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Return of the Prodigal Sons

by Andrew Thompson / 19.07.2009

If ever there was a recipe for the perfect home-grown music event, the kind that leaves your ears ringing and your heart warm, this was it. Blk Jks, playing their first gig on African soil after months touring and recording in America, at House of Nsako, one of the jewels in the tarnished crown of Brixton, Jozi.

Nsako is the kind of place that screams good times from the moment you stoop through the curtained entrance. But drop the Blk Jks into the mix, everyone’s favourite culture jammers, and you’d be forgiven for openly salivating on the polished concrete floor.

But that’s pretty much where this musical fantasy ended. There was a fair deal of pressure on the guys to show us what they’d learnt over the seas; surely they’d want to leave their fans speechless, screaming at them never to leave our beautiful shores again. You’d expect them to blow the crowd away with their newly discovered first-world professionalism, in a venue that, decor, atmosphere and crowd-wise, at least, couldn’t have been picked better.

Blk Jks

A new habit which the band seems to have developed during their US sojourn is to keep the crowd hanging in that agonising pre-performance lingo. It took over an hour on Friday night, while they tinkered with every mic and instrument, ensuring absolute sound perfection. Which, perhaps, would have been something worth waiting for. But when you get hit with 15 minutes of feedback just a couple of songs in, you begin to feel slightly short-changed, in both the money and time departments. And as the crowd started filtering out to the tables at the back and the fresh air in the courtyard, this gig had anti-climax written all over it.

Eventually the feedback issue was resolved, but in its wake we were left with mic levels so low that even while Linda Buthelezi was giving it his usual 110%, it was damn near impossible to figure out what the hell he was singing. By the time the clock struck 1 they were strumming along so calmly and disjointedly that the girl next to me summed it up most succinctly: “It’s almost like they’ve forgotten we’re here.”

It’s a pity then, that by the time things really started kicking off, when they eventually pulled the stragglers at the back into the fray and kicked into high gear with that lethal mixture of music, venue and crowd, that it was all pretty much over. If the gig had this intensity and professionalism right from the start, then I’d have left feeling just fine. But it took too long to get it all together, and, unfortunately, the result was a 60 buck gig that will leave fans yearning for the world-class homecoming gig that we all actually deserve, and that the Blk Jks are capable of performing.

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