'The energy in the room tonight is mental': Ocean Alley prove NZ crowds are ready for international music's return

Australian band Ocean alley sold out Auckland's Spark Arena for the venue's first major international rock gig since 2020.


Australian band Ocean alley sold out Auckland’s Spark Arena for the venue’s first major international rock gig since 2020.

REVIEW: For the first time since March 2020, Auckland’s Spark Arena hosted a major international rock band on Saturday, and the sold-out crowd seemed to be buzzing before the opening act even took the stage.

This was the biggest crowd Ocean Alley – the rock band from Northern Beaches, Australia – had played in New Zealand. The band seemed as excited to have finally made it as the crowd was to have them here.

Being the first major international gig since restrictions lifted, who was on stage was perhaps less important than the fact they were on stage at all.

The mass of punters would have been singing and dancing all night regardless. But it helped this band was impressively tight, played catchy psychedelic reggae-inspired rock, were stoked to be there and the sound quality at Spark Arena was at its best.

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The opening act Hockey Dad – a rock trio also from Australia – were catchy and built up a good-sized crowd on Spark Arena’s ground floor.

But when the loudspeakers blasted the classic Eagle Rock by Daddy Cool to announce the arrival of Ocean Alley, the noise – and crowd numbers – amplified.

“Kia Ora,” vocalist Baden Donegal yelled to the crowd before being met with the sound of a few thousand sweaty fans screaming.

Ocean Alley vocalist Baden Denegal during the Spark Arena concert on Saturday night.


Ocean Alley vocalist Baden Denegal during the Spark Arena concert on Saturday night.

“F ….. g hell, we’ve waited so long to get here.”

By the time the second song Way Down was halfway through, the seats near us had emptied, and the mass of people on the ground level was growing.

“The energy in the room tonight is mental,” Denegal said. And he was right.

The vibe between the band and the crowd, but also just amongst the crowd had a pretty magical feel. Maybe it was the mellow, catchy rock tunes that had everyone on their feet. Maybe it was the fact the entire arena had been waiting for this for more than two years.

It felt like a crowd that desperately needed to feel a part of something special with like-minded people, and Ocean Alley happened to be doing a great job of giving it to them.

The crowd and the band both seemed to feed off each other, and watching the packed floor jumping and clapping in unison to Confidence and Happy Sad was visually spectacular.

The true highlight came halfway through the set, with an incredible Pink Floyd medley of Breathe, Comfortably Numb and Money.

Australian rock band Ocean Alley started their New Zealand tour with a sold-out show at Spark Arena on Saturday.

Ricky Wilson / Stuff

Australian rock band Ocean Alley started their New Zealand tour with a sold-out show at Spark Arena on Saturday.

They later also closed the set with the Player classic Baby Come Back – highlighting both this band’s love of classic rock tunes, but also the fact that if Ocean Alley ever decides to release an album of covers, it may be worth a purchase.

The hour and a half set ended with the spectacular noise of both screams from the crowd and the final song Knees.

“I’ve been on my knees,” Donegal sang as almost everyone, except for a select few, were on their feet.

After a massive hiatus, live international music to sell-out crowds is back in New Zealand. If Ocean Alley’s first stop on their New Zealand tour is anything to go by, 2022 will be a good year for music.

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