Admittedly, I didn’t know who John Newman was prior to the announcement that Seed Experiences was bringing him to South Africa for two performances, one in Cape Town and another in Jo’burg. Knowing that I was going to attend the show, I tried acquainting myself with his work before the time. His songs are certainly catchy; but what I really like is his unusual voice, and so I got excited about the show.
I was also looking forward to the venue, as the setting for the Cape Town leg was the Good Hope Centre. It’s a change of pace from all the usual places and a fantastic use of space. I was quite overwhelmed when I walked in, because it’s a lot bigger than I expected; but although there was a fair turnout it never quite filled up. I was often reminded of a school hall, which was disconcerting, but an attempt was made to dispel this mood with large bars and chequered dance floors.
South African band ISO kicked things off with an explosive and well though out set, starting with their killer cover of Benny Benassi’s Cinema, which is always a crowd-pleaser. The big venue really allowed them to crank things up several notches and they made the most of their new material, which they held off until the end before finishing with a classic. Some of the lights were not switched off during their set which was annoying, and since they were only switched off after Newman came on and sang a couple of songs, it was unclear whether they were meant to be switched off for the main act, or if someone just forgot about them completely.
Shortly before Newman was due to start the crowd had swelled in anticipation of seeing the young, English singer take to the stage. Merely 23 years old, his youthful exuberance was evident and he channelled his enthusiasm with great effect into his performance. But he balanced the moments of high energy with quiet ones and the moment which stood out for me was when he paused mid-song, bowed his head and stood completely silent and still for what felt like several minutes. The excited tension in the audience rose to fever pitch, making the moment he exploded back into the song that much greater.
As the main act it was not surprising that Newman’s set was louder. It sounded good, but often drowned his vocals, which was a pity considering his incredible voice. His hit song Love Me Again was the grand finale of the evening and went down well with the crowd, who looked fit to burst when it seemed they were to be robbed of the moment of hearing the chart-topper live. Although Newman was meant to headline Sowing the Seeds this year, I can’t really imagine him performing at the festival. Besides which, without the change of plans, Cape Town would not have had the chance to see him at all.