You Are Us (Aroha Nui) Review - Auckland

Saturday night NZ came together for a night of positivity and music. After the events in Christchurch, things have been somewhat all over the place but there’s no doubting the love and support that has been shown from around the country. Saturday night really brought that into one place. As the doors opened to Spark Arena the public poured in. You would have thought it was an international show.

So many people came in and you could see it was planned to be a good night out for everybody as the crowd had quite the range of ages and ethnicities. It was very much a family event. The night started off with Mike King took the stage with a woman from local iwi Ngati Whatua. It felt like the perfect way to start the night, especially when the crowd sang Whakaaria Mai to end the powhiri. Then who to start the night but NZ music legend Dave Dobbyn, performing Welcome Home. Bene took the stage next and kicked the night into a fun and colourful start with a 2 song set. She couldn’t help but acknowledge what was in front of her “Look at all this love!”.

The backdrop flag stands were then brought forward to block off the stage. Next up was upcoming rapper Chaii. She performed in front of the stands while things were being set up behind them. I didn’t know who she was but I really enjoyed her short performance. That’s when I realised that tonight the crowd was really going to hear such a diverse range of music.

Stan Walker took the stage next. He performed a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace before diving into his track New Takeover. Local musician Seth Haapu then joined him to do a beautiful bilingual rendition of Crowded House classic Don’t Dream It’s Over. But the track that would have had to stand out was Aotearoa. It has such a true kiwi feeling to it and by the way, the crowd sang it you could see they thought the same. Though when the crowd got to the national anthem and drew to the end of the song Stan broke out into tears and you could feel how powerful and important of a night this was.

Dilworth Choir who took the stage next were definitely a surprise of the night. I was so excited to hear them perform ‘We Are One’ from The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride. With it being a family event and being an avid Lion King fan myself I thought it was incredible but I also loved that a lot of the choir had their own personal embellishments whether it was a pride flag, floral headpiece or a bright pacific print shirt. Jason Kerrison came out to join them and performed a heartfelt rendition of Hallelujah.

The stands blocked off the stage once again and Ill Baz took the stage draped in a hoodie that probably had the statement of the night “Fuck racists”. Songstress Bailey Wiley joined him first, performing her new track Sugar, followed by talented rappers JessB and Diggy Dupe. They all brought a different vibe to the set and complimented each other well. Though the crowd seemed to love dancing with Jess to her track Take It Down (Ft. Rubi Du). Ill Baz gives a great performance the way he vibes along to all the tracks as if they were his. But he doesn’t take away from the people performing either. It’s great. Mike King spoke to the crowd between each act but I have to say him getting the crowd to shout “Fuck Racists” was a moment in itself.

The stands were moved once again and Mitch James took the stage. I was looking forward to seeing him perform because though I knew his music I had never seen him live. His vocals were very good live and it was awesome to see how happy he was to be performing and having so many people sing his words back to him. Particularly when he covered Angels by Robbie Williams and the whole crowd put their lights up. This night was important for the artists as it was the crowd.

SWDIT was next and Spycc took to the stage first. He kicked off the set with a track about suicide rates & toxic masculinity (No Emotions in the Wild) and honestly I thought it was a great way to start the set. NZ is addressing the suicide rates a bit lately and they are using their platform to talk about it. But obviously, the guys didn’t want to keep the mood down and performed the track Conquer to get the crowd amped back up for the next act.

Mike King got his beautiful daughter to introduce Shapeshifter to the stage. She’s was quite confident in doing so and it was just a heartfelt and love-filled moment. Obviously, the crowd got super excited when Shapeshifter appeared and kicked off their first song Stars. They really brought the colour and energy to Spark Arena. There’s something comforting about seeing some of these acts. A great sense of home.

Jason Kerrison returned to the stage once again to perform Love Will Always Win and One Day. The crowd sang along quite loudly and Jason loved it, even asking if he could do a selfie and video with them.

It was then nice to see more wahine take the stage! Anika Moa and Hollie Smith performed a couple of tracks together, with Anika cranking jokes in between (I love Anika. She’s so funny!). They were then joined by Don McGlashan. After a couple of tracks, Anika and Don departed the stage and Hollie was joined by Teeks and the Dilworth Choir. I have to say it was incredible to hear their beautiful rendition of Whakaaria Mai which was recently released as a single. The stands covered the stage once again and Marlon Williams took the stage with Dave Kahn (Yarra Benders) to perform a couple of tracks, including the title track off his recent album ‘Make Way For Love’.

Now NZ crowds always enjoy Six60 so it’s no surprise the crowd got excited when they took the stage. They performed a few tracks, kicking off their set with Vibes and ending it with “what they consider to be a national anthem” Don’t Forget Your Roots. Vocalist Matiu Walters even sported a hand-painted shirt that said Kia Kaha and had the peace sign below it. Dave Dobbyn returned to the stage to finish the night with all the previous acts joining him on stage to sing-a-long and dance with him. A fun and positive way to end the night.

In summary, it was a great gig. There was nearly something for everyone and considering it was organised so quickly it was very well done. A few little issues here and there but nothing major. New Zealand really showed up and it was great to see

– Reviewed and Photographed by Shelley Te Haara