When I was in fifth form (the infamous 1997 Wellington Girls College class ‘5GS’) my friend and I had a theory which we formulated one day in Graphic Art class. We would only buy an album if there were three good singles released from it. This was before Napster et al. and so was our indicator of whether or not an album had the potential to be any good. However, we both liked the Backstreet Boys (her Brian, me Howie…or AJ depending on my mood) and despite having established the three-single-rule we both bought ‘Backstreet’s Back’ as soon as it came out. So I guess there was some unspoken and understood flexibility.
One other time that I distinctly remember ignoring the three-single-rule was Savage Garden’s eponymous album. This was bought purely on the strength of To the Moon and Back (not Truly Madly Deeply which I guess some might assume to be the case for a teenage girl).
I vividly remember the car trip after buying the album. The whanau was heading up to visit Grandma. I sat in the backseat, legs crossed under me, sun streaming in the window. listening to the cassette* on my Walkman** singing softly along with To the Moon and Back while diligently following the lyrics in the album sleeve.
It was at that moment I think I fell in love with Darren Hayes.
15 years later and after Monday night’s concert I am more in love with Mr Hayes than ever.
Musically, this is no mean feat. Allow me to explain why.
I do “pop music” in small doses only, too much of it and I will fly like a bat out of hell to the shelters of other genres. I also don’t particularly take well to ballads (especially of the pop variety). I’m also not that keen on falsetto. However, I will happily listen to Darren signing falsetto, singing pop songs, singing ballads.
Darren an exception to the rule: for me, he has the perfect pop voice. He is at his beautiful best when he sings, even more as he sings with a honesty that I can both appreciate and understand. I don’t find this with a lot of pop music. Most pop makes feel like mindlessly banging my head against a wall. Like that would be more rewarding. In Darren’s case I just find his voice…healing.
This is the best kind, the beauty of music. That realisation and connection you feel when a musician articulates something you don’t know how to articulate. This is the other reason why I love Mr Hayes.
When I need healing, Darren is one of my ‘go-to’ choices. As an unhappy teenager Crash and Burn was revelation. It was like a confession answered. As I got older I added Comfortably Numb (surely one of the best guitar solos…ever) and Elgar’s Nimrod to this rather eclectic Linus blanket of a playlist.
But back to the concert. Monday wasn’t a particularly great day. It wasn’t terrible, just one of those days that has annoying niggles which you could really do without. I wasn’t in the mood to go out. The idea of going home, crawling onto my bed and watching mindless banality on TV was rather enticing. Fortunately, I talked myself off this ledge of cultural, spiritual and emotional suicide. It turned out to be one of the better decisions I have made this year.
The house music prior to the show was, umm, interesting. It started well but hit a definite wobbly patch in the middle with an aural KO of Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen. I did very well to sit through Call Me Maybe with an expressionless face. Very well indeed. The Muppets theme was actually a relief after that particular tag team.
Darren took to the stage with the overture from Swan Lake – an unexpected, but not unwelcomed, introduction to his set. The opening trio of God Walking into the Room, I Like the Way and To the Moon and Back was like hitting triple 7 at the pokies. You know that wonderful feeling when an artist plays back to back some of your favouritest songs? That was one of those moments. Easily, two of the outstanding moments were Pop!ular mixed with When Will I Be Famous (Bros.) and Vogue (Madonna) and Insatiable mixed with Rhythm is a Dancer (Snap!).
Live, Darren’s voice is near flawless. He does something that is sadly lacking in most pop singers. He breathes through his mouth when he sings, not through his nose. To my ears the resulting tone is much purer than most singers I hear on the radio or see on TV. Do not underestimate this: I am not a fan of the nasal tones found in most modern pop music. A song like I Don’t Know You Anymore is transformed for the better by Darren’s voice. Black Out the Sun could not be performed better by another pop singer. I am so very glad he did not give that brain baby away.
Monday was one of the few concerts where I can honestly say I genuinely did not wanted it to end. I would have happily missed all the last modes of public transport and walked home if it had meant listening to Darren sing more. Sadly I do not the power to make such matters happen. However, if there is ever a Mayor Lizzie Meates then y’all know what you can expect.
Set list: God Walking into the Room/I Like the Way/To the Moon and Back; Cruel Cruel World/So Beautiful/Truly Madly Deeply; The Animal Song/Black Out the Sun/Stupid Mistake; Pop!ular/Hot Tub Blues/I Don’t Know You Anymore; The Siren’s Call. Encore: Insatiable/Bloodstained Heart.
* Younglings ask your parents, it’s like small brick that plays music. Cooler than an MP3 but not quite as cool as a LP.
** Again, younglings consult your parents, this was the time before i-everything (yes that time really did exist).