Review: Chris Chameleon Under the Stars

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As I sat wrapped in a blanket by a fire pit at the outdoor Wynvlieg Cellar Theatre and watched one of South Africa’s most treasured artists perform under the stars, it occurred to me that, despite the wind whistling around us, this would be a Friday night well spent.

Set in the stunning Paarl valley amongst the vineyards, the concert began with romantic guitarist and vocalist Lize Beekman crooning her sweet melodies to a friendly crowd. Most sipped on Boland wine or hot coffee, while kids frolicked in the open spaces. Food and snacks were on sale, and those who had ordered picnic baskets were richly awarded.

As the last golden rays of the sunset faded, the lanterns were lit and the ambience of the outdoor theatre was nothing short of magical.  Friends clinked glasses, dates cuddled closer, and those hoping to impress overseas visitors revelled in their effortless success.  A night like this is perfect regardless of who you share it with.

It’s unnecessary to say that the brightest highlight of the evening was Chris Chameleon himself. The multiple-award-winning artist has become a household name in the last 15 years, synonymous with South African musical heritage. As he reminisced about his childhood days on the farm, Chris won over any sceptics by making us belly-laugh at his antics. Sometimes he’s deep and melancholy, other times he’s charming and funny, and then all of a sudden there’s a high pitched scream and you’re convinced you’re at the opera. With lyrics about the klein klein jakkalsies of the mind, the irony of loving someone who hurts you and his zany vocal acrobatics, there’s no doubt he has a posse of new fans, and an arsenal of old ones.

The hook with Chameleon is that his particular flavour and style of music can’t be found anywhere else. He is distinctly South African, and his music is critically acclaimed overseas. He often jokes that he was poor for the first 15 years of his career because he refused to conform to the demands of what was popular at the time. Now he’s a global favourite, with nine successful original albums surprising and delighting listeners new and old.

Chris was once posed the question, “what’s it like to be a chameleon?” His answer: “Priceless!”
There’s no doubt in my mind.

Kate West

Chris Chameleon performed at a ‘Picnic under the Stars’ at Wynvlieg Cellar Theatre on 25 November 2011.

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