Oct 16, 2023

Opening Night: Back to Black

A review by Hayley Osterfield

Photographer: Laura Mackie

They opened the 2023 Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival with an explosion of musical prowess, harmony and stellar instrumental solos. 


Back to Black walked onto stage impeccably dressed for the occasion.


They opened with “You Know I’m No Good”. The accomplished horn section and singer Vanessa Stacey wowed the crowd from the get-go. Following up with “Love Is A Losing Game” which revealed the simply beautiful reverberation within Vanessas’s voice.


The second female singer, Lisa Tomlins,  took to the stage for the third song “I Heard Love Is Blind”. A song from Amy Winehouse’s first album “Frank”.


She was introduced as a national treasure and rightfully so. With a music rap sheet that includes the national icons L.A.B and Rhombus, it was a treat to hear her lend her extraordinary vocal ability to celebrate Amy Winehouse.


This nine-piece supergroup spent the next hour or so working together in an impressively fluid and harmonious way. With the singers and members of the band stealthily coming and going on the stage - depending on what the song called for.


This was more than a cover band. Cover bands typically fit into two categories. Ones who are replicating or those who re-imagine the music. This was neither, this was a collection of musicians showcasing their love, admiration and respect for the legend that is Amy Winehouse.


The flute solo was an absolute treat.


“Tears Dry on Their Own”, from the studio album Back to Black, rounded out the core set.


After a tongue in cheek run down of how a musical encore works from Vanessa Stacey, Back to Black closed the show with undoubtedly two of Amy Winehouses’s biggest hits - “Rehab” and “Valerie”.


The dance floor drove, which included  her honourable Sandra Hazlehurst, danced exuberantly to the very last note.


This show-stopping concert was a splendid way to kick start the next fortnight and as Pitsch Leiser stated in his opening speech “Cancel all your plans for the next two weeks, and go to the Arts Festival”.

Join Us