“The best things always happen at the arse end of the night,” someone said. It may have been me. Whoever’s champagne-fuelled comment that was, it proved to be true as Stephen – incredible Stephen – lifted his violin out of its case, as if a baby from a cradle, and said those magic words: “What would you like to hear?”
Something special happens in that wrinkle-in-time place between where the party officially ends and the story continues, an ‘afterward’ of sorts. And that was where we, the remaining handful of guests at The Best Party of the Year, found ourselves on Friday night, huddled around the fire, listening to Stephen Hussey, violinist and arranger of London’s Urban Soul Orchestra play, unplugged. To orientate this on the fabulous and special scale, USO has worked with Mick Jagger, Robin Thicke, Maxi Priest, Leona Lewis, Madonna, Kylie, Grace Jones, Oasis and The Script amongst others.
We gasped as Stephen drew dizzyingly high notes then dived down the fret to the achingly low – his bow a mere extension of his thoughts transposed into sound. His beautiful wife gazed into her cup of tea, smiling a secret smile. My husband filmed proudly as his mother stood alongside Stephen and sang Summertime, in her husky, movie-star voice. We made promises to email and hugged old friends and new and disappeared into the night. We woke the next morning to wonder if we’d imagined it all.
From one extreme to the other, last night we – along with 35,000 other New Zealanders – visited our dear old friend Mt. Smart Stadium to worship at the alter of one of the greatest American rock bands of all time, the Eagles. My best memories of the band are playing Dad’s Eagles Greatest Hits Volume 2 record on the 1980s Aiwa stereo at the bach (that’s a beach house for my non-Kiwi readers) at Matheson’s Bay, needle jumping as we stomped around the tiny lounge singing “He was a hard-headed man! He was brutally handsome! She was eternally pretty!” They were good times.
Don Henley’s distinctive voice is still incredible and he hit almost all the high notes. Glenn Frey became the people’s hero declaring: “We aren’t taking a break tonight…we want to get all the songs in for you before the wind picks up at 8 o’clock…let’s keep going!” The Eagles were not going to be beaten by l’il ole Cyclone Pam. Joe Walsh remained the stereotypical bad boy rocking out on his many guitars – including a rather fabulous glittery sherbert-coloured six-string.
The Eagles played every hit song I wanted to hear, but the best tracks of the night were firstly, the two that confirmed them as Kings of the Broken-Love Lyric: Best of My Love (“Thinkin’ about all the things that we said, and comin’ apart at the seams”) and Take it to the Limit (“You can spend all your time making money, you can spend all your love making time; If it all fell to pieces tomorrow, would you still be mine?”). And secondly, their two rocking-harder songs: In the City and Life in the Fast Lane (Joe Walsh’s guitar solo was unbelievable). Unlike many bands that feel they need to re-arrange their best tracks for live audiences, the Eagles had the crowd on its feet with a just-like-the-album version of Hotel California. Their tight harmonies, showmanship, musicianship and voices proved – without doubt – they’ve still got it.
Special thanks to Lizzie and Peter; and Paul at Mt. Smart Stadium.