Review By Lucy Paterson
On the 5th of May I returned to the Forum theatre for the third time in my life. As the saying goes: third time is a charm, and little did I realise what a charming night I was in for. And what was the charming event of the night, you ask? Well, that would be a certain band that goes by a certain name: L.A.B.
Myself and a sold out crowd of eager punters had ventured out into Melbourne’s cold to see the New Zealand reggae, soul, and roots infused band, and not a smile was out of sight when I looked up at the faces around me. The night’s support line up consisted of a sweet half hour set from the trio known as Masaya, and an hour set from the groovy, powerhouse band Summer Thieves. Both bands left me feeling humbled by the talent that were warming up the stage and crowd for L.A.B, and by the time Summer Thieves played Potions, one of the last songs in their set, I truly wasn’t ready to say goodbye to them. Like L.A.B, both Masaya and Summer Thieves hale from New Zealand. What united all three bands the most was the way that you could feel their love of groove and soul inspired music oozing through each of their songs. Each band brought a little piece of their hometown funk to their Melbourne show, and the audience ate it up as if it were the sweetest of treats. Masaya’s single Soda Dreams saw me drifting off into a blissful state of ease, and from this moment I don’t think my body stopped swaying until the night was at a close. Coming from New Zealand’s surf town of Raglan, Masaya’s music had me wanting to book a flight and experience the lively, surfer landscape that is so keenly felt in their warm lyrics, and deliciously vibrant sound.
Similarly to Masaya, Summer Thieves’ performance was so void of dullness, and so jam packed with joy, that I was truly starting to ask myself: what is in the Kiwi waters, and where can I find more of it. Humbly describing themselves on their Spotify bio as “5 lads who make music together”, these five friends from high school gave a ferociously passionate performance, and I could see how much they relished being on stage: owning their insanely energetic sound. Summer Thieves are the definition of unapologetic, unstoppable youth. They made me feel proud to be a loud young person in this sometimes stuffy, restrictive world. With songs like Paper Tiger, I was laughing at their playful, sarcastic lyrics like “I love to hate you like a pack of cigarettes” and the hook “you make me sweat”. With the grunge, alt- rock undertones that songs like Paper Tiger harnessed, I could feel the influence of artists like The Gorillaz, and so it was incredibly fitting when their follow up song to Paper Tiger was a cover of The Gorillaz’ Clint Eastwood. Lead singer Jake Barton absolutely stunned me with his gorgeous voice which was equal parts powerful and edgy, and also resonant and light. The versality was truly brilliant to hear. To me, Barton’s voice felt like wearing a thick woolen jumper, warm and comforting, but sturdy and strong.
When it was finally time for L.A.B to make their grand entrance, they certainly knew how to. Proudly walking out onto the stage to the iconic Ennio Morricone theme The Ecstasy of Gold, the energy in the crowd matched the magnitude of such a song. The choice to enter to a mid-west theme song most definitely foreshadowing one of the more unexpected but whole heartedly entertaining aspects of the night- but I get ahead of myself! More to come on that later.
Upon their entrance, people hollered and cheered, as each band member waved out into the sea of faces, and I could immediately feel the connection between the band and their listeners; one of immense pride and love. L.A.B formed in 2016, but it felt as if they had a legacy spanning decades. Only a mere 10 minutes into the show, the audience were already engaged in emphatically clapping along to their songs (rarely missing a beat mind you), and it was gestures like these that truly highlighted how L.A.B have captivated the hearts of their nation, and beyond.
Prior to the concert, I had listened to L.A.B’s hits online, but nothing prepared me for the soothing experience that is listening to lead singer Joel Shadbolt’s voice in person. If Jake Barton’s voice was the woolen jumper, Shadbolt’s voice was the velvet scarf that draped around all of us, in a loving embrace. Song like Mr Reggae showed off the bands remarkable harmony making abilities, and, as the title suggests, reggae influence. Meanwhile, songs like Yes I Do almost teased us with Shadbolt’s ability to make performing to a sold out venue look like a walk in the park. Performing their platinum certified hits like Controller, In The Air, and Why oh Why, it was evident that L.A.B are masters at blessing the world with catchy anthems that were made to move people; both physically and emotionally. If you have not had the privilege of seeing the L.A.B boys live, then let me just say this:
L.A.B are a picture of pure, natural, celebrated joy.
Between the way Joel Shadbolt’s could burst out powerful vocals with a guitar either in hand, or casually slung around one shoulder, and possible the happiest looking synth player, drummer, percussionist, and guitarist to grace a stage, watching these men perform was heartwarming. I don’t think I will get the picture of Stuart Kora’s funk synth playing out of my head.
As well as seeing the band indulge in the joy that music making brings them, we also got to witness their versality in sound. Not only were we witness to a rendition of the classic hymn Amazing Grace, and Toto’s anthem Africa, but we also saw a return of the mid west/country theme with a cover of Islands in The Stream by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. In the space of a few minutes, The Forum was transported into a barnyard, and I saw multiple people bust out a few country moves. This whole segment of the show not only reflected the bands ability to play with different genres, but it united the audience together even more. By the end of the night it felt as if the audience were one happy family. After the show I got to speak with Dean Rodrigues, the percussionist who has joined L.A.B on their tours. He fondly spoke of the band welcoming nature, and praised the way that they treat both each other, and their crew, like one family. These comments solidified what I had already seen on stage: chemistry, connection, and admiration for one another.
I am so glad this spilled out onto the audience. It was a privilege to dance and sing amongst a crowd of happy and content people. I think we all left that night a little lighter, and a hell of a lot groovier.