Gig Review: Kimberleigh Aleksandra, LMG
“This next song is about partying all night,” Captain Stu frontman, James Klopper, began. “You guys like the sunrise? It’s beautiful through a cloud of liquor.”
The roar of the crowd was enough to signify that this gig – despite the sound issues and some less than stellar performances – was a success.
The night’s live recording started with a bang. The bang of a busted bass amp, that is. Lancaster Band’s opening song ‘The Boys’ was rudely interrupted. Despite this shakey beginning, the multi-generational quartet rocked on. They restarted the song, saying that it was perfect for bringing some excitement. And they were right. They are just the type of upbeat people you need for warming up an audience. Signs of a raucous party atmosphere began to emerge. Towards the end of set, lead vocalist & guitarist Robin Lancaster gave some band history before introducing apartheid era song, ‘Modern Science’. It reached No 1 on Capitol Radio’s charts in 1981 and was a massive hit outside of South Africa at the time, thanks to the band’s controversial political standing.
Grassy Spark took to the stage after Lancaster Band. It’s quite interesting seeing these two juxtaposed. In one evening you receive a wistful dose of days gone by, while keeping things fresh with the band-du-jour. Grassy Spark’s performance was electrifying and arousing, with impressive guitar solos by co-lead vocalists, Yanick Bathfield and Josh Riley. A certain synergy was clearly evident, making for a tight, smooth show. Their interaction with the crowd was phenomenal, too, and by the end of the set everyone – literally everyone save the injured – was on their feet. Not bad for a band who, according to their biography, want to “inject new life into the once mighty SA ska scene”.
Captain Stu are of old stock, too. Founded in the early naughties when most of the band members were still in high school and college, they are younger than the Lancaster dynasty, but hold the same local legacy. They might not be apartheid heroes, but they have been played on almost every radio station, performed at almost every festival in South Africa and have even taken their music to Australia. But despite their seemingly successful story, one can only wonder if this is it for the ska veterans. Their recent Daisies performance was found wanting. An air of awkwardness prevailed, with a pitiful hungover crowd witnessing the show. Perhaps this wasn’t entirely their fault. They were up against the might of The Hives and Skunk Anansie the night before and the arguably early 10am slot did nothing to help. So naturally, although I was excited about the evening, I did have some reservations. Only time would tell if they had made the wrong choice in re-joining the ska scene in early 2012 or if they were just a little bit rusty.
Finally it was time for the stars to step on stage. Ever the awkward band of the hour, Captain Stu’s first song began with drummer Ryk Otto accidentally dropping his sticks. Hilarity ensued – a perfect icebreaker. After a couple of fun tracks, the band performed the laid-back ‘Only One Life To Live’ to an energetic, dancing crowd. Halfway through the set and it looked like they had this gig in the bag. It was a home run. A cinch. And with a couple of oldies thrown into the mix, the fans went wild.
It is, however, blatantly evident that Captain Stu has steered away from their original, local flavour to embrace a more streamlined, mainstream ska sound. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. Change is inevitable and any band needs to adapt easily in order to keep up with the rapid progression of the music industry. Their authentic African touch is clearly missed in newer songs, though, and just hearing some of the oldies brought a feeling of nostalgic euphoria to the audience. Overall, this was a riveting gig from start to finish, despite the technical hiccups and I can’t wait to hear the live recording.