Sharon O’Neill & Jon Stevens, Wellington Town Hall, 1980

GARY STEEL wrote this review for the Evening Post back in March 1980. It’s not something he’s proud of.

 

Home-grown music finally came into its own last night at the Town Hall.

Wellington’s own Jon Stevens and Sharon O’Neill performed a double-bill act to a near full house.

Jon had his turn first. He sang songs from his album – ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and singles ‘Jezebel’ and ‘Montego Bay’ – plus less expected covers that included ‘Get Used To It’ and Ry Cooder’s funky ‘Hollywood’.

He sang a 45-minute set. Just long enough to make the right impression in his all-important Wellington concert stage debut, but not long enough to show the full potential of this new talent.

Stevens’ has a strong, rich, full-bodied voice that, if he chooses the best material and plays his cards right, will take him a long way.

Unfortunately, he has yet to learn how to use a large stage. That should come with time and experience.

Sharon’s turn in the limelight came with the intermission’s ending. She too, understandably, played predominantly songs from her latest album. ‘Words’, ‘Baby Don’t Fight’ and the new single, ‘Asian Paradise’, great songs all, were given an airing.

She also performed earlier material like her first release, ‘Luck’s On Your Table’. She’s as adept at lovely introspective ballads as on the rockers. Add to that the fact that this little lady writes all her own songs, and you have a major talent on your hands.

What a pity though that she so often lacks the self-confidence to really project herself. Perhaps she would do better to give up the “live” side of her musical persona. But that would be a waste.

Jon joined Sharon for a unison effort on the final few songs, including the duet ‘Don’t Let Love Go’, which was performed again in part as an encore.

Mention must be made of the six-piece backing band, which played excellently throughout, providing fire when needed.

Particularly notable in this bunch of studio musicians were Ross Burge on drums, Bob Smith on synthesiser and vocals, and Wayne Mason on keyboards and vocals.

The presentation had its faults. The lighting was unprofessional by modern standards. The show sometimes veered dangerously close to cabaret.

But it was a great success and a step forward for New Zealand talent. Roll on.

Note: One of the first and worst reviews I ever wrote, I’m deeply ashamed of this, partly because I was too naïve to say what I really thought but mostly because I described Sharon O’Neill as a “little lady”. OMG!

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