The sound of a lone trumpeter playing the opening bars of ‘Lose Control’ is superb. As the sky darkens above Kirstenbosch and the stars start to twinkle above the mountain, the audience goes wild as James takes to the stage, and the evening turns from superb to spectacular.
For those needing a heads up, the band is just called James. It’s not a guy called James singing, it is actually made up of seven members, none of them called James. In South Africa the band is best known for their 1993 album, Laid, which included hits ‘Sit Down’ and ‘Say Something’. They have, in fact, released 15 albums, the latest, Living in Extraordinary Times, this year.
Attended by an audience that was made up in the majority by people who were in their teens and twenties in the 90’s, it was a gorgeous evening opened by legendary South African band, Watershed. They had the audience in the palm of their hands. As the sun began to set and the sky turned pink, they played their classic, ‘Indigo Girl’, setting the stage for a perfect show.
James opened with ‘Lose Control’ and moved on into stomping track, ‘Hank’, an angry ode to Trump and his highly questionable politics, off Living in Extraordinary Times. It is the perfect political anthem, with a military beat that gets the pulse racing. The band’s energy radiated over the crowd, getting them all up and dancing.
‘Don’t Wait That Long’, off their 1992 album, Seven, is almost trance-like, with Kirstenbosch providing the perfect, night-insect-filled back track. How to get a Cape Town crowd up, dancing AND with their hands in the air? Ironically, play ‘Sit Down’. The crowd went crazy, singing along and turning the lawns of Kirstenbosch into something resembling The Playground or The Corner House, circa 1995. Well, without the sweaty airlessness.
Thanks, James and Kirstenbosch, for a great night.