“One of the highlights of the evening was Karen‘s mouth-watering medley, consisting of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’, Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ and Wild Cherry’s ‘Play That Funky Music’.”
Promising to be “bigger and better” than the previous editions, the fourth incarnation of Angels of Rock was heavily hyped in the media, with radio ads and billboards dominating Johannesburg for weeks.
Naturally, you’re always left sceptical with the promise of “bigger and better” being made, and you take it with a pinch of salt, anticipating the worst, but hoping for the best.
Well, that scepticism vanished the minute I walked into the Big Top Arena, Carnival City, and saw one of the most professional layouts I’ve ever witnessed for a local-only event: film crews; pro lighting and expensive sound rigs; 2 large (working) screens on the sides of the stage; ushers; big-ass security guards; and a VIP room with a Harley-Davidson bike. Furthermore, the turnout for the event was healthy – sure, the Big Top Arena wasn’t packed to the rafters at all, but it showed that if an event is marketed correctly, the people will come.
Right on cue, MC Elma Smit (5FM and MK Studio 1) welcomed the crowd, thanked the sponsors, and introduced the all-girl electro pop-rock outfit, Aneva. The band hasn’t been together an awfully long time, and it, unfortunately, showed in their performance. Their rhythm section was strong, but the backup harmonies let down their songs big time, leaving the audience with a few cringe-worthy moments. However, the girls did manage to pull off a decent rendition of The Veronicas’ ‘Untouched’, which showed that Aneva is a work-in-progress and not a finished article.
Next up were Pretoria’s Only When It Rains – arguably, the heaviest band on the night, and the one who nearly lifted the top off the arena with their remarkable energy and musical prowess. Vocalist Alicia Steyn was possessed by the ghosts of Amy Lee (Evanescence) and Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries), as she writhed around like a B-movie scream queen and showed off her enviable range. The crowd went bananas for their unbelievable cover of The Cranberries’ ‘Zombie’ – especially when their lead guitarist, Barry Geldenhuys, pulled off the solo like a true rock star (posturing and all).
I felt sorry for Holly & the Woods and Cortina Whiplash, who had to follow OWIR. Both of the bands were tighter than the clamping vise around my neck on deadline day, but didn’t receive the same sort of ovation that OWIR did. Don’t get me wrong; Holly & the Woods powered along with their guitar-driven Panzer tank, while Cortina Whiplash lay down filthy rock ‘n’ roll morsels for Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead) to eat – however, the atmosphere calmed down (i.e. people went on a piss break) during their respective sets.
The first big commercial act of the evening was the pop duo The Arrows. In fairness, they didn’t do anything to wow, yet they had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. To their credit, they were the only act who made an effort to interact and get the audience involved, and it worked in their favour. Entertaining, even if they were musically average.
Up next was the only questionable “rock” name on the bill: Louise Carver. Well, what can you say about Louise Carver which hasn’t been said before? Louise was Louise. Her set was flawless, professional and bursting with all her hits, such as ‘Home’ and ‘Warrior’ (plus, a debut performance of her latest single ‘How You Gonna Do It’). Maybe, simply just an angel, than an angel of rock?
Immediately after Carver said goodnight, the crowd started chanting “Karen! Karen!”, so we knew who Ms. Popular was on the night. Karen Zoid might very well be South Africa’s answer to Janis Joplin or Patti Smith, because this lady has a superstar presence like no other; she hadn’t even opened her mouth, and the audience were mesmerised! One of the highlights of the evening was Karen‘s mouth-watering medley, consisting of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’, Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ and Wild Cherry’s ‘Play That Funky Music’.
Unfortunately, after Zoid’s set, I noticed that many people started to leave, not waiting for the headliners Flash Republic. If you were one of the people who left, you should feel FOMO for the rest of your life, because Tamara Dey and company gave THE performance of their lives. Up until this point, I was certain that no-one would dethrone OWIR as the standout performers of AOR, but then came Flash Republic to throw a disco spanner in the works. Many might talk about Tamara, Ryan Dent and Craig Massiv as being the foundations of this group, but Isaac Klawansky’s sick superhuman beats and Martin Rocka’s handling of his six-string axe are what take this band to a whole other level. Mind blown.
Looking back at AOR, there weren’t any lowlights – besides a weird cowgirl wanting a high 5. In fact, it was a jolly good, well-produced evening. So, here’s looking forward to the 2013 edition.