R E V I E W
Anthonie Tonnon at The Meteor, 26 January
Anthonie Tonnon played the salubrious feeling The Meteor last night, as part of a tour of theatres through New Zealand and Australia. Being a theatre show, patrons were recommended to be at the venue when the doors opened at 8 pm. At 7:45 it suddenly started getting stormy outside, with wind, rain and a little bit of lightning; there was a giant ‘Two Free Hands’ poster on the Meteor’s window, with hands raised as if to welcome the weather after a sweltering day. It wasn’t such good timing for those entering the venue at this moment, however. In a white shirt prior to starting, Tonnon suited up before the performance, handkerchief in pocket. And with the venue set up with five rows of tiered seating, it was obvious this was going to be more of a ‘performance’ than a ‘gig’. Kicking off at 8:17, it became clear a few people missed the memo about the start time (most sadly for those that got tickets through Undertheradar, which clearly specified 8:30pm!). Nevertheless, the performance was, for me, mostly excellent, full of great music and humour. And it was one of those performances that makes me feel even warmer the morning after, thinking back on it, like a good piece of theatre should. Audience participation was required a couple of times, such as during the irrigation themed ‘Water Underground’, which demanded the audience chant the song's title over and over through the song. Stories were told between songs, including of his father’s history as an adolescent boy racer in Morrinsville, before playing ‘Sugar in the Petrol Tank’, off his 2015 ‘Successor’ album. And Tonnon used a lot of movement through his performance, acting a bit like an A.I. robot that was just learning how humans dance, in a theatrical fashion.
Tonnon apologised for the time it had taken for him to return to the city, and his style has changed since his previous visits, going from band-based, to solo guitarist, to what he now describes as playing with his ‘robots’. For some longer-term fans, these changes haven’t been met with enthusiasm. But for me, I like the technology. Why aren't more bands pushing technology to its limits? How else are the youth going to get into bands when they are still playing old technology, like drums, guitars and the like? With no support band, the performance was split into two sets, of seven and two songs. The second set started with the fantastic ‘Two Free Hands’, the first of his new songs released with the aforementioned robots. When he departed, the audience politely demanded more, and he returned for an encore of ‘Multiple Lives’. Overall, a great night, which provided something different from the typical gig.
HUP caught up with incredible Whanganui-based songwriter and performer Anthonie Tonnon mid-tour, ahead of his show at The Meteor on Friday 26th of January in support of his latest release, the Hands EP.
Kia ora Anthonie! How has the tour been going?
It has been a joy - we had a really magical show at an observatory hall in Whanganui - it had a one person stage for giving Astronomy lectures, and I played on that.
You recently moved there from Auckland, what was behind that move?
I've moved in the last year - I spend a lot of time travelling throughout the year, but I like Whanganui as a home - there's a good energy there at the moment, with a lot of creative people moving there. I feel like that's starting to happen to a few regional cities, because it feels time to try new places.
How would you describe your music to people that haven’t heard it?
Pop music, but from a strange part of the pop music family tree, evolved in parallel but not quite the same. I'm in Australia on tour at the moment, and the analogy I'd draw is - imagine all you ever knew were placental mammals, and then you came to Australia and found all the mammals were marsupials.
What are your main inspirations, both in life and musically?
I get inspired by people I know or people I meet as I work. When you have people you know and understand, and they come out with a profound truth, that's a really deep inspiration to me.
What are your favourite songs to play live?
Songs come and go from my set. Every song goes through a cycle: first it's difficult to play, then I start to get it right, then it's wonderful, and an anchor in the set - then eventually it needs to be retired for a while. Then I'll change technical things in my set and the song might come back to life in a new version. I've just started playing Sugar In The Petrol Tank again with a new arrangement - that song started from anecdotes from my Dad about being a Boy Racer in Morrinsville in the 70s. But I'm also playing a lot of quite upbeat music with drum machines and synths. Two Free Hands is a pretty good anchor at the moment.
How has the rich musical history of your hometown Dunedin influenced your music?
Dunedin music is what I mean about parallel evolution in pop music. All the stuff I love from the history you mention is pop music, but it feels pretty close to a different species. I had a pretty working-class upbringing where I grew up on top 40 and The Beatles, and I developed as a musician by listening to other musicians I knew, but the music from the 80s and 90s in Dunedin gave me a framework that said it's okay to be odd.
What can the good folk of Hamilton expect on Jan 26 at The Meteor?
It'll be a full spectrum experience with an interdisciplinary, performance art approach to it. The music is my take on semi-electronic music, but I try hard to be a good instrumentalist - everything takes as much concentration and practise as if I was playing a piano concerto. But there are dance moves and lazers too - all things I like to have to make it worthy of a great theatrical space like The Meteor.
Buy tickets for the show here and download the 'Hands' EP here!