Events, Reviews

Live Review: Bateleur & The Brother Moves On

Ian Curtis once described the idiosyncrasy of his live performances as being driven by the thought that…

Ian Curtis once described the idiosyncrasy of his live performances as being driven by the thought that “instead of just singing about something, you could show it as well; put it over in the way that it is, if you were totally involved in what you were doing”. That notion of total immersion in what you are doing – of becoming the manifestation of the things about which you sing – seems to go some way to articulating the overwhelming experience that is seeing The Brother Moves On perform live.

It might seem peculiar to anyone who listened to The Brother Moves On’s exceptional album A New Myth that Raytheon Moorvan described them as “fundamentally a live band”, in a PLATFORM interview earlier this year. Any such misgivings, however, are dispelled within moments of watching them perform. Their total immersion in the act is contagious. They seem to fill every inch of the space they occupy and draw everything towards them with the unadulterated force of their presence.

This presence is anchored by their astonishingly poised lead singer, Siyabonga Mthembu. But while his charisma – and the omnipotence of his voice – would dominate most bands and most live acts, he is matched at every turn by the equally bravura band members that surround him.They were joined on this occasion by British jazz maestro, Shabaka Hutchings – whose performance on saxophone was every bit as immense as Siya’s vocal display. It was an assemblage of colossal talents that amalgamated into something even greater than the sum of their parts. They create a rare kind of bombardment of sound; one which would overpower the listener if each facet were not so layered with intricacy: from the pulsating guitars to the metronomic throb of the drums. They combined to create what was a truly singular performance.

It ended with such a sense of finality that it was almost surprising when Bateleur stepped up to play their set. The crowd – seemingly a little weary and jaded from the delays and the energy of the TBMO experience – were now dispersed for the start of the Bateleur set. Unfazed, the band opened with the lush instrumentals and the intricate guitar-work between Nicholas Van Reenen and Adam Bertscher that has lifted them to the apex of Cape Town’s music scene.

The band, buffeted by Van Reenen’s whitest-white-boy-dance-moves-this-side-of-a-hoërskool-prom, launched into a set that was a diverse spattering of old favourites and ponderous new directions. They have developed a particularly distinct and original new sound, perhaps unsurprisingly, given the stargazing synth notes provided by Louis Pienaar. It seems that Van Reenen’s electronic project, Fever Trails, has begun to pollinate the Bateleur experience, as the songs were more direct and dance tinged, which further whets the appetite for any long-awaited debut LP. The band, aided by the energy of Sassquatch (Ben Rausch) on keytar, were aiming to play a looser, less restrained set. But, unaided by the venue’s sound issues, the timing and the barnstorming efforts of their friends before them, their set felt a little undistinguished. This is not, however, to underplay the band’s characteristic extra edge and chemistry live, and this was manifested by the traumatizing tension and release of fan-favourite ‘Divorce’. In summary, it was an interesting if understated set. 

Filling the spaces between the acts, and in spite of Manila’s relatively poor sound, the audience was kept bubbling with a woozy playlist that included crooner sleazeballs like Mac DeMarco and Connan Mockasin. During one interlude, Van Reenen even managed to squeeze in some throbbing Lone and Andy Stott cuts, which buffered the – relatively – seamless changeovers. The tail end of the night was Cutting Gems’ (Jeremy Bishop) always-impressive selection of breezy and ebullient RnB-tinged electronica, which provided a fitting comedown from the night’s spectaculars. However it was a night whose centrepiece was undoubtedly, and fittingly, a truly remarkable performance by The Brother Moves On: one that will leave Cape Town yearning for more.

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