Rita Mae – Whammy Bar, May 5, 2023 (Concert Review)

Rita Mae

Rita Mae is a new pop artist from Auckland’s wild west coast who echoes her famous Sergeant Pepper character. Lovely Rita meter maid, lovely Rita meet ‘er Mae.

Bright, sunny and hook-laden pop songs with a fair amount of folkie charm.

Rita Laing is the daughter of James Laing who played guitar for the Jean-Paul Sartre Experience several decades ago. They could be a small family musical dynasty. Her sisters are playing with her.

Rita MaeBridie Laing on acoustic guitar and vocals, Gloria Laing on backing vocals. Completing the line-up on stage is Jacob Brown bass, Sean Oakley electric guitar and Jonathan Nott drums.

They opened the show for Broods last week at the Powerstation, where they made a striking impression. Tonight, they get to headline a more intimate venue and present their brand-new EP released just today, Superfeeling.

Collects their previous six singles plus one more to make the sacred seven. The room is packed with fans and friends, along with accompanying appendages called boyfriends. It makes for a warm supportive atmosphere.

Real Love begins the show and it’s bright and effervescent. There was a time you would die for the dreamer.

Cinema is one of a brace of new tunes. The guitars lay down Eastern cadences and high ringing bells as the singer channels some of the classic Sixties Girl Group vocal power. Sweet and tough.

Someday starts slow and breathy, and then works up into a bright yearning paean to the flushes of infatuation.

Crystal Chen

Crystal Chen opens the evening and is also a new pop singer from Auckland.

Crystal ChenShe has trained as a classical choir singer in high school, and she can bring that high and spectacular controlled soprano voice to the seven songs she plays in her set.

Accompanied by two electric guitarists, Elijah and Paige, who provide sympathetic and tasteful support.

Purple Tears highlights that high piercing voice. Both main acts are supported by a sound desk which mixes the singers perfectly.

There is some jazz colour to the songs, aided by appropriate guitar flourishes.

Girl is Mine and Where Do They Go brings back the Philly Soul sound from the Seventies. It was also the sound that got Motown through the Seventies, when they moved to Los Angeles and restored their fortunes with DeBarge.

Top Down brings in some Latin bossa nova beat to a nice cruising little pop tune.

An accomplished and promising talent.

Rita Mae

Sunny Afternoon is a complex sophisticated number which stands it in good stead with its famous namesake from the Kinks. The intro reminds me of the opening riff from the Animal’s House of the Rising Sun. Follows with a light pop rap and closes it out with great harmony vocals.

Rita MaeGirl group harmonies is one of the secrets to their engaging sound.

When the three sisters combine on Distant Friend, and they sing about diamonds in the night and my guy, they take on Mary Wells’ classic and make it folk pop.

Gunpowder is also a new one, described as a needy love song. It is the slow dance at the school ball song. Nice twanging guitar and they work it up into a great girl group shout.

The Secret’s Out brings to the fore the other players. Western surf guitar and quietly understated but solid rhythm section.

Death Song is beautiful Paul Simon style melodic folk pop. The three singers come together to ask the angels to come and take my side.

Candy’s House comes back in with a great pop banger. And they seal the deal on a very good headline concert with Superfeeling.

Rita Mae is a bright new talent with an arresting stage presence. One to watch.

Rev Orange Peel

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Chris Zwaagdyk:

Rita Mae:

Crystal Chen: