When Australian acoustic indie-folk artist Ziggy Alberts announced his last-minute debut South African Tour only six weeks ago, tickets for his Cape Town show sold out in a matter of hours. Which was no surprise really. His Durban and Jozi shows followed suit in the weeks that followed and by the time Ziggy set foot on South African soil his tentative debut tour was already a success – all before a chord had been strummed.
The Sunday of his final show of the tour is an early spring cooker. We arrive at Café Roux in Noordhoek in the early afternoon to find most of the crowd already there, catching an early dinner, or sprawled licking ice creams on the astroturf lawn. It’s mid-way through a spat of load shedding which seems to have inadvertently caused mild chaos. The gig has been pushed back by 30 minutes and there’s a collective frown creasing the foreheads of the event organisers.
They needn’t have worried. The crowd is calm and chattering, and the sun slowly sinks to the horizon. “Just gearing up for a great night,” says Ziggy with a grin during our fleeting conversation in a corner of the parking lot pre-show. He’s elated at the turnout of the tour at large, and is moving through the familiar motions of a brief meet and greet. When I pull out a copy of his collection of poetry, brainwaves, and ask him to sign it, he does so with genuine enthusiasm and listens with interest. I suggest a Kommetjie surf in his brief hours in Cape Town the next day and he nods with exhausted enthusiasm. The crowd is piling into Café Roux now.
The gig begins just as I skid into the room. “How has the tour been?” I ask Caisa Tottszer, Ziggy’s manager as I lick the last of my ice-cream cone and familiar acoustics unfurl across the eager crowd. “Hectic,” she admits with a sort of weary satisfaction. I’m not surprised. Australia is a good two days’ travel from here, the time difference sits at a whopping 11 hours, and they’re only here for a week.
Nevertheless Ziggy’s energy is palpable, the crowd’s own is infectious, and there’s an unquestionable sense of gratitude at the turnout wafting from the stage. He reels out a diverse set of tracks from across his repertoire. From 2014’s “Days In The Sun”, to the more recent “Tattoos”, which is lifted off his imminent album, Dancing In The Dark. Fan favourites such as “Gone (The Pocahontas Song)” and “Runaway” come early on – while we have to wait for the encore to get a rousing rendition of “Love Me Now”.
The energy is high, the pedal-drum brings infectious rhythm into play, but I somehow miss the delicate intimacy that might have made room for tracks like “Hands I Can Hold”, “Searching For Freedom” and “I Believe”. As the evening wears on it becomes abundantly clear that this was something of a poor choice of venue for his grand finale.
When I say poor choice of venue I mean only for a show like this. Café Roux is a beautifully cosy nook tucked into a leafy, peaceful corner of Noordhoek – usually frequented by intimate, seated gigs. Remove the tables however, cram a couple hundred people into that small space, pop an international musician onto a stage barely 30cm off the ground, and we have ourselves an issue.
The low-ceilinged room is stifling after the heat of the day. The space is packed. I can barely catch glimpses of Ziggy himself through the swaying sea of heads – and it’s not even that many heads. I press closer in the hopes of a better view, to no avail, and then step back – it’s too hot. “I don’t know if you got the memo to wear your yoga pants, but we’re actually holding a Bikram yoga session tonight,” Ziggy jokes as he wipes the dripping sweat from his face and considers, not for the first time, whether to request the aircon.
“Runaway” prompts roaring a crowd rendition of the track, while “letting go” reels the energy back in. “I’m hoping to be back at Easter,” he suddenly announces and the little audience explodes. From my admittedly obstructed vantage point I’m relieved, next time I’ll get a better seat.
Between tracks he’s beaming and full of stories. A particularly riveting anecdote comes before a moving performance of the universal patriotism of “together” – and then all of a sudden he’s wrapping up with “Laps Around The Sun”. The crowd bellows for more – and they get it, without hesitation.
“BABY WILL YOU LOVE ME NOW,” we roar as the familiar chords unspool, Ziggy grins and the explosive energy of the small crowd dissipates as swiftly as he leaves the stage. It’s still early and the courtyard of The Noordhoek Farm Village is bustling. I linger long enough to consider bandying conversation, but insead set off on my hour and a half drive home, “heartbeat” still ringing in my ears.
Until Easter then, Ziggy.
Pics by Leigh Groenemeyer