What's New

Act back for music and mussels despite sad loss

Flagstaff Team

Then there were four… The Toni Swain Band: (from left) George Bibicos, Hamish Stuart, Hal Tupaea, Swain and the late Roy Payne

It will be a poignant return to play at The Vic Theatre next month for a group of Aussie-Kiwi musicians, who are continuing to tour despite the loss of a key band member, North Shore- raised New South Wales resident Roy Payne.

Band leader Toni Swain said after the unexpected death of the guitarist and her “special friend” mid-month, the swing and soul group – group had decided he would have wanted the show to go on.

Devonport was one of their favourite venues, visited on six previous trips.

The 4 August show was to have been a two-act outing for the Toni Swain Band and Big Daddy Roy’s Swing Guitar Spectacular.

Vocalist Swain said: “This will be in memory of him and a more intimate show as a four-piece. We’ll still rock, though.”

One of the band members, bassist Hal Tupaea, is now Auckland-based after many years in Sydney where he had stints playing with Marcia Hines, Renee Geyer and the Little River Band. Other members include top Australian session and live drummer Hamish Stuart, and groove keyboardist George Bibicos.

Swain said the support of The Vic manager, Philipp Jaser, was one of the reasons they loved returning. “He’s a great guy willing to take a chance on original music shows.”

The group has been touring here since 2015, but their links go much further back.

Swain said she had known “killer bass player” Tupaea for more than 25 years. When he moved back to Auckland, his support network had helped make touring New Zealand easier.

Jaser’s willingness to book an Australian band – albeit half Kiwi – was something Swain remembers from when she first approached him. “He runs a beautiful theatre, the stage and room is a pleasure to play in. The atmosphere of that big room is incredible, the lighting, the big old movie speakers.”

The “unique” Vic is now the place they start their tours. “It’s a fantastic ‘welcome to Auckland’ venue to play.”

Then there were four… The Toni Swain Band: (from left) George Bibicos, Hamish Stuart, Hal Tupaea, Swain and the late Roy Payne

Among their traditions is popping to the Devonport supermarket before a gig to get a few kilos of mussels. “I cook them up later back at the accommodation,” Swain says.

The band has released a new CD, Destinaion, still featuring Payne, who had played with Swain for eight years.

After Devonport, the group has gigs at the Auckland Jazz and Blues Club, Leigh Sawmill, the Bay of Islands Jazz and Blues Festival and in Hamilton. They will be joined for some of the later shows by Ray Beadle, an Australian blues-guitar virtuoso.

  • Swain and band play at The Vic on 4 August at 8pm. Tickets at thevic.co.nz.

Please consider supporting The Devonport Flagstaff by clicking here: