It was Women’s Day and GrandWest Casino was an unholy mecca. Kids with piercings, tattoos and emo hairstyles had made the pilgrimage to see revered bands normally only seen on MTV. Excitement was hot in the air as the devoted streamed in for a marathon 8 hour worship frenzy.
The youngest and fittest found their places first, though the crowd got progressively older as the evening wore on. A determinedly Afrikaans Van Coke Kartel opened with what they do best: steadily riffed guitar sounds and the unmistakeable straightforward rock vocals of Francois van Coke. Despite the waves of appreciation from the crowd, the overwhelming emotion was anticipation for what was still to come. Which band was everyone most looking forward to? The collective answer: “Seeeeeetheeeer”.
Van Coke Kartel were followed by KONGOS, the four sons of multi-million-selling British singer-songwriter John Kongos. These brothers, who spent much of their youth in South Africa, wasted no time in proving that talent doesn’t skip a gene: so much so that I almost believed Dylan Kongos when he launched into “a song that we wrote in the 1960s”, which turned out to be The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’. Their reggae-infused version was performed flawlessly, with a soft approach that rivalled the original. Just as convincing were the songs they wrote themselves. KONGOS had everyone singing along with ‘Come with Me Now’ – a song which includes vocals from all band members and epitomizes their clean yet eclectic sound.
Those who had sung so loudly had to find a second wind: rockers Eagles of Death Metal were up next. Lead singer Jesse Hughes, aka Boots Electric, has a reputation for kick ass entertainment skills which he quickly proved well-founded. “Have you ever been rocked so hard by a moustache before?” he hollered through his profound facial hair. His disarming hillbilly accent had us all swooning. “I hope all yew men out there give yerr ladies a good tiiiime tonight. Otherwise I’m gonna be reaaaal disappointed,” he drawled, to roars of approval. Hearts were racing at top speed as he struck into favourites such as “English Girl” and “Whorehoppin (Sh*t, Godd*mn)”. The backing vocals to “I Want You Soo Hard (Boy’s Bad News)” were mastered by an enthralled audience that almost had the floor moving up and down. Addiction was instant: with a sweat-inducing fear of loss I watched Hughes appear to stalk off the stage in a huff only to see him return to announce that someone had been asking the band to finish up their set. To universal delight he declared unequivocally “Yew gawn hafta shoot me if yew want me to leave this stage.” Cue: rapturous screams of joy.
But eventually Eagles of Death Metal had to make way for the next act and, heartbroken and wrung out, we watched as Enter Shikari took the stage. This British band introduced themselves by saying “we’re known for f***ing up genres.” And so they did. Roughton “Rou” Reynolds rapped, sung and pulled off screamo vocals over heavy metal to dubstep sounds. Not only do they f**k up genres, they also f**k up physical objects. They dashed from one side of the stage to the other faster than I could think, surfing on monitors, throwing microphones around, trying to pull the stage curtain closed (to the disgust of a mute backstage official) and swinging their guitars through the air until Liam “Rory” Clewlow announced that his was broken. Already emotionally vulnerable, the audience loved every minute of this frenzied performance. As if the physically arduous escapades of Enter Shikari weren’t enough, Reynolds’ newly acquired command of the Afrikaans language was pretty remarkable. But most impressive was their ability to create a unique sound in a time in which we increasingly feel that every sound has already been ‘done’.
And then it was time for the headliners: Seether. But this band, whose return to South Africa has been anticipated for so long by so many, was ultimately disappointing. On a very dimly lit stage, they played a set comprised mostly of their slower songs. The sound quality was good but after the crowd pleasing antics of Eagles of Death Metal and Enter Shikari, Seether seemed utterly indifferent to the audience. A brief “hou gaan dit?” was all the audience interaction we got. Rumours quickly circulated that they were massively hungover, having rocked out too hard at their gig the previous night in Durban. Certainly that would explain all the cancelled interviews and meet-and-greets with fans at One Night in Cape Town. Nevertheless, loyal fans still showed devoted appreciation.
Welsh heavy metal band Bullet for My Valentine appeared considerably happier to be in Cape Town. Numerous apologies for having not made it ‘down south’ before, along with Michael Paget’s instrumental performance of ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’ confirmed this. Their well-rounded sophisticated heavy metal sound was met with head-banging, moshpits and loud shouts of appreciation. Despite – or perhaps because of – a lot of seemingly rehearsed ‘rocker’ poses, they won the Grand Arena over, not only with an immaculate musical performance, but also by exuding a thoughtful, lovable nature.
It was perhaps not everyone’s ideal Women’s Day, but those present are unlikely to match it again for sheer music-driven adrenaline. It’s been three days, and I’m still on a high. Women’s Day will never be the same again. ‘You strike a woman, you strike up rock music…’
One Night in Cape Town took place at Grand Arena, GrandWest on 9 August 2012.
We have some excellent photos here.