New Zealand

Blue skies, Long Whites, can’t lose: The Corrs bring the craic in Christchurch

Hagley Park was turned into a nostalgic Irish pop folk festival on Saturday night. Alex Casey was among the crowd jigging under the stars. 

On their first tour to New Zealand in 1998, Irish pop siblings The Corrs had to hastily throw together an entire music video. They were at the height of their fame following the success of their breakthrough album Talk On Corners, and the label decided last minute that ‘What I Can I Do’ would be the next single released. They shot the whole thing in Āwhitu Peninsula, our rolling green hills making an almost imperceptible substitute for the Irish countryside. 

It was fitting, then, to see The Corrs perform over two decades later in the equally pastoral setting of Christchurch’s Hagley Park. Friends who had attended The Corrs in Auckland a few nights prior had lamented the trappings of Spark Arena. And, after experiencing the moment that ‘Toss the Feathers’ caused what can only be described as a mass jig under the stars, I saw why Auckland crowds might have wanted to rip the roof right off and roam free.  

We had arrived hours earlier to blue sky above, green grass below, and the promise of Natalie Imbruglia in the air (one of three opening acts, along with Toni Childs and Germein). People set up blankets in the sun and delved into their picnic hampers (available for purchase with ticket ONLY). “I can’t even think about the price per cracker”, a woman muttered nearby, drowning her sorrows in a can of Long White. It was Christmas in the Park for aunties, and it rocked. 

Toni Childs tore a handful of folks away from their brie for a boogie, but it was Natalie Imbruglia that got Hagley Park to their feet. “She better play that banger”, said a lady waiting in a nearby line for a pie. The banger did come, of course, but not before a run of unfamiliar music, including a song she wrote with one of The Strokes. “This is the one where you start chair dancing”, pleaded Imbruglia to a sedate crowd who wanted to hear one song and one song only.

And when ‘Torn’ finally came, Imbruglia delivered and it was bliss. I’d say almost everyone was torn away from their blankets, but there were some po-faced husbands who preferred to stay as low to the ground as possible. One near me was lying stock still on his back – possibly asleep, possibly dead. Another was lying on his stomach facing directly away from the stage, eating hot chips while groups of women screamed “I don’t know him anymore” into each other’s faces.

Blue skies, Long Whites, can’t lose

Milling about the crowd during the break, I realised just how much craic was flowing between the people of Christchurch. There were the giant Guinness hats, sure, but The Corrs seemed to have inspired a new generation of comedians. The men in particular couldn’t exit or even stand near a portaloo without making a loud joke. “Warmed the seat up for you,” one bellowed as he left. “A double header!” another exclaimed, as two portaloo doors opened at once.

The Corrs took the stage with the moody, maybe Freddy Krueger sex ballad ‘Only When I Sleep’. Andrea Corr hopped around the stage with glee while yarning about how good it was to be back in the country after two decades. As with The Chicks last month, the Christchurch concert was also the absolute last stop on a long world tour. “Thanks for acclimatising us for home” she joked as the sun set and temperatures promptly plummeted. 

As they launched into ‘Summer Sunshine’, sundresses were covered up in puffer jackets, blankets were wrapped around shoulders, and the line for the coffee cart instantly out-snaked that of the booze tent. Thankfully, the endless hits of The Corrs came thick and fast and the crowd kept themselves warm enough with aforementioned jigging. I saw someone twerk to The Corrs, I saw someone do air fiddle to The Corrs. I saw someone do the robot to The Corrs. 

Free from the social niceties of shuffling into tight arena seats and dealing with brightly lit fluorescent arena foyers, the people of Christchurch soon went absolutely feral with Corrs fever. “THIS IS MY FAVOURITE FUCKING SOOOOONG”, a woman yelled with a guttural scream when the groovy little riff for ‘What Can I Do’ began. As more Long Whites were cracked, we were treated to one Fleetwood Mac cover (‘Little Lies’) and then another (‘Dreams’, ofc). 

It was genuinely shocking to remember just how many hits The Corrs have, and how deeply embedded those lyrics (and even the little fiddle runs) were in the memories of the crowd. After ‘Dreams’ came ‘So Young’ and then ‘I Never Really Loved You Anyway’, and then The Corrs disappeared momentarily for a fake annoying encore thing, before storming back with the holy trinity – ‘Runaway’, ‘Breathless’ and ‘Toss the Feathers’. 

My one quibble with the otherwise near-perfect show? The abysmal merchandise offering. For a band so deeply associated with 90s aesthetics, they could have done so much better than the extremely corporate and clinical offering, which one friend who attended the Auckland show described as looking like “a marathon tee”. But then again, after hours of fancy footwork, swaying, singing, and throwing empty cups on the crowd, perhaps we had just done a Corrs marathon after all. 

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