Category: Tour Diary

Rodriguez and Big Sky live at The Blues Room, 17 & 18 June 1998

15 years ago, today, Rodriguez performed at The Blues Room in Johannesburg to launch the Live Fact album. This album was recorded on the 10th March 1998 on the Cold Facts tour of South Africa which features strongly in the Searching For Sugar Man film.

Musicians

Sixto Rodriguez: Vocals, acoustic guitar
Willem Möller: Electric Guitar
Reuben Samuels: Drums, percussion
Graeme Currie: Electric bass, acoustic bass
Tonia Selley: Background vocals, percussion
Russel Taylor: Keyboards
Robin Walsh: Acoustic guitar

Willem Möller and Rodriguez | photo: Nadine Hutton

Willem Möller and Rodriguez | photo: Nadine Hutton

The Set list

  1. I Wonder
    from Cold Fact
  2. Only Good For Conversation
    from Cold Fact
  3. Can’t Get Away only on 17th
    from The Best Of Rodriguez / At His Best
  4. Crucify Your Mind
    from Cold Fact
  5. Jane S. Piddy only on 17th
    from Cold Fact
  6. To Whom It May Concern
    from Coming From Reality / After The Fact
  7. Like Janis
    from Cold Fact
  8. Inner City Blues
    from Cold Fact
  9. Street Boy
    from The Best Of Rodriguez / At His Best
  10. Halfway Up The Stairs
    from Coming From Reality / After The Fact
  11. I Think Of You
    from Coming From Reality / After The Fact
  12. Rich Folks Hoax
    from Cold Fact
  13. Climb Up On My Music
    from Coming From Reality / After The Fact
  14. Sugar Man
    from Cold Fact
  15. Forget It
    from Cold Fact
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Brian Currin’s Tour Diary

Pre-tour:

11th February
What a day!

Firstly Sugar phoned me at 12.30 p.m. to say: “Rodriguez is coming!”

Then driving to the Waterfront in Cape Town I see spray-painted on a sign at the entrance: “Rodriguez Alive at the Velodrome 6/7 March”.

If that isn’t enough excitement for one day I see Eva’s comments on The Forum: “My father is alive and well. We are on our way to South Africa to tour”.

Who would have believed it? 6 months ago I thought he was dead, now he’s coming to perform in Cape Town!

12th February 7.20 a.m.
Radio Good Hope announces “Rodriguez is coming to South Africa!” and plays a snippet of “I Wonder”.

16th February
Cape Times confirms Cape Town concerts.

I bought my ticket today for Saturday night, 7th March front row.

Ticket 7 March 1998

The sign at the Waterfront has gone, replaced by “Respect Our Planet” or something!

17th February
Article appears in The Star in Johanneburg about the forthcoming tour.

19th February
I found out today that Rainbow Productions are the company handling the publicity for the tour.

20th February
Interview in Mail & Guardian by Craig Bartholomew.

21st February

For the first time, an International Artist will be backed by an all South African Band – Big Sky, comprising the following highly talented artists:

Willem Möller – Electric Guitar
Russel Taylor – Keyboards
Reuben Samuels – Drums, percussion
Graeme Currie – Electric bass, acoustic bass
Tonia Selley – Background vocals, percussion

The band will open the concert with acclaimed frontman, Steve Louw, performing all Big Sky’s greatest hits.

Hard in rehearsal already, the band are preparing for Rodriguez’s arrival and ensuing rehearsals, to ensure that avid fans will not be disappointed by the quality of the sound. Fans can anticipate all the great tracks from Cold Fact and more.
– Barbara Walker, Rainbow Productions, Cape Town, 21st February 1998

25th February
Posters for the Cape Town concerts start appearing around Cape Town.

Poster Cape Town

Poster Cape Town

28th February

Old Mutual Direct welcomes Rodriguez to South Africa.
– The Saturday Paper, Natal, 28th February 1998

1st March

Today Rodriguez and his entourage leave Detroit to begin their two week/six date South African tour. We at the Great Rodriguez Website are proud to have been part of the process that has resulted in this tour and wish Rodriguez and all his family a successful tour and an enjoyable stay in our country. Your much anticipated visit is truly the answer that will make all those questions disappear.
– Stephen “Sugar” Segerman, The Forum, 1st March 1998 (Sunday 8.07 a.m.)

2nd March (Monday 9 p.m.)

A night I’ll never forget.

Phone rings: “Hi Brian, this is Eva, would you like to meet my father?”
Would I ever? I rush over to his Camps Bay guest house to meet the man, his family, the Big Sky band, the management and promotion people…

What a thrill! The guy is cool, laid back, friendly, open. He thanks me for my efforts with this website and answers my inane questions about album releases, musicians, etc.

Zev Eizik, Rodriguez’s manager (and Rodriguez family friend) gives me an original 1977 vinyl copy of the Australian-only album At His Best and Rodriguez autographs the lyric sheet for me!

I meet Eva, Konny (Rodriguez’s wife) and Regan his third daughter. They laugh when they tell me that they knew where Rodriguez was all the time! Sandra couldn’t be here because she’s just had a baby – the Man is a grandfather!

Sugar and I walk around in a daze the whole evening. We eventually leave at about 1am, exhausted, drained, uplifted, overwhelmed…

2 March 1998

3rd March

Photograph in Cape Argus

Cape Argus March 3, 1998

3rd & 4th March
Rehearsals at Milestone Studios in Cape Town

5th March (Thursday)
7 a.m. Rodriguez interviewed on The Breakfast Club TV program (SABC 2).

10.30 a.m. Eva, Sugar, Craig and Brian meet at Nino’s in Cape Town.

Sugar, Brian, Eva, Craig, David 5 March 1998

Sugar, Brian, Eva, Craig, David 5 March 1998

7.30 p.m. Rodriguez interviewed on Front Row TV program (MNET) and performs an “unplugged” solo version of “I Wonder”.

 

The Tour:

Tour Programme

Tour Programme

6th March (Friday)
12 p.m. I attend an hour of rehearsals at the Velodrome (after delivering the lyrics for A Most Disgusting Song at Eva’s request!). They rehearse “Sandrevan Lullaby – Lifestyles”, but don’t perform it at the concerts!

9.30 p.m. Rodriguez rocks Cape Town. He appears on stage to a standing ovation and everybody sings along to the songs. What a performer, what a show!

David, Brian, Craig, Sugar 6 March 1998

David, Brian, Craig, Sugar 6 March 1998

7th March (Saturday)
Another great show, even better than Friday night. This man is a legend – no new album, no single on the charts yet he attracts huge audiences from all age groups!

Rodriguez and Big Sky On Stage 7 March 1998

Rodriguez and Big Sky On Stage 7 March 1998 | photo: Brian Currin

Rodriguez, Brian 7 March 1998

Rodriguez, Brian 7 March 1998

Set List 7 March 1998

10th-13th March

…I had the pleasure of seeing the great man at the Standard Bank Arena in Johannesburg and it was awesome!!! Truly great concert.
– Wayne Lord, 9th March 1998

Craig Bartholomew says that he met Sandra (Rodriguez’s daughter) after the show, so she must have just arrived, because she wasn’t in Cape Town.

Went to see Mr Rodriguez live, on stage, in SA tonight – what an utterly amazing experience. I can now die a happy woman.
– Lydia Steffens, 10th March 1998

Rodriguez at Allenby Campus
Oh, about the Allenby Campus (Bramley) appearance – it was amazing!! He appeared at the music school there the one morning. I can’t remember the exact date but I can try find out for you if you want… (wait now that I think of it, it was the day of his 1st or 2nd JHB concert).

He arrived there the one morning and headed for the practice room where the students perform – on his way there, he walked passed me and greeted me and asked me how I was doing, etc. Anyway, from there he went to the stage where people were allowed to ask questions, etc. He answered all of them and I found him to be extremely intelligent and he was very polite – when someone in the audience sneezed he said, “bless you”.

He also performed 3 songs for us: Sugar Man, I Wonder and some other track he said was going to be on his new album. This was especially cool ’cause there were only like 100 people in the room – it was amazing. And afterwards he signed autographs for about half an hour… I got one! When I approached him, he kept thanking me for having him there… I think I told him that I loved him and I remember saying to him, “thanks for the music, man!”.
– Dudley, 4th August 1998

I went to the concert at the Carousel & was amazed. I am a new fan, don’t know much about the background to Rodriguez or his music, but I loved the concert. I found his interaction with the crowd amazing, he came across as down to earth, sincere & totally amazed by the roaring of the crowd for more.
– Christal Cadger, 11th March 1998

The Rodriguez Concert was undoubtably the greatest I have ever attended. Only a great person could be so humble; reading his sheets and squinting and touching the audience.
…and don’t try to enchant me with your manner of dress ‘cos a monkey in silk is a monkey no less. Genius.
– Justin Frank, 13th March 1998

I attended the Durban gig. It was amazing! I am 17 and was introduced to Rodriguez by the Brother. Rodriguez’s music has changed the way I look at music, life and poetry (he is a poet!)
– Darren Wood, March 1998

15th March
This exceptional sold-out tour is now over, and we can get back to our normal lives…

Yeah, right!

What a tour, what a man, what memories – the mystery is gone, but the magic continues forever.

