Audiences for Auckland Museum’s Live At The Museum music gigs are typically diverse, united by their interest in seeing local acts perform in a more genteel environment than the norm. So it was for the crowd drawn to the museum’s opening night of a new series, combining the floating vocal simplicity of Tiny Ruins, with the cleverly subversive songsmithery and striking falsetto of Lawrence Arabia.
As diverse as the audiences for these two artists might have been there was a palpable sense of shared anticipation to be enjoying live music again, their pleasure enhanced by finding a seat with a view in the elegant if structurally awkward surrounds of the museum’s main foyer. With maybe 100 people sitting on the stone floor and others propped around the numerous Ionic columns, many sharing food platters, there was an-almost indoor picnic atmosphere. Pretty grand spot for a picnic.
Tiny Ruins (Hollie Fullbrook) opened proceedings bang on the 7.30 start time, taking up her acoustic guitar on what was the simplest of stages, just her oversized red amplifier and a grand piano. With a solo version of her ‘Olympic Girls’ album released in September last year, she had plenty of material to lean on, but her six solo songs were a mix of old and new. Me At The Museum, You In The Wintergardens was an obvious highlight, Fullbrook telling the audience that it was written as a “revenge song” after she had been interviewed for, but not offered a job at the Auckland Museum.
WB Yeats featured, with one of his poems given the Tiny Ruins’ treatment. Her album’s title track proved another highlight, a change of guitar and strummed rather than carefully picked backing making it the most animated of her set.
Enter Lawrence Arabia to take up his seat at the grand piano and back her in How Much, another song from the album, after which the songwriter baton passed to him, the pair sharing One Unique Creature from his 2019 ‘Lawrence Arabia’s Singles Club’ album before his own solo set. The added richness of piano tone and combined vocals noticeably filled the venue, the sound now reverberating from the stone surfaces.
James Milne had clearly observed the venue’s inherent sound challenges, telling the audience that he wouldn’t say much as it would likely be inaudible. He did amusingly introduce a “…trilogy of depressing comedy songs” that included Bicycle Riding from 2012’s ‘The Sparrow’, described as “…the existential low of the set.”
He also found a moment to call out for the services of any physio in the audience to help him with muscular pain, ahead of playing his singalong hit Apple Pie Bed. Fullbrook then rejoined him for a “more medieval” version of Everything’s Minimal, a song they had recorded together for his album – and which possibly led to this well-matched concert combo – the pair finishing the night much more relaxed, with laughter and a couple of covers.