Larkin Poe: southern blues at its finest.

Review by Enzo Giordani

“Honey I’m home, I am so glad just to see y’all!”

To me, Nashville Tennessee’s Larkin Poe, named after a distant relative who was a distant relative of Edgar Allan, are all about connection and home.

While it just so happens that home sweet home for Lovell sisters Rebecca (vocals and guitar) and Megan (slide guitar and backing vocals) is Nashville, Tennessee, with a splash of Georgia, I got the sense you could listen to this show anywhere in the world and feel a sense of place, whether it’s their place or yours or most likely both.

But the connections don’t end there.

Firstly, while the Powerstation isn’t everyone’s favourite, after the last few gigs I’ve been to having been at much bigger venues where the best view most of us gets is on a big screen, I really appreciated being in an intimate space and able to see the whites of the eyes of the musicians I’m here to see. It makes a massive difference to see so much more of the artists’ personalities and feel like you’re part of the show. The sound is much better too…

Last night also played on a number of connections to Aotearoa and our sense of place made in the interludes. We all got the chance to be Te Reo teachers as the audience coached Rebecca through several attempts to get her pronunciation of “Whangarei” straightened out – which, as Megan pointed out, is very important if you want to talk about Keith Urban with any authority.

And there was the all-important universal connection with that great multinational, multi-ethnic, intergenerational unifier – the weather. Ridiculous humidity is apparently a big thing that the American South and Auckland have in common – nice we could make them feel their sense of place in our home.

Before all that, the evening kicked off with a very moreish opening set from Sāmoan singer/songwriter Mema Wilda, who did an inspired job of setting the scene with themes that arced across a wide lyrical spectrum from blowjobs to talking to her cats… It might sound a bit oddball, and maybe it was, but it was also really soulful and super original, which is certainly something you certainly don’t get every day.

Call me basic though, but arguably my highlight of the entire evening was Mema’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘You Want it Darker’ – which is admittedly one of my all-time favourite songs to begin with. I’m not usually a fan of covers at concerts but I would pay good money to hear her play Leonard all night.

Then along came Poe, which turned the dial right up to high octane, high energy, get down and boogie, blues rock – but also done with a sense of restraint – the Lovells are backed only by a drummer and bassist, keeping things relatively simple which is absolutely fine by me.

They started out in a more purely bluesey gospely fashion but we had transitioned to hard rock punctuated with soaring vocals by the final few numbers. And right at the very end, after the encore, we got an extra special treat in the form of an unscheduled appearance by blues guitarist Kingfish, who jammed with the band and treated us to an incredible solo on Rebecca’s guitar.

But what stood out most of all over the course of the whole evening was, again, that connection. From go to woah they really seemed to feel their audience as they drew us all right into their world.

If listening to these guys and watching them perform live doesn’t make you want to road trip from Tennessee to Georgia while eating a peach or two, and drinkin’ sweet tea every day, then I humbly suggest you’re doing something horribly wrong.

Larkin Poe has two more Aotearoa dates: Hunter Lounge, Wellington with Bails and James Hay Theatre in Christchurch with Volts.

Do not miss, y’all!

Photos by Rachel Matthews

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