With her junior effort, Blood to Bone, New Zealand’s Gin Wigmore has once again proven her ability as a true rock artist. Taking the bluesy-alt sound that she mastered on Holy Smoke and Gravel & Wine, Blood to Bone adds more to the mix, pulling together a polished record that appeals to the darker sides of the aforementioned genres.
Last September, Wigmore brought her Blood to Bone tour to Portland’s Doug Fir Lounge. As an underage music fan, the 21-and-over show was a blow. With her album being one of my favorite releases of the year, I was hopeful she would book another tour before the album cycle was up.
Lucky for all of us minors, good fortune came when the Willing To Die tour was announced, including an all-ages stop at Portland’s Star Theater. Though the crowd the night of the show was overwhelmingly 21 and up, some of us more enthusiastic younger fans showed up early to dominate the front row.
Up to that point, the Willing To Die tour opener was advertised as Matthew Santos, a folk rock songwriter out of Minneapolis. Looking over previous tour stop set lists, Santos would likely be making an additional appearance on stage with Wigmore for a duet of her track “If Only.” I was expecting this coming to the venue, but a last-minute switch gave the audience a surprise.
Instead of Santos, the show started with one Gabe Dinger. Dinger was not like any opener I had seen before at a rock show like this. This is largely because he didn’t actually play any music—Dinger is a comedian.
Born and raised in Portland, the funnyman gave a brief standup routine to warm up the crowd, poking fun at Oregon’s weather patterns by comparing the sun to a deadbeat dad; he also grew self-deprecating as he talked about his name. “Gabriel means strong. It’s an angel’s name. Dinger however… it’s a German word meaning ‘whimsical erection.’” The audience cracked up at a number of his punchlines, though I think the reaction would have been better with a crowd for comedy.
As the curtain came down and the stage setup for Wigmore’s set was revealed, the vibe of the rock show we’d been expecting flooded the room. Guitars were set in every corner, amps and drums were scattered about the stage, and a banner declaring “GIN WIGMORE” acted as the backdrop to it all. The show began with the beginning sampling from the tour’s eponymous track.
Hailing from Auckland, Wigmore sports a distinct Kiwi accent in speech. When she’s singing, however, her voice takes on a darker, grittier, raspier rock roar that is both powerful and soothing. This was showcased immediately via the first tracks performed off of her latest record, the more upbeat “New Rush” and the emotional ballad “Black Parade.”
Wigmore blew through tracks off of both Blood to Bone and Gravel & Wine. The crowd’s reaction to every track fed into the atmosphere in the room, giving energy to everyone on stage. Wigmore strutted and danced in true rock fashion while her band filled out the instrumentals with power. While tracks like “Kill of the Night” and “Black Sheep” demonstrated the rawest of Wigmore’s range, slower ballads like “If Only” showed her softer side, switching from a raspy edge to a Kiwi croon, and her skills on the acoustic guitar.
Even as the set was coming to a close with Wigmore’s early track “Sweet Hell,” the audience had no intention of letting the night end. Beckoning Wigmore and her band back on stage with enthusiastic chants, the crowd kept applauding as the band stood. Gin Wigmore began to tear up.
“For a little girl from New Zealand,” she said, “being able to come to America is a big deal. Playing here means so much to me. It’s a dream come true to do this for you.”
Giving her gratitude to us, Wigmore decided to treat the crowd to one more ballad. Backed with piano and the falsetto of her band members, Gin Wigmore sang us out into the night with “I Will Love You.”