Meet the masked busker who performs for tickets at all Auckland’s big gigs

If you have been to a major gig in Auckland in recent years, you have likely wandered past UK-born busker Matt Irving, although you have probably never seen his face.

The Auckland-based masked busker, currently in his 40s, is a regular fixture at major gigs around Auckland. He always wears a mask of the artist who is performing. If the occasion calls for it, he will be in costume – maybe a dress or a wig.

Outside every gig he can be heard belting out the big hits of whichever band or artist is playing that night. He is there because he loves to interact with the punters, and it scores him access to plenty of shows.

The first time I noticed Irving was at Manchester-native Liam Gallagher’s July concert at Auckland’s Spark Arena. The guitarist, wearing a yellow jacket and Gallagher cardboard mask, was playing the big Oasis hits outside the arena. One inebriated Oasis fan thoroughly enjoyed his time dancing and singing with the busker before the concert.

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Irving told me on the night he was from Manchester. He laughs now, saying he was “from Manchester that night”. He likes to take on the characters of the artists performing, and Gallagher was an easy one. Irving was born in the UK (but not in Manchester, he insists) and moved to New Zealand in 2010.

Taking on the persona of whichever band is in town and entertaining the punters before the show is just “fun”, says Irving, who has been busking outside gigs since the first time he donned a dress and belted out hits like Teenage Dream at a Katy Perry concert on May 8, 2011.

Having played guitar since he was 13, he was staying in a hostel at the time he went along to Perry. He enjoyed the night, got offered a ticket (which he passed on to a bigger fan) and realised this was a gimmick he could have plenty of fun with.

“I usually get a good reaction, and people coming up for photos,” he says.

Matt Irving performing as James Blunt, Chris Martin and Michael Jackson.


Matt Irving performing as James Blunt, Chris Martin and Michael Jackson.

“The best bit, apart from hopefully getting a free ticket, is when people are interactive … singing their hearts away to their favourite songs. It’s a nice buzz to be honest.”

Irving has played outside a huge number of shows over the years. That equates to a lot of lyrics that need to be learned, and it is the toughest part of the gig for Irving.

He has tried using a tablet to help, but says the eye holes in his face masks are too small for it to be an effective tool. He laughs that he struggled to remember the lyrics to Billy Joel songs before the historic Eden Park gig in December – but says he was still “on such a high” after the show.

“It’s always good fun,” he says.

Masked singer Matt Irving has been busking at major gigs for concert tickets since May, 2011.


Masked singer Matt Irving has been busking at major gigs for concert tickets since May, 2011.

When talking about memorable gigs he’s performed at, Irving has a long list. He donned a mask for the first time at a Bryan Adams gig and wore a dress to Adele. He dressed as a capsicum for Red Hot Chilli Peppers and was joined for an impromptu performance by cast members after a stage performance of Mamma Mia.

Ed Sheeran’s lyrics were difficult to learn and Robert Smith and Adele’s accents were the easiest to adopt.

He has memories of Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles and Coldplay and says the crowd generally love to dance and sing with him when he turns up to perform.

At the time of talking, Irving is getting ready to hit Auckland’s Eden Park for the Guns N Roses concert. He has seen them perform before, but he attributes the band for getting him excited about music as a young teenager. Slash is the reason he plays guitar now, he says.

Matt Irving at Liam Gallagher earlier in 2022.


Matt Irving at Liam Gallagher earlier in 2022.

He checks that Stuff does not have access to VIP tickets – we don’t, nor do we pay for interviews with cash or concert tickets, but worth the ask, right?

Regardless, he is hoping his Slash wig, mask and the big hits will be enough to earn him a ticket into the venue on Saturday night.

“I’m not the greatest musician or singer, but I enjoy what I do, and it’s always good fun,” he says.

As for the actual profit this gig rakes in? There’s very little outside of tickets, says Irving. Largely because people tend to carry cards rather than cash. But it’s a fun way to spend an evening, and it’s a gimmick he has mastered over the years. And he does not always leave empty-handed, either.

“People give you cigarettes, which would be great if I smoked,” he laughs.

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