OneRepublic defied all expectations in Auckland as the seven members of the pop-rock icons took to the stage on Thursday night. It’s simply not hyperbolic to say: never before has the sound at Spark Arena been so good.
It’s a huge call, I know, but there were two factors at play. The first – the quality of what was being emitted from the speakers was the best I’ve ever heard. With the stage moved forward to accommodate an audience size just over half of its capabilities, each tone was clear and crisp. I’ve been around a little while but this felt as good as it gets.
The second element is the talent and remarkable skill that was on display. OneRepublic were completely synchronised in an impressive way, and it suddenly made sense why the group had countless hits to their name.
Before they arrived, Kiwi singer Robinson had earlier kicked off the night by showcasing the remarkable voice that’s seen her go from strength-to-strength recently. She confidently danced across the stage with her powerful high-pitch vocals bouncing to every corner of the arena as fans still made their way inside.
Just days out from her own headlining show at the Tuning Fork on Sunday, the singer showed her ability continues to evolve since her breakthrough hit “Nothing to Regret”.
Shortly after, Australian rapper Masked Wolf took on the task of getting fans hyped for what was to come. It was apparent that despite rocketing to stardom off the back of a massively viral hit, he had been working hard at his craft for a long time with a solid catalogue to back up his meteoric rise.
The diversity within his set was impressive, moving from hip hop to rock, drum and bass to garage, before ending his set with that viral banger “Astronaut in the Ocean”. Masked Wolf endearingly told his new fans how he’d sat in his room for 15 years focusing on music before his abrupt fame and encouraged anyone with a dream to keep going. “One day something might happen for you like it did for me,” he said. “Have a great night and never give up.”
I was also stoked to see footage of him taking the time to chat with fans standing against the barrier at the front of the stage once his set was done. What a guy.
With all that positivity front of mind, after a short break to reset the stage, the lights dimmed and OneRepublic emerged.
Truthfully, lead singer Ryan Tedder’s incredible musical comprehension and ability has been known to me for some time now: I’m one of the now-85 million people who have viewed the group’s performance at Pinkpop in the Netherlands, which took place in 2015. It’s still one of my favourite videos and I’d say my appreciation of it accounts for at least 150 of the total number of plays.
So, while I was expecting big things at the Spark Arena, what that Dutch footage hadn’t captured is how the band works together to create their musical magic as one.
Tedder and co. – Eddie Fisher, Brent Kutzle, Zach Filkins, Drew Brown, Tim Myers and Brian Willett – launched into it, starting with “Secrets” and “Good Life”.
“Auckland, this is without question, has been since I was a kid, my dream country to visit and to play,” Tedder confessed to an already-besotted crowd. “Every single interview for 15-16 years, when they ask ‘what’s the best country?’ ‘what’s the most amazing country you’ve ever been to?’ I say ‘New Zealand.’”
After visiting South East Asia and Australia, he bravely admitted they were wanting to end the tour “on a high note,” and thanked the crowd for showing up amid a spree of A-listers like Harry Styles and Ed Sheeran visiting Aotearoa.
He said they had no intention to use the night to delve into their lesser-known favourites, but instead use their time to play the classics that made them a household name throughout their 16-year career. The fans were more than down for this, and with that, the group kicked into gear for “Stop and Stare”, “Rescue Me”, “Wherever I Go” and “Love Runs Out”.
Although Tedder was very much leading the way, each member got their shot at glory and we saw the first instrumental from the violinist and cellist proving they too were worthy.
UV light bars lined the stage, each song allocated its own colour and lined up to match the beat. It was simple but so effective. With seven people on the stage, overcomplicating the production made little sense. The focus was on the musicians and that’s where it needed to be.
Not even Tedder could resist a name drop where possible. He spoke of getting the call up from Beyoncé to help create a song dedicated to her love for Jay-Z and when they played “Halo”, I didn’t spot anyone who wasn’t singing along.
Leona Lewis’ “Keep Bleeding” also made the cut, as did Ellie Goulding’s “Burn”. In a moment of impeccable timing, Tedder took the first verse on the piano before trading places with Kutzle so he could head to the main mic.
Their rendition of “Apologise” will undoubtedly stick with those who were there for a long time to come. His range is so evident, but it’s Tedder’s voice control that makes him really great.
He caught fans off-guard by doing a circuit around the standing crowd, prompting those who hadn’t left their seats yet to finally stand up and dance. They ended with “If I Lose Myself”, giving one last taste of the multi-instrumental nature of the group.
OneRepublic will take the stage at Wellington’s NZTSB Arena on Saturday. More information here.