At the beginning of Luca Hart and Riaan Smit’s set at Café Roux in Noordhoek, they told the audience how daunting it is for musicians to play to a small, carefully-listening crowd. But it’s also great, they say, because every note and word is appreciated fully. The venue evidently shares their sentiments; when a table behind us carried on talking throughout the first song, they were politely asked to be quiet or head to the bar – what a relief. Now, the atmosphere was perfect for the two songwriters to share their heartfelt melodies and thoughtful storytelling. The audience listened with great concentration and, although relatively small in numbers, they were adamant to make their appreciation heard.
What made the evening even more special was – apart from the great vegetarian options on the menu – the excellent musicianship. Hart, a violinist, vocalist and occasional mandolinist, and Smit, a guitarist, harmonica player, and baritone vocalist most known as the frontman of festival-rocking six-piece Crimson House, got along so well musically that one hardly noticed their different musical backgrounds. When Smit performed a blues song, Hart enhanced it with her beautifully meandering classical violin, and in return, when Hart shared a teenage anti-love ballad written when she was only 14, Smit added grit with some swampy guitar chords. Both appeared to have great respect for each other’s songs, and took turns backing each other’s creations up.
A definite highlight was an instrumental composition called ‘Swan’. Written by Hart, it was a dramatic journey that conveyed comfort amidst unknown waters – even if the ending seemed tragic. In addition to stripping down some of his Crimson House songs, Smit performed a version of ‘Boy Named Sue’, first made popular by Johnny Cash. Since it’s one that requires you to listen to the story, it was a perfect choice for the evening. Delivered with Smit’s spine-chilling husky voice, it shuddered straight through the audience’s perked eardrums, hitting just the right spot.
After Hart showed off her virtuoso skills by performing two of her EDM-backed violin tracks, the evening ended, sadly, with an emotional rendition of Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World’. Later on, Hart and Smit had me thinking. If only music was always presented with so much love and respect for the craft, and venue owners told their patrons to shut up and listen more often. But then, of course, it might not have been so special.
Luca Hart and Riaan Smit performed live at Cafe Roux on 31 May 2017.