Gig Review: Ebony Lamb at Whammy Bar
Friday 10th November
Photographs by Rosetta Stone
Words by Stella Huggins
Arriving as doors opened, which is unusual for me, Whammy Bar was encased in a subdued bustle. DJ Matthew Crawley was spinning tunes for all to consume.
Tom Lark opened his set with Radio Blaster, one of the singles that has circulated since its release in mid 2023, following that with the titular track Brave Star from his most recent album. Accompanied by James McDonald on the six-string bass, both songs’ prominent strings sections flowed over the Whammy crowd. Speaking of which, the crowd felt like a big part of this set- responsive, engaged, and intrigued in what he was doing next. Lark’s ease of performance seemed to be the reason for that.
During Softserve, Tom’s entertaining heavy hand emphasis on the lyrics ‘I’m a real boy’, made it feel oh so real. During a tuning break he maintained energy with a brief ‘let’s go’.
At the close of Live Wires, Lark dabs, which sets off discourse/sets crowd alight. All around me are murmurings of ‘I haven’t seen that in a couple of years’ (verbatim quote, audience member anonymised).
Tom Lark as an opener was a seamless beginning performance to move the audience into the world of Ebony Lamb. His skilled picking on the guitar was a standout for me- so good that it makes you want to learn guitar to be worth anything.
Opening strings thrum through the venue and the crowd stills, seemingly enchanted by Ebony Lamb’s voice. At the close of the first track Ebony acknowledges the wall of sound emanating from Backroom, where Koizilla is playing.
During My Daughter, My Sister, My Son, the drums seem more prominent than on the recorded version: an enjoyable uptick in cymbals which I find really pleasant. Ebony’s accompanying heavenly vocals, of course, make the track.
Throughout the set she performs with the organic theatrics of someone who knows precisely what they’re doing. The two other counterparts of the tour’s three piece, Phoebe Johnson on bass and backup vocals, (known from Revulva, Dateline, Heavy Chest) and Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa (known from French for Rabbits, Dateline) add an understated yet phenomenal depth to the live versions of the album.
Ebony gives a shoutout between songs to the ‘lovelies that listen to RNZ and 95bFM- 'this one goes out to you’. That’s for us, everybody- Take My Hands At Night is for us, on this Friday night.
The crowd work across the night is great. From an enjoyable spiel about ‘that election’ pre-Salt Sand Sea, interrupting the opening chords to say ‘I just think we just have to rise up’, to the interactive period of the night where she asks if the crowd has any questions, the audience is on side. By the way, questions included; ‘what did you have for breakfast?’. Ebony recommends blueberries, cocoa and rolled oats. I concur. Intermittent anecdotes about songs humanise the artist, making you feel like you’re mates, just chatting.
She takes a brief pause to chat about her upcoming performance at Save the b, gushing about the station and the lineup. Ebony confesses that she feels lucky to be on the lineup, and ‘feels quite fancy being there’. A punter replies that she herself is quite fancy. A chatter of agreement bubbles through the room. Modestly, she replies, ‘it’s the puffy sleeves’. The puffy sleeves on her outfit are indeed rather excellent. I think she has more than that going for her, though.
She dedicates Drive Me Around to Tāmaki Makaurau. I’m going to call it and say that the crowd tries to hide their pleasure, but is secretly feeling quite spesh. Ebony reckons she’s ‘made it’ for drawing a hearty crowd in Auckland.
The encore is a cover, opened by her admitting she ‘has no other songs’ from this record. Ebony says ‘this is more of a treat’- met with raucous encouragement, she laments, ‘everybody wants a bloody treat’. The opening notes of Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U, invites a roar of excitement. ‘If I sing, you sing.’ And sing the crowd does- they’re well sold on the cover.
You are, quite frankly, shit out of luck if you missed this tour. As Ebony has mentioned, you do have a second chance to catch her at Save the b this December. I would not let it pass you by.