Inviting the public into your living room for an intimate gig with acclaimed musicians seems to be quite a trend in Cape Town lately. I wasn’t surprised therefore when I had minor troubles finding Studio 7. It turned out to be in an apartment building that looks too normal on the outside to have a band like Zebra & Giraffe perform inside.
And a band of this stature is not the exception. Big names such as Vusi Mahlasela, Freshlyground’s Zolani Mahola and Ard Matthews have already played for an intimate audience seated on homely couches or on the cosy wooden floor since the spot became a gig venue two years ago.
And unusual though it may seem, once the lounge and kitchen had filled up with eager music fans and the band had started their set, it appeared quite the best way to watch a band. This could be because the band can’t hide behind the smoke machine or their stage antics or the noise of the crowd. An acoustic performance to a small audience tests true musicality in its purest form. And likewise, as an audience member, you too have to focus all your attention on the music. Thus all other distractions were set aside and Zebra & Giraffe ‘stripped down’ won me over in a couple of (heart)beats.
Now a three piece band, they gave the audience a taste of their new album The Wisest Ones (due out on 23 July) and played some Z&G oldies as well as well chosen covers for sheer nostalgic pleasure. Without losing their sophisticated electro pop-rock style they managed to promise a worthwhile buy with their semi acoustic versions of the new tracks.
With Alan Shenton on the lead electric guitar, Mike Wright on keyboard, drums, some guitar and some vocals and oldest member Greg Carlin playing acoustic guitar the band created a soft psychedelically tinted ‘mel(anch)odic’ sound. Many songs consisted of a fair balance of light melodies and rocky guitar riffs. And some appeared to come from the deepest end of Greg’s heart, flowing out on a voice far more resourceful in a ‘stripped down’ live set than on a studio recording.
They weren’t, however, down and deep throughout the entire set. Greg and Mike cheered the crowd up with a cute version of ‘Final Countdown’ for which they swapped places putting Greg’s newly acquired keyboard skills to the test. Another song that enlivened spirits was a duet version of ‘Have I Got No Soul’ from their second album The Inside. The performance was a beautiful example of the creative as well as personal chemistry that seems to run between the members of the most recent constellation.
This chemistry also came to the fore in between songs when Greg and Mike’s banter kept the crowd laughing. It made them seem less like pop stars and more like people you’d genuinely enjoy inviting to your living room.
If you feel like getting to know Zebra & Giraffe, be sure to make it to one of their upcoming Cape Town gigs at La Cabane in Hout Bay on 5 July, Bertie’s Mooring in Gordons Bay on 6 July or the Brass Bell on 8 July.
Zebra & Giraffe played at Studio 7 in Seapoint on 2 July 2012.