Smokie My Reviews 05 OCT 2008

Wow, the week really wound down nicely, with Thursday’s day in the office cut nicely sort thanks to Kyle taking all the junior staff out to lunch at the Dias Tavern in Cape Town, probably to square things out seeing as Riethwaan, Luigi and Jason had been taken out a week or two before for the annual Commerce I.T. strategic planning meeting. It’s been a while since Darryl, Nur, Tracy, Gino, Kyle and I have been out together on a staff outing, and with the delicious egg laden steaks that Dias serves, no wonder the outing was such a great big success (apart from the actual billing trouble at the end of course).

Friday however was to be one up on that as the big event weekend finally pulled together and we were off as a group of ten to see Smokie, live in concert at the Grand Arena, GrandWest Casino.

SmokieSmokie you ask? Yes, that geriatric band from the 70s are indeed once again on a world tour, and seeing as they are so popular with the older, Afrikaans demographic, RSG and Die Rapport saw it fit to pull them aside to South Africa, much to the delight of Monty who, before we had even realised it, had roped everyone into to going to see the show.

So Monty, Cheryl, Mom, Dad, Retha, Miguel, Retha’s Mom, Retha’s Dad, Chantelle and I organised to all meet up in front of the venue at 19:30 for the concert which was scheduled to begin at 20:00, though I heavily protested against this early meet up after learning that the opening act was to be none other than that cringe-inducing youngster that had earlier won that Patricia Lewis-inspired Supersterre competition (the Afrikaans equivalent of Idols), Kobus Muller.

Admittedly the bloke does have a good voice, but it is the voice of a mature, 40 year old man, which makes this youngster particularly difficult to take seriously. As it was, singing to a backing track spelt disaster for this small chap who seems determined to stand continuously in his ridiculous wide-legged ‘power stance’, despite the fact there is not a single guitar within a kilometre from his hands! And thanks to his complete lack of stage presence, the poor guy was forced to resort to giving out CDs rather early on in his set, just to get even the slightest response out from the crowd. Needless to say, I was rather surprised when someone did actually accept the CD he tossed out into the seated crowd – I was just SO sure that they were going to throw it right back at him!

Anyway, like I said, the Smokie concert was aimed at the slightly older demographic, meaning that this was a seated event, something that always feels a little strange for a rock concert in my opinion. Not that it mattered to our contingent of course – we were safely tucked away on the top tier of permanently seated blocks anyway, meaning we had a great view of the stage and whole arena for that matter. Of course, the fact that we were so high up and that the production was too cheap to organise the usual big screens that accompany concerts at the Grand Arena did mean that the idea of bringing along a pair of binoculars might not have been such a bad one after all.

Too bad none of us had thought of that.

Retha and her contingent arrived 15 minutes late, meaning that Chantelle at least got to miss like half of Kobus’ set because she needed to wait outside with their tickets (lucky girl), and after a short intermission, the main show finally got underway as Smokie took to the stage in a colourful show of lights and smoke, a rather nice surprise because I was beginning to think that maybe those cheap bastards had decided to stiff us on those as well!

Now for those of you who don’t know much about British band Smokie, they were pretty big in the 70s and 80s, with a string of hits that include I’ll Meet You at Midnight, Lay Back in the Arms of Someone, Mexican Girl, Wild Wild Angels, Don’t Play Your Rock ‘n’ Roll to Me, Oh Carol, Needles and Pins and of course, Living Next Door to Alice, probably their most recognised song of the lot.

Over the years, the band has gone through more than a few changes, with only one of the original members still active in the group with the current band made up of Mike Craft on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Mick McConnell on lead guitar and vocals, Terry Uttley (the original member) on bass and vocals, Steve Pinnell on drums and Martin Bullard on keyboards.

Surprisingly enough, the guys put on a pretty good show, despite the fact that Mike Craft doesn’t have the greatest of live voices, starting out slowly by playing more of their newer stuff (which most of the crowd simply don’t know), before shifting gear and hitting all the big numbers to which the crowd slowly began to respond, ending the evening off with everyone up and out of their chairs, clapping like crazy and singing as if there simply was no tomorrow.

And of course, as with any band that really only have one smash hit number, the group left us hanging by leaving Alice completely out of the show, only belting it out to the delight of everyone in the crowd right at the end of the encore session.

The show was fairly long and well worth the entrance price, meaning that when the final music died down and everyone had taken their bows and exited stage left, we left pretty happy chappies, content that we had seen a great show with the added bonus that none of the old fogies (with their ridiculously long 80s hairstyles) had died of a heart attack as I had originally feared! :)

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.