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Gig Review: Princess Chelsea at Neck of the Woods

Princess Chelsea
Neck of the Woods
Friday 19 October

Photographs by Alvaro Fernandez
Words by Lucia Taylor

Walking into Neck of the Woods on the 19th of October, I ended up running down the stairs, realising Louisa Nicklin was already playing. Having first seen Louisa at Drive Island in 2019, I was expecting the soft, indie-folk singer from When Are You Home. I quickly realised I was mistaken.

Playing her Rickenbacker, Nicklin starts a song, The Highs, which she calls “another little angsty number.”  Her droning, deep guitar tones ring through the densely packed room while Durham Fenwick (Green Grove, Guardian Singles) overlays with riffs straight out of the 90s.

Louisa sings “I’m going to sleep it off, I’m disappointed in myself,”  the music becomes more dreamy and synthy, giving the lyrics the spotlight they deserve, the music softening while her voice retains its strength. In her last song, Slipping the energy is raised with upbeat drumming from Mason Fairey (Scran, Pixels); Mason carries the pace of the song while Louisa lets her chords ring out one by one, her powerful voice continuing to enamour the audience. 

Louisa’s lyrics put experiences we’ve all had into words we haven’t been able to say and that has remained through her genre shift to a more rock sound. While we haven’t seen Louisa play in a while, her endeavour into grunge is a welcomed evolution; building even more excitement for her next album. 

The room became even more packed while everybody was buzzing for Princess Chelsea to play her Taite Prize winning album in full. Before the first bass note of Everything is Going to Be Alright had finished ringing out, Gin from the Tuesday 1-4 turned to me to say “These guys are one of the best bands in the world,” and his enthusiasm for the supergroup was not unfounded. 

Simeon Kavanagh-Vincent (Lucky Boy), Jasmine Balmer (Being), Joshua Worthington-Church (Exploding Rainbow Orchestra, Mammalien), and Joseph Kaptein (Circling Sun and “lots of jazz improv under his own name, basically a genius keys prodigy. Quote me on that.” - Chelsea) are clearly having so much fun on the stage and their enjoyment is contagious. 

During stand-out song, The Forest, Jasmine holds down beautiful harmonies and Simeon screams while Princess Chelsea sings of running through the forest away to feel better. As anyone who listened to the album can imagine, when all of the percussion kicked in towards the end and Chelsea stood on a monitor pointing to the crowd forcefully singing, the energy of the room was palpable and it remained for the whole show.

A highlight of the show was Chelsea cheerfully announcing she’d been learning the bass to play Love is More holding down the riff throughout the song while singing in her signature high and soft voice. The song was further elevated by the appearance of a cheeky glockenspiel while the whole band springs into action for the catchy chorus. 

For the outro of Time, Simeon took over the vocals, his deep and gravelly perfectly matched the song and contrasted beautifully with Chelsea’s airiness when singing “Trust me darling it just takes time.” Coming from such a loving band, it becomes easy to believe. 

Chelsea Nikkel prefaced the sixth song, Forever is a Charm, by telling the audience it is “actually [her] favourite.” The glockenspiel and chimes twinkled magically while the crowd sang along to the chorus call-and-response style. An extended outro blended into the intro of  We Kick Around, with everyone cheering as the heart of the song kicked in. Dancing in a sold-out room to what could very well be the best bridge from 2022, every single person in the room had a smile on their face. 

For Everything is Going to be Alright (Pt. 2), a bright light beamed across the audience through a smoke machine looking like a lighthouse on a dreary night. At this point with tears in my eyes, the stage blurred and the ethereal vocals preaching comfort took over, leaving me and everybody else in awe. Joshua played the trumpet with such power it’s hard to believe he has just started learning. Looking like a silhouette from a 1920s painting backlit by the stage, his trumpet playing alongside every other instrument on the stage in full force was a compelling end to the album. 

Naturally, the crowd begged for more and Princess Chelsea delivered, changing the pace by playing three of her poppier songs; No Church on Sunday, Monkey Eats Bananas and Loneliest Girl. This encore couldn’t be described as anything other than pure fun. A flurry of percussion took over, including guitarists playing maracas in their mouths - it was pure chaos. After the emotional but heartwarming ride of Everything is Going to Be Alright being played in full, dancing to these playful songs ended the night on such a positive note.

Princess Chelsea and her band are truly incredible, must-see performers, for those who missed the Everything is Going to Be Alright tour, you can catch her playing a wider array of her 12 years of music at the Save the b showcase on the 20th of December at the Auckland Town Hall.