In the mid ‘90s the grunge era and the rave scene were at their height and out of the former’s angst and the latter’s craziness came Morcheeba who coined the genre term, trip hop.
At the time, Morcheeba brought the electronic scene and rock scene together – ravers listened to them while on a comedown and brought a degree of calmness to a rock audience who’d become used to surly soundtracks.
So when I heard they were travelling to South Africa to play just one show at Kirstenbosch, I booked a flight to Cape Town immediately.
It’s a chilly Friday evening at the Botanical Gardens as Valve State kick things off with a smooth groove to get us in the mood for the main act. The Kirstenbosch crowd is more diverse than I anticipated with both young and old in attendance, despite the band’s career spanning 20-odd-years. The stage’s set is sparse, all I can see are three mirror-balls which is pretty much all they need because once the band moves onto stage, nothing else matters.
Skye Edwards appears, decked in a soft, flowing red-tasseled outfit, and I am completely smitten. At the age of 43 she is the epitome of black excellence, and looks exactly like she did when she started Morcheeba at the age of 18. After Edwards split from the band in 2003 Morcheeba attempted to find a singer who could fill her shoes, but no one came close. Now I understand why. When she’s centre-stage, no one else matters.
The crowd sings along to all the hits and you can see on her face she’s blown away by the fact that we know the words. “It only took us 22 years to get here. Fuck me,” she says exasperatedly.
Their set is a mixture of old and new tracks, with a cover of David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ thrown in for good measure. Skye tells us how she heard that ‘Trigger Hippie’, the first song they ever wrote, made it into the charts back in ’96, but that Whilgfield’s, ‘Saturday Night’ beat them to the number one spot. She proceeds to cheekily sing some of ‘Saturday Night’, matching Whigfield’s sugary pop twang. By the time they play ‘The Sea’ I am pushing a few tears.
Other than the sheer brilliance of the collective musicians on stage, Edwards is everything. I’m completely mesmerised and can’t take my eyes off her. She has a magical energy with a voice to match. There’s a natural chemistry between Ross Godfrey (the founding guitarist) and Edwards, and there’s a natural chemistry between them as Godfrey commands the stage with his grandiose guitar solos. Edwards breaks to introduce the band and tells us that their drummer is her 22-year-old son, Jaega. “I had him when I was about 8,” she laughs. On bass is her husband Steve Gordon, making it a real family affair, and completing their line-up is Richard Milner on keys, bent over his Nord Electro 5 like a mad scientist laying their trip hop foundation.
They end with ‘Part of The Process’ and the crowd is on their feet, hands in the air. I look around and see those old ravers and rock head-bangers reliving their youth while a younger, fresh audience is making new memories.
And even though we had to wait 22 years, it was totally worth it.
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