In grainy colour
These pictures were taken on a cellphone in the dim interior regions of K Rd's Wine Cellar last night, during a Bill Direen gig that lasted two hours and featured scores of songs in English, French, and German.
For me at least, the blurry, slightly mysterious look of the photos reflects a performance which moved suddenly yet carefully between songs that were written decades, and in some cases perhaps even centuries, apart. Whether he was reprising one of his Flying Nun classics from the early '80s, whispering his way through a chilly, brutally truncated version of Neil Young's 'Needle and the Damage Done', belting out an ancient Irish folk tune, showing off his impeccable French with a protest song written by a deserter during the Algerian war of independence, or setting the poetry of WH Auden to music, Bill was always in complete control of his material. The man is like a human jukebox, but where a jukebox plays by rote and moves from one track to another abruptly, at the whims of customers, Bill's digressions are organised by recurring themes and subtle melodic echoes, and his intepretations of old material manage to be both idiosyncratic and respectful.
If you didn't make it to the Cellar, don't despair - Bill's playing again on Monday, at the end of the Titus-Powertools Records bash. If you're living on the Chatham Islands and can't possibly make that event either, then visit Powertool and buy New York Sack, an album on which Bill plays an unplugged live set with a gang of exiled Kiwi musicians.
An honourable mention to the artist responsible for the Duchampian readymade in the Wine Cellar toilets, and to Muzzlehatch, who accompanied Bill on two songs with such fervour that he succumbed to sleep soon afterwards: