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Violent Femmes Live in Jozi - Violent Femmes Live in Jozi

2006-07-14 15:45

- CD review: their latest "best of" - hear song clips, get the lowdown

5 | 11 | 2005

They walked on, plugged in and pretty much started playing. It was an unassuming start to one helluva concert.

They'd been here once before. Doing first in a series of secret Lucky Strike gigs, Violent Femmes caught a glimpse of how a couple hundred South African fans felt about them. But on Saturday night, if there were any doubts whatsoever as to whether the band could hold down a venue like the Coca Cola Dome - for not one but two nights in a row - these doubts squashed.

"Who knew? I didn't know," lead vocalist Gordon Gano thought out loud halfway through the set. "But now I know," he finished, grinning as he surveyed the nine-thousand-strong crowd. Some of us had a feeling it would turn out like this, as soon as we started approaching the entrance to the Dome and saw the thousands of people in the pouring rain, streaming in. "People will pay good money to come and see something they believe in," a friend of mine had said.

So you can imagine how well "American Music" went down. All ages were dancing along to that infamous chorus, including a ten year old girl and her mother. "This is my third concert," she tells me. "I went to Black Eyed Peas and Avril Lavigne, but that was very boring." Clearly, she's having a lot more fun with songs written before her time. Among the sweat and spit and beer and bodies, the realization dawned on me: this is the power of good songs. Get those under your belt and you can play them for years to come, even in South Africa, two decades and a generation later.

Good songs make for good covers and the band's version of "You are My Sunshine", the song Gano labelled as "a sad song that everyone seems to think is quite happy", got a certain country style feel added to it, while the various percussion instruments Ritchie played gave the set variety. Between Ritchie and Gano, the band had a great rapport going with the crowd.

"We're going to Zooloo (what you and I would say as Zulu) country and they may dance for us spontaneously. But if they don't, I'm going to ask them really nicely..." Ritchie says, oh so cunningly, before launching into Dance Motherfucker Dance. And then after, "It's not Sunday night, not's rock 'n roll Saaatuuurdaaay!" he screamed.

Rock 'n roll with a lot of respect. The band scores huge points for including some of our local talent in their Horns of Dilemma section, saxophonist Moses Khumalo and Big Willie and Ampie Omo from Fuzigish. Big Willie laid it down for Waiting for the Bus, prompting Gano to ask out afterwards: "Did you hear his bluesiness?" More points gained for bringing on the African Drum Choir, and naming each one of them, before finishing off with a rousing percussive instrumental number, on which Ritchie played the xylophone.

Called back for an encore, the Femmes went out with a frenzied "Add it Up", leaving screaming fans waiting for their next return.

- Nadia Neophytou

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