The only other time I’ve watched professional guitar playing was one of those times when you switch on the TV and find yourself still standing next to it, mouth agape, tea long gone cold in your hand half an hour later. In that case it was Rodrigo and Gabriela. This time it was Tony Cox and Steve Newman.
These two maestros were utterly comfortable with their audience, perhaps because much of the audience last night was made up of family, friends and long-standing fans – invited particularly in celebration of the men’s birthdays. Then there was me. But I quickly felt like I knew them too. These two grey haired men in jeans had more than a passing resemblance to Gandalf and Bilbo complete with gentle humour and more than a few references to the old pipe weed.
And their performance could not have been more spectacular had they pulled out the One Ring. Their inspiration appeared to come from fields as diverse as frogs, chips and John Wayne. And they played in styles varying from Spanish guitar to rock ‘n’ roll to African, Turkish, blues, country… they even put a little rock into ‘baroque’.
Some of the tunes had stories behind them, such as The Ballad of Dave and Julie. I loved this one: Dave Brubeck, renowned vegetarian non-smoker, non-drinker, falls in love with Julie Andrews – the wild chick into dog bites, bee stings, chimney sweeps and the rest. Newman and Cox blended Brubeck’s jazz standard Take Five (look it up, you’ll know it) with Favourite Things and Chim Chim Cheree and it worked -brilliantly.
Then there were classics such as Edu Lobo’s mad Zanzibar and Baby Elephant Walk by Henry Mancini – he of the Pink Panther theme tune fame (which incidentally was also included in another love story, this time involving Roger Moore and Peter Sellers…) but the majority of tunes played were their own compositions, of which Cox’s Home at Last, inspired by his return to African soil after two years in the UK, and Newman’s Yeah (named after the chorus which he described as ‘floating’ – we were to feel free to insert it at any time) – were both show stoppers.
Cox and Newman are world-class performers, but have always steered clear of the commercial scene. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for Capetonians to see such a class act in an intimate setting. They are playing for just a handful of days at the Golden Arrow Studio at the Baxter – don’t miss them.