The world isolates. A New Zealand band plays to 50,000 fans


While much of the world stays hunkered down, the group Six60 was playing with huge crowds in New Zealand, where social distancing isn’t required after the nation stamped out the coronavirus

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Singer Matiu Walters grinned as he gazed out over 50,000 damp but delirious fans and said those magic words:”So, what is up Eden Park?”

While a lot of the world remains hunkered down, the band Six60 was playing with huge crowds in New Zealand, where social distancing is not required after the country stamped out the coronavirus. The group’s tour finale on Saturday night was billed as the largest concert in the world since the pandemic began.

Equally momentous for a group which fulfilled while playing rugby in university was getting to play the very first concert held at the storied Eden Park rugby stadium. And finding themselves at the apex of world music arrived as a spin for Six60, which has enjoyed unparalleled success in New Zealand but whose forays overseas have ended without the discoveries they hunted.

Saturday’s set by the five-piece group included powerful cameos by military musicians before the nation honoring its war dead on Sunday, and Maori actors who extended across the stage while the group switched to singing from the Native language.

One enthusiast, Lucy Clumpas, found it a surreal experience to be surrounded by many individuals after she spent last year living through endless lockdowns in Britain.

“It is very critical for us as humans to be able to get together and sing the very same songs together,” she said. “It makes us feel like we’re part of something,”

Walters, the lead singer, stated they desperately want their celebrity friends around the world to be able to play live shows again.

“We all know what it’s like to be in lockdown. It sucked. And we didn’t know if we’d be able to play gigs again,” he said in an interview before the show. “But we are lucky, for a few reasons, here in New Zealand.”

Guitarist Ji Fraser stated the reception they received while on the road for their summer tour had been incredible.

“It was amazing to see how fanatical people wereexcited about being out and seeing live music, and seeing something to drag them out of a long, brutal year,” he explained. “It was really unique.”

Walters stated they did worry that something could have gone wrong — that their gigs could have become super-spreader events. But he said there was not much to do besides play with the rules and follow the government guidelines.

The band formed thirteen years ago once they started jamming in their rugby changing rooms, making their concert in the hallowed ground of the country’s All Blacks rugby team feel like finishing a circle.

The band had pushed for modifications to civic rules to permit concerts at Eden Park, but maybe not all of the neighbors were all happy.

One who objected was former Prime Minister Helen Clark, who stated at the time the concerts would signify a”home invasion” of sound.

“However, the people wanted it. And the people spoke,” Walters said. The singer added that Clark could have been welcomed at the concert. “Six60 is for everybody. And maybe if she arrived and loved herself, she would have a change of heart.”

Promoter Brent Eccles stated they got permission to use the place just at the last minute.

He explained. “And the response was, well, pretty crazy. So let us do it”

It’s been a heady increase to get a group which began as a hard-partying student covers band. Their design has developed and remains difficult to specify, blending elements of reggae, pop, rock and soul.

Bass guitarist Chris Mac said their fans now span wealthy and poor, young and older.

“We are pretty lucky to have become the soundtrack of people’s lives. Weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries,” he said, before breaking into laughter. “You know, gender-reveal parties, that are all the rage.”

Since the band’s popularity rose in New Zealand, it became a sort of game for critics to knock them to be too dull. Walters said criticism of success remains an issue in New Zealand, and was something that annoyed him at the time. But he said it also energized the ring.

“We are very serious about the music,” he explained. “It is important for all of us to express an emotion and tell a story, and for our tunes to be healing and magnetic for people. Because, it is not a fluke that we’re playing with 50,000 people.”

The group was trying to get more fame abroad, but six months spent in Germany plus a U.S. record deal ended in tragedy, as recounted at a behind-the-scenes documentary about the band”Six60: Till The Lights Go Out.”

But the band is prepared to give it another shot, using a tour of Europe and the U.K. intended for November. They expect that by then, there’ll be a lot more places across the world where enormous crowds can gather in song.