The Animals, Auckland NZ, 2017

The Animals
4th May 2017
The Tuning Fork, Auckland, New Zealand.

Review by Sarah Kidd. Photography by Mike Thornton.

The Animals performing live in Auckland, New Zealand, 2017. Image by Mike Thornton.

Once in a while, a legend of the music world will grace the stage before you, and tonight Auckland saw two! The Animals were in town to perform a collection of some of their most endearing songs. No, this was not the version with Eric Burdon at the forefront but this is the version that includes original member John Steel on the drums and the infamous Micky Gallagher on keyboards.

As the venue steadily filled out for this sold out and highly anticipated show, we were serenaded by a rather talented wee duo by the names of Ms Sophia and Solomon Cole (aka Derek Solomon). The duo before us was two of the usual four piece Waiheke Island based ‘The Solomon Cole Band’. Started in a garage in Little Oneroa back in November of 2013, the group have gone on to support acts such as Martha Davis and The Motels as well as play at numerous New Zealand Festivals. Tonight Ms Sophia is looking every inch like the absolute song bird that she is; wrapped in a gorgeous island flower print dress and the sassiest red patent heels money can buy she wowed the crowd with her soulful vocals. Seated beside her, Solomon Cole (who has quite the voice himself) mainly let his guitar do the talking throughout the set; and talk she did. The combination of Ms Sophia’s vocals and Cole’s soaring guitar, a brilliant addition to the evening.

The Solomon Cole Band recently released their debut album ‘Bruises’ in October of last year and it is filled to the brim with wonderfully blues-infused rock. A little way into the set and the duo express their gratitude towards The Animals and advise us that they are going to play something a little different. And with that we are treated to a charming version of the Otis Redding classic ‘A change is gonna come’. Their set was short but sweet, Ms Sophia highlighting the fact that it was going to feel a little strange performing their last song without her trade mark mane of hair, but that she had recently participated in Shave for a Cure which made it all worth it. The audience enthusiastically agreeing with her by applauding. Their rendition of ‘Little Sister’ which is punctuated in the middle with the verse and chorus of ‘Gimme Shelter’ by The Rolling Stones’ was certainly foot stomping and while Ms Sophia may not have been able to pull off the power and angst of Merry Clayton her version was certainly entertaining.

As The Animals stepped up onto the stage it was as if royalty had arrived. The audience were both transfixed and delighted as they saw both John Steel and Micky Gallagher take their respective places on stage and were just as welcoming for lead vocalist Danny Handley and the understated Roberto Ruiz on bass. Handley is a front man with pizazz, from the moment he stepped in front of the microphone and bid the crowd hello he had them eating out of the palm of his hand. An accomplished guitarist to boot, he initially joined this version of The Animals back in 2009 however he has been playing The Animals classics since 2003. Kicking off their set with ‘Baby, Let me Take you Home’ it is easy to see why Handley moved from being a straight guitarist to also covering the role of lead vocalist; the timbre of his voice smooth with just the right amount of rock n roll growl to it. Ruiz is a far more quiet character on stage; friends with Handley he joined the band fairly recently replacing Scott Whitley who departed to play in Big Country. His bass playing is solid and while he may not move around the stage much his enjoyment of the songs is obvious, especially during his solo on ‘Club-A-Go-Go’.

As they move through their set the energy levels of both the band and audience continue to be raised notch by notch, by now the venue is pumping and the heat is intense. On stage the band is sweating up a storm and pause every so often to wipe their brows with towels, Handley at one point commenting on the size of them [laughing] “they’re like shower towels!” Easily one of the biggest highlights of the night had to be that of watching the great Micky Gallagher on keyboards. Gallagher, who has worked with some of the greatest bands in the world including The Clash and The Eurhythmics, was an absolute vision behind the keys. In full dark grey suit his fingers sped along the keyboards as if it was second nature to him, his feet tapping away at the pedals with the lightest of touches. His playing brought the songs to life, gave them volume and a sense of timeless magic. Gallagher joined the original Animals back in 1965 replacing Alan Price. Price who famously (through a mistake made by a young naïve band at the time) has the rights to the royalties from one of the most well-known Animals songs ‘House of the Rising Sun’ was the topic of a few digs made on stage tonight by both Handley and Steel. It would appear that not all is water under the bridge.

The set tonight is infused with many a cover song including ‘Bring it on home to me’ by Sam Cooke, ‘Night Time is the Right Time’ by Ray Charles – which is not only popular with the crowd but a personal favourite of Steel’s – and a damn fine little version of the Screamin Jay Hawkins ageless track ‘I put a Spell on You’. Banter between songs is almost compulsory with English bands and it is obvious that the boys on stage enjoy each other’s company. Steel himself venturing out from behind the drum kit a couple of times to introduce songs and tell stories, with Handley doing the same while hyping up the crowd with calls of “Do you love Rock n Roll”?? Their set finished on ‘We gotta get out of this place’ which prompted a boisterous sing along by the audience followed by an even more riotous collective demand for an encore when the band left the stage.

Returning a few minutes later after having cooled down outside in some brisk Auckland air, Handley asked the crowd if they should play “one more or two more” laughing as people shouted back an assortment of numbers. “Alright, two more songs it is then”. ‘Boom Boom’ which was featured in the 2012 James Bond movie Skyfall was full of life and an absolute hip shaker. But of course what would an Animals set be without a stirring rendition of ‘House of The Rising Sun’ which finished the night off perfectly.

This is not a covers band, nor is it a cabaret band. This is The Animals.

Ms Sophia and Solomon Cole:
The Animals:

Were you there at The Tuning Fork for this magnificent night of classic rock nostalgia? Or have you seen The Animals live sometime else in their long career? Tell us about it in the comments below!

  1. Baby, Let Me Take You Home
  2. It’s My Life
  3. Bright Lights, Big City [Jimmy Reed – cover]
  4. I Believe To My Soul [Ray Charles – cover]
  5. I’m Crying
  6. Bring It On Home To Me [Sam Cooke – cover]
  7. Don’t Bring Me Down
  8. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood [Nina Simone – cover]
  9. Night Time Is The Right Time [Ray Charles – cover]
  10. I Ain’t Got You
  11. I Put A Spell On You [ Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – cover]
  12. Around and Around [ Chuck Berry – cover]
  13. Club-A-Go-Go
  14. We Gotta Get Out Of This Place
  15. Boom Boom [John Lee Hooker – cover] (encore)
  16. House Of The Rising Sun (encore)

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