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June 19, 2009 | by  | in Music | [ssba]



The great thing about Fly My Pretties is that you don’t go to their concerts just to listen to them play songs you’ve already heard. Sure, it’s nice to see artists up close and personal performing songs you love, but there’s something special about the kind of concert the Pretties specialise in. Theirs is the concert where you genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen next; a formula their latest tour, dubbed an “audiovisual experience” by the program, thankfully sticks to.

Split into two sections, ‘The Story’ and ‘Encore’, the latest Pretties concert started off in fairly low-key fashion. Dick Weir, the first section’s narrator and the father of one Fly My Pretties founder Barnaby Weir, coming on stage and telling us of how Barnaby roped him into the latest concert. It’s not a very good story, and sadly, the one at the centre of ‘The Story’ isn’t either. Written like a children’s book and played out by some splendid animated illustrations on a screen at the back of the stage, there’s no doubt a lot of thought went into the tale, and it is a nice and decently-written story. However, for a section of the show that purported to “reflect on innocence, imagination and the solving of complex problems which might enable a sustainable future”, it’s sad that it only really had any success with the innocence and imagination parts. The show’s ‘reflection’ on the environment amounted to telling the audience to stop chemical waste being dumped in rivers. Furthermore, the dumpers were essentially pantomime villains in dungarees. This was definitely the show’s major flaw; a disappointing and rather patronising way to address an auditorium full of adults.

The Pretties more than made up for this by delivering on the musical front. There’s no doubt that the quality and sound of their work was a lot more refined than Live at BATS. The large cast meshed perfectly on stage, but for the occasional misstep (‘Mauri’ is oddly-written and surprisingly jarring for such a slow song; Paul McLaney’s ballad at the start of the ‘Encore’ section was a little dull). The majority of the songs in both sections were excellent, and definitely show some positive progression. Songs like ‘Heavy Weather’, ‘Run For Your Life’ and ‘All That Water Must Flow To The Sea’ were particularly good examples of this, being energetic and accomplished.

While the addition of a narrative to the usual Pretties formula wasn’t entirely successful – and there was far too little of Barnaby on stage during the ‘Story’ section – there’s a lot to like in the music. Besides, if the show did anything, it was securing an auditorium full of sales of their live album and DVD come August.


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  1. MBS says:

    Was the music similar to what they produced on their few round of tours, or has it progressed with the infusion of Auckland musicians?

  2. Adam says:

    MBS, you’re going have to expand on that question a bit, I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking.

  3. Doug Hangley says:

    AKA the reviewer’s seen one gig and doesn’t really know fucking anything beyond that.

  4. Gibbon says:

    The heading is

    in case you couldn’t read, Douggie.

  5. Matt says:

    Fly My Pretties. Yawn.

  6. Adam says:

    Doug – Thank you for your kind words. I love it when I get constructive criticism, I always take so much from it.

    I don’t really know what MBS was asking, because it was a badly-worded question. If he’s/she’s asking if there’s been a progression in the FMP sound, I said that there had been in the review. If MBS is asking if they’ve progressed since their last god knows how many tours because of Aucklanders, I couldn’t feasibly tell you, a) because I don’t actually think there were that many Aucklanders in the cast, b) because I’ve only been a fan of FMP since I picked up the Live At BATS album last year, and c) because I wasn’t able to follow this tour around the country.

  7. MBS says:

    As you seem to need an explanation Adam, I was asking for a comparison between the music on this tour and earlier tours. I do not expect you to follow the assembly around the country, only to understand that the album you bought last year was a recording (thus the title ‘Live at Bats’), after which FMP did more tours in following years.

    They were an entirely Wellington outfit made up of musicians from many Wellington acts and had a reputation for producing mostly dub orientated music, which Wellington had a reputation – bordering on cliche – for.

    I was curious whether the influence of musicians from outside Wellington has an impact on the FMP sound.

    I hope this is clear enough for you.

  8. Adam says:

    That’s a lot clearer, thanks MBS. From what I gather from the programme, the cast of FMP is still heavily skewed towards Wellington performers, and while the FMP sound has developed, I can’t say with any certainty whether this development is largely down to the addition of musicians from outside Wellington or not. I’m sorry I can’t be more help.

  9. Louise says:

    I haven’t seen or heard Fly My Pretties, so I could be wrong here, but on the basis of this review it sounds like they’re an arty, pretentious band jumping on the environmentalism bandwagon in a sad, misguided attempt to be “hip” and “relevant”.

    Thanks for the warning. Now I won’t inadvertantly waste money on their album, or the time spent listening to it.

  10. MBS says:

    The Clean were cunts as well.

  11. Baffled says:

    MBS, I don’t understand the relevance of your last comment. Amusingly enough given your thinly unveiled irritation above, I don’t think I’m the first one to point this out in this thread, but at least you keep people guessing.

    Adam, I couldn’t agree more re the one-dimensional story. I was expecting something a bit more than a beautifully drawn and narrated but fundamentally simplistic story with no twist or surprise, barely even an ending. It was all so clunkingly obvious, and the music was at best sympathetic but in no way enabled the storytelling. I was expecting something a bit like Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots but instead got a Ministry for the Environment pamphlet for children set to bizarrely eclectic music.

    Having said all of that, I thought the musicians (and Mr Weir Senior for that matter) were superbly talented at what they did, and I enjoyed the show overall. The greatest hits format in the second half did confuse me again – I think a performer needs to consider that the audience may well be totally ignorant of a band (or artistic cooperative, or whatever they call themselves) and its history. Had I been sitting next to a foreigner who had arrived in NZ that day, I would gladly have asked him or her whether they had a clue what the show was meant to be all about.

    I reckon they need to start with a strong creative idea that serves as the inspiration for a coherent, audio-visual show (with both acts having some form of connection), or just book the Town Hall and crack out some tunes. Am sure it would be good either way as they did seem to enjoy themselves and seem like jolly nice people.

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