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After all these years Van Coke Kartel has finally decided to call it quits with one final tour of the country. As fate would have it their last ever performance takes place at the very first venue they ever played, Mercury Live. Beer is spilled and bruises are earned as the crowd wrings every morsel of enjoyment from Van Coke Kartel one last time.
Retro Dizzy has the pleasure of opening to an uncharacteristically full Mercury. Don’t be fooled by the roadtrip-worthy mellowness of their latest album “Just Relax”– their live set may offer that same style but the delivery is extremely entertaining thanks to their stage presence. Alternative surf sound is delivered with the undying spirit rock ‘n’ roll for a bloody good start to the evening. We’re only a few songs in and already we’re knocking elbows. The bottom bar has almost run out of beer and the floor already glistening with it. On stage Retro Dizzy’s Andre Vlok is convulsing out of his red cardigan as the band pummels through ‘Psychosomatic’.
The Sweet Resistance follows with a notably polished set. Their radio-friendly style of rock is delivered with exceptional vocals and a varied selection of covers scattered in between. Early on, a sped-up version of Imagine Dragons’ ‘Radioactive’ is interesting enough to keep our attention and add a personal touch. But most notable by far is their choice of cover in ‘Blue Eyes’ by the Springbok Nude Girls. Covering a song of such magnitude is daring, and while capably performed it’s likely to polarize the audience.
And then Van Coke Kartel takes the stage for the final time, a little older, greyer and wiser. In the absence of t-shirt cannons, stadiums or gimmicks they give the stage one final beating. For our part, we scream every lyric back at them in the throes of (occasionally tuneless) ecstasy.
We are carried from one era to the next. Nostalgia’s coming on in spades. It’s during the ever-majestic ‘Tot Die Son Uitkom’ and the suburban angst of ‘Buitnekant II’ that the weight of the evening feels greatest. And of course the night would not have been complete without ‘Brandy’, a solid three minutes of guitar worship and screaming. Wynand Myburgh delivers his signature high kick with enough force that one audience member in front flinches momentarily. Meanwhile, Kossew is wreaking all kinds of Van Halen havoc on the lead guitar. Tie this in with Van Coke’s experienced delivery and Oosthuisen’s punchy stick-work and you’ve basically got the A-Team of rock.
Halfway through the set another notable drummer and owner of one of rock’s greatest “Oh” faces Dylan Hunt (Southern Wild) makes a comeback for ‘Sweef’. The power of it all is colossal, his face contorting through the haze of smoke and noise. It’s one of the heaviest tunes of the night and in true rowdy tradition people start spraying beer absolutely everywhere.
As their set draws to a close, I find it hard to believe that a band this good really is calling it quits, but it’s not as if this is the last time we’ll be seeing any of them. With the promise of Fokof’s new album, Francois Van Coke’s solo project and who know what the hell else they have up their sleeves, these musicians still have plenty of miles left. In the mean time… Shack?
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