THE EVENING STANDARD, 13 MAY 1998, Edition 2, Page 2.

An unforgettable night

By: BEVAN Vivian

ENZSO. Wellington Sinfonia and ENZSO Choir. Dave Dobbyn, Annie Crummer and Sam Hunt. Conducted by Peter Scholes, arranged by Eddie Rayner. Choirmaster Stephen Fisher. The Regent theatre, last night. Reviewed by John Saunders.

It attracts a near-capacity audience. That's almost 1400 people, each paying about $50 to hear and watch Eddie Rayner savagely revise some of their favourite songs. A few bars into the first song, Six Months in a Leaky Boat, and you realise this is going to be a very unique musical experience -- unashamedly nostalgic, but fascinating, just the same. You know you'll never go to another concert quite like it.

The Wellington Sinfonia and ENZSO Choir fill the stage. Dave Dobbyn steps up for the classic I See Red. This manages to retain the apocalyptic frenzy of the original, but with a new dose of tenderness in the slowed-down, stretched-out verses. Fascinated, you sit there, wondering how these 20-year-old tunes can still sound so fresh, how they've somehow managed to take on a life of their own. Maybe those Finns knew a thing or two about writing a classic tune after all.

Rayner, it transpires, has done quite a job on the Split Enz back catalogue with conductor Peter Scholes. He's got inside the melodies, inverting and corrupting them, deconstructing and reassembling them. And what's more, he's apparently taught these classical musicians how to play rock. Can they ever go back to Vivaldi?

Dobbyn eases into Message To My Girl, the sinfonia weaving a delicate fabric behind. Then comes that soaring chorus, the choir pulling out all the stops, the kettle drums and brass section thundering behind. Absolute magic.

Annie Crummer is up next with I Hope I Never. A difficult song tosing, but her voice is well up to it. The warm stage presence balances Dobbyn's nervousness.

Sam Hunt delivers Under the Wheel with the orchestra in his usual narrative style, but is most successful with his poems in the second half. Shambolic he may be, but he still has that passion, and the Hungarian poem is a treat.

Unfortunately, My Mistake ends up as a disaster, the orchestra not quite getting to grips with the musical insanity of the original. The rhythm is wooden, Dobbyn forgets his lines. Even legends should rehearse sometimes.

Noel Crombie soon recovers the situation, however, firstly in his role as the crazed conductor, putting the sinfonia through all kinds of incredible gyrations in Albert of India, then later, with his brilliant spoon solo in Straight Old Line.

Dobbyn airs a new composition Hallelujah Song, then jams clumsily with the orchestra in the Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows.

Then it's the home run -- Louise McConachy's vocals are impressive in Time for a Change, Dobbyn and Crummer bring the show to a close with Dirty Creature and Stuff and Nonsense.

Later, as the crowd spills out, the melodies are still swirling in your head. You cherish the moment. An excellent concert.


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