Cracker by Damian Christie

Sun in the sky...

Despite being what most people would call a music freak – walls full of records and CDs – I’m not often moved by live performances. I mean, I appreciate them, and I like seeing the band members on stage, but I’m not often transported anywhere in an emotional sense.

Which makes Shapeshifter’s performance with the Auckland Philharmonia at yesterday’s Groove in the Park all the more amazing. Chills I tell you, chills running up my spine, the hairs on my neck literally standing on end. And no, I wasn’t on the party pills, just a glass or two of Kim Crawford.

Originally it was reported a tree had forced the act to be cancelled, however on the day the Philharmonia was merely condensed to a 25-piece, proving man and nature can live in harmony… As the strings rose and fell over the band's atmospheric intro to "As of Lately", I could tell we were in for a goody.

If you’ve never seen or heard Shapeshifter, you really are missing out. Both the albums to date are absolute staples in my collection. Their guest vocalists, such as Dallas and Ladi 6, add an incredible new dimension to carefully crafted broken beats.

I was initially disappointed to find no guest vocalists (after all, Ladi just lives down the road from me), but singer/MC P Diggity did himself proud. He launched a capella into the opening verse of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ and it was a beautiful thing. When the (superbly played, live) drums and (gut thumping) bass kicked in, I nearly cried.

It was the best live set I’ve witnessed in years.

Elsewhere on Waitangi Day, a new all-kiwi radio station was launched. I think it’s an admirable idea (even though corporate giant CanWest is unlikely to do anything without the bottom-line in mind), and I hope it succeeds, but it’ll be a difficult beast to programme... They might both be from Christchurch, but how far apart would you have to schedule Shapeshifter and The Feelers to stop the latter from contaminating the former? Is there enough pop-punk (Goodnight Nurse, Elemeno P etc) to keep the kidz from switching over to get their fix of the latest Sum 41? Two-thirds of Crowded House’s original members were Australian – does that disqualify them?

I suspect some of these issues can be dealt to by programming solid specialist shows. People are increasingly treating radio like they do TV, what marketers like to call “appointment viewing”. We don’t sit in front of one channel all night, we tune in for certain shows, and the rest of the time, we surf. Good radio should be the same.

Obvious loyalties aside – as a random builder said to a friend the other day, “it might be number two in the alphabet, but it’s number one on my dial” – if there are good shows on Kiwi, or National Radio, or wherever, then I’ll seek them out. But don’t expect me to stick around when the show I’ve switched to ends, and I’m left with Wayne Mowat’s “In Touch with Palmerston North” or Tadpole’s Renee Brennan presents “The Best of True Bliss”. Regardless of the hosts’ commands to do otherwise, I’m touchin’ that dial.