dilworth Karaka spoke on behalf of the band, thanking a number of people, and talked about how the band had got together the night before for a drink (and perhaps a sneaky smoke outside) and a yarn to clear the air, and they were all good. Cos there is a lot of history in that band, some happy, some not so happy. Dilworth also referred to Slice of Heaven, saying "after you cause a riot you need to come up with a hit song, aye Yoda?"

Then Willie Hona stepped up to the mic and all the band, past and present, sang E Papa, acapella. It was an incredible moment, spine-tingingly good.

As is tradition at the Silver Scrolls, the nominees get to hear their song covered by another artist, and with Herbs, the musical director Jon Toogood chose Kora to cover Rust in dust (watch here). Toogood seemed to favour using a lot of Wellington musicians. Shocker.

Kora came out and opened the song with a musical riff lifted from My Jamaican Guy by Grace Jones, nice touch, and then sang their hearts out. Damn, those guys can harmonise.

The Corner has a full list of the covers done here. The general tone of most of the covers was quite lively, which helped given how maudlin and depressing most of the finalists' originals sounded.

They were largely unsuccessful, I thought, in bringing something fresh or insightful to the songs. Lots of big, flashy covers, high impact but unmemorable. Julia Deans with a string quartet for Opossom's Getaway Tonight was a brave idea, but Deans didn't have the range to really nail it. Rhian Sheehan stood out tho, with his demented sonic excursion on the Sounz Contemporary Award winner Alex Taylor's piece.
The winner was announced by Tony Wain of The Narcs (comeback tour to plug or something?), congratulations to Steph Brown (ex One Million Dollars, Opensouls) aka Lips.

Later, to close the night, Dave Dobbyn and his band came onstage to play Slice of Heaven (but no Herbs members joined him). He did it with a banjo included, and it sounded like a limp hillbilly cover. It didn't really take flight. I found out later Dave was covering Tami Neilson's cover of his own song. How meta. Hear that? That's the sound of the universe folding in on itself. Blame Yoda.

Ex NZ Herald writer Dominic Roskrow joined in via Twitter (from the UK) saying "Remember when Joe Walsh played with Herbs & passed out backstage at The Powerstation? Let me explain... Walsh moved to Auckland & adopted the band as reggae's future. He tried to manage them & did odd reggae versions of Eagles songs with them, but couldn't handle strong NZ dope so it went nowhere. So indirectly it's the fault of Herbs that hell froze over and The Eagles reformed. How zen is that?"

Roskrow was inspired to join in the conversation oline after seeing his former colleague, Russell Baillie, pop up with this: " I once pinched a photo of Nelson Mandela from the Auckland Star library so Herbs could use it in a video. No guilt tonight."

What an incredible night. Tu meke.

MORE: Gareth Shute reviews the night for The Corner, here.
Previous post: Herbs join music hall of fame

ADDED: Video of the night is up on the NZ Herald site, watch the tribute video to Herbs.

Watch Kora cover Rust in dust here.

Don McGlashan's speech from the awards night has been posted on Graham Reid's site, here.

PLUS: 1988 Herbs doco on Ruatoria album launch, by Lee Tamahori, via NZ Onscreen...


No comments: