Image by: Ginelle Cocks
Concert Reviews

The Miltones Light Up A Cold Night

Where: Point Chev RSA
When: 22 Jun 2018
Reuben Raj
The Miltones perform 'Glory' live at the RNZ Auckland studios.

The Miltones celebrated the release of new single Disappear with a series of shows across NZ. The fact that this was a song produced, recorded and engineered by the band themselves is an achievement worth celebrating. Point Chevalier RSA was the last stop of this mini tour with Reb Fountain opening the night.  

How does one go about reviewing an artist and a band who have consistently delivered top notch performances and won multiple awards along the way? I could kick back, already knowing what to expect or become overly critical and aim higher for musical faux pas. The dastardly side of me opted for the latter.

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Two time APRA Country Music Award winner this year, Reb Fountain kicked off her set a little after 9pm with 3 piece band, Dylan Storey (guitars, backing vocals), Clem White (bass) and Logan Compain (drums). The first song of the night was Quiet Like The Rain, which I believe is a new one from Reb. The quality of sound was good with the stage lit in the usual purple/green hot light combination. However, Reb appeared noticeably nervous in next song, Slave from last album Little Arrows (2017). She shared later her nervousness was a combination of playing some new songs to a huge crowd of Miltones fans. Any unease was but a fleeting moment when Reb and her band played new songs Regular Animal followed by Rats. Not to be confused with a song of the same title by Swedish metal band Ghost, Reb’s version of Rats was quite Dylan-esque with her lyrical stories sung in a sweet poignant manner with Dylan’s guitar effects adding a foreboding dark edge. This was followed by Strangers where once again, Dylan’s guitar work subtly builds a solemn mood and atmosphere for Reb’s voice.

The first traces of PA sound issues throughout the night were heard during Gold. Unfortunately, the volume emanating from the stage speakers cut in and out especially at the peak of a song. Reb finished her set with Don’t You Know Who I Am, a fiery folk song that conjured up feelings of revolution.

So, why perform at the RSA, one might wonder? Surely The MIltones have amassed a large enough audience to play larger venues?

The crowd at an RSA gig is always interesting because of its diversity and one (I feel) that possesses a genuine interest in discovering new artists and music. It takes me back to a day when music was truly appreciated at an intimate live setting before we are overwhelmed by the sheer abundance and accessibility of pop music today through the internet. But, my ramblings aside, Milly Tabak shared her nostalgic feelings of starting out her music in similar venues with band mate Liam Pratt. An excellent reason to keep booking RSA and Community Halls. 

Recent Taite Award winners, The Miltones started off their hour long set with Bye Bye Baby. Right from the get go, Milly Tabak (vocals and guitar), Liam Pratt (guitar), Guy Harrison (keyboards), Chris Marshall (bass) and Tom Broome (drums) were on fire. The Wanderer followed next and is one of my favourite tracks from the band’s self titled debut album in 2017. Chris’ bass lines with Liam’s melodies on lead guitar is a perfect combination on this track for a late night ‘wandering’ along a lonesome highway.

The band have mastered the ability to control and alter the pace of a song while building up tension through a subtle set of rhythm patterns and melodies.

The audience were treated to quite a few new songs from The Miltones and Why Don’t You Luv It? was clearly going to be another standout hit. Liam’s guitar riffs and Tom’s brilliant drum work lifted Milly’s voice, nicely backed by Guy and his hammond organ melodies. Without missing a beat, the song nicely blended into Carlos, one of Milly’s favourite songs, dedicated to her father, from their debut album.

In Carlos, the pace of the song slows down without one feeling it, setting the stage nicely for popular hit Glory that got the crowd swaying and singing at the top of their voice. Milly and the band didn’t hold back in this crowd pleaser and took everyone to a new high with melodic spins accentuated by Guy’s organ solos.    

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This is a strong trademark of The Miltones. The band have mastered the ability to control and alter the pace of a song while building up tension through a subtle set of rhythm patterns and melodies. This is especially evident when they play live. The twists and turns, rise and fall of beats and melodies in each song is wondrous and groovy as hell!

Next, Milly switches to electric rhythm guitar on new song, Even If. Tom’s standout drumming on this track was like a thundering pack of hellhounds with Chris adding lightning with his plummeting bass riffs. The soaring vocal harmonies at the end were simply divine.

New single, Disappear starts off with just Milly on vocals and rhythm guitar before the rest of the band join in to add their own layer of soul in a ballad about a ‘loveless relationship’. Disappear does not only showcase Milly’s vocals but more so, how each member of the band adds a special touch to create a perfect balance of modern yet nostalgic blues rock.

Surprises throughout the night kept on coming when The Miltones covered a Talking Heads hit, This Must Be The Place, complete with cowbells. What a way to add some ‘eccentricity’ to their repertoire of songs. Sadly, the earlier technical issues with the PA levels started up again. But, the band played on and kept the crowd dancing. This may have been a subtle reach out to the powers that be but hell, I say David Byrne should call up The Miltones to support him in November!

Another new song, Woman You Need, sees Milly do some mean electric guitar plucking with Liam on slide guitar. A hard hitting rock number with guitar and organ solos that speak to one’s inner core. In celebration of nine years making music together, Milly and Liam performed as a duo on Hey Sister. The bond between these two incredible musicians was unmissable and unmistakable.

The whole band united again to play Wildfire, a song that instantly gets hands up in the air and the young and old, jumping to the beat. I’ve heard this song many times but tonight it served more as a reference on how far the band have progressed .The catchy melodies of Wildfire appear relatively simpler compared to much more complex patterns in Why Don’t You Luv It?, Even If and Woman You Need.

With a glass of whiskey in hand, Milly sings one of their popular hits at WOMAD earlier this year. Her sultry voice invites everyone to go Down By The River as Liam delivered a mean and dirty blues solo which build up slowly as Milly danced on stage. At one point, the whole band looked to Liam as he brought the song to a high before levelling it off for lazy vocals and a kick ass chorus to take over. Yes, this is one tight unit that did not make it easy for one to find any fault. Chris kept the bass line going for the band (and the crowd) to go Dancing With The Dead.

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Moving into familiar territory, Devils Falling showed the versatility of Milly’s vocal range with Guy’s brilliant mariachi trumpet solo while Liam played rhythm on guitar akin to The Doobie Brothers’ Long Train Runnin’.  The closer for the night was Gypsy Queen where Milly’s voice sounded so fragile and vulnerable. I have come across references of Milly to Stevie Nicks but here it reminded me of the Wilson sisters and Sissy Spacek in The Coal Miner’s Daughter. But, this was no sign of weakness on Milly’s part but one of total control with an incredible wall of sound by her band.  

With loud cheers from the crowd, The Miltones returned for an encore with hard blues rocker Bleeding Blues. Everyone close to the stage was dancing while Liam and Guy duelled by trading solos back and forth with Tom and Chris speeding up the rhythm, taking the whole room to a new level of bliss.

I believe it is a perfect time for The Miltones to release a live album, maybe even a concert movie because there is magic to behold when seeing the songs come alive on stage.

 So there we have it, I showed up at the gig with a quiver full of negative arrows and came up empty, apart from some technical sound issues that slightly tarnished what was a brilliant performance by Reb Fountain and The Miltones.

I have said it before and I will say it again… The debut album from The Miltones failed to convey the same energy and vitality that the band demonstrates when performing live. I believe it is a perfect time for The Miltones to release a live album, maybe even a concert movie because there is magic to behold when seeing the songs come alive on stage.

Sam Smith from Nowhere Bros shared an article by Noisey recently about the demise of rock music. While I understand the data derived from popular music streaming platforms, I remain a rocker at heart and am encouraged when I see bands like The Miltones. The rock genre might not appeal to the masses but the quality has improved over time. The roots of Americana folk and blues rock in NZ will remain intact and flourish as long as The Miltones stay and never disappear.

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Released: 16 Jun 2017

Written By: Reuben Raj Reuben is a film and digital photographer who is driven by music in his head. Often seen lurking behind a camera inside the pit of a concert, Reuben harbours intimate feelings for vinyl records. He is also the founder and chief editor of Radio 13.

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