Post-scripts:

16th March
Show-openers for U2, Just Jinger, cover Sugar Man at the Green Point stadium and everyone sings along!

22nd March
Highveld Stereo plays I Wonder at number 88 on their All-time Top 100.

23rd March
I bought Just Jinger’s new CD today at Top CD and noticed at Musica in Claremont that Cold Fact was number 11 in their Top 50 sellers! Titanic was number 1 (of course).

Dear friends,

I reviewed your comments, impression and responses. This is my first message on the “net”. We are at Wayne State University Library, Detroit, Michigan.
I have been in Detroit for about a week.
The RSA (Republic Of South Africa) was an extraordinary event for me.

Thank you for your thoughts, kindness and energy.
I will stay posted and will respond further as soon as I get my equilibrium back.

Peace
Rodriguez, 23rd March 1998

26th March
News report appears in USA Today about SA tour.

30th March

Sugar’s post-tour message on the Rodriguez Forum

So, Rodriguez’s tour of South Africa is over. Less than a year ago the possibility of this happening was so unthinkable that there were actually people in SA who didn’t go to the shows believing it was a hype! The tour was a wonderful success from every aspect and the Cult of Rodriguez keeps growing. The word has gone around the world about this event and requests for tours have been received from Toronto, Augusta, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

We are also honoured to have a message on this web-board from Rodriguez himself who, I believe, is getting cyberactive to monitor his two websites. In the March 26th edition of USA Today, the global US newspaper, there is an article by Ellis Cose who is a contributing editor for Newsweek magazine. It is an article titled “Singer embodies So. Africa’s hopes” and is, to my knowledge, the first article about Rodriguez to appear in any American publication. There is talk of a video documentary that was shot during the tour, the possibility of a release of a live CD from the tour and the added possibilty of a new album by Rodriguez. Please watch this space for further news.

I was also one of a number of people who were interviewed for an article to appear in the Wall Street Journal during the next few days, also about Rodriguez and his SA tour. Seems America is waking up to the existence of this unknown star in their midst. About time too! I guess we have to thank the American pres. Bill Clinton for this as due to his visit here, there were a number of journalists hanging around SA and while they were here, the whole Rodriguez tour phenomenon happened and caught their attention. I firmly believe that we are seeing the beginning of Rodriguez’s world-wide revival.

It is a fact that George Bernard Shaw’s plays were only produced for the first time when he was 94 years old. Rodriguez is far younger than that and is in great shape both physically and mentally. The timelessness of his songs and music, as evidenced by the SA concerts and the number of messages on this web-board, is a clear indication that the new Rodriguez era has just begun. Couldn’t happen to a cooler person. We South Africans thank Rodriguez for his time, his music, his grace, friendship and generosity and most of all… for bringing back all those colours to our dreams!!

3rd April

Sony Music SA recently recorded Rodriguez’s second Standard Bank Arena show for release on CD. The album will be entitled Live Fact and is scheduled for a late April release.
– Rui De Sousa, Strategic Marketing Manager of Sony Music South Africa, 3rd April 1998

8th April 9.26 p.m.
Radio Metro play a rap / hip-hop version of I Wonder, performed by Generation EXT.
This is the very first time this re-make is being played on air.
Vocals by Philippa Berrington-Blew and rap by Tazz.
Produced by Barry Dean and co-produced by Craig Bartholomew.

Very cool.

“Sounds good to me” says DJ Wilson B Nkosi.

This song is as yet unlicensed to any label, but I believe various major labels are interested. This track is chosen as the hit-pick of the week and will be played every evening around 11 p.m.

21st April
Cold Fact
is at number 30 in Musica’s Top 50 sellers. Not bad for an album first released in SA in 1971 and more than a month after the tour.

22nd April
Just Jinger
release their new video, Live, Unplugged & Backstage which includes a live and unplugged version of Sugar Man recorded at the Little Theatre, Pretoria on the 17th October 1997.

8th June
Tonia Selley tells me she is directing a film documentary of the SA tour. The SABC have bought the programme and it will hopefully be aired in November.

12th June
Live Fact released in South Africa.

13th June
Theunis Engelbrecht plays songs from Live Fact on Punt Radio (on 729MW in Cape Town and 1332 MW in Gauteng) between 7 and 10pm. I don’t receive MW very well, but I heard Climb Up On Music just before 8pm.

17th & 18th June
Rodriguez performs at the Blues Room in Johannesburg to launch the Live Fact CD.

5th November
Rui De Sousa tells me that almost 9000 copies of Live Fact have been sold to date.

Beat Speak, 14th March 1998

Hi Wonder!

by Sugar

It’s hard to type when one’s feet refuse to stay on the ground. I still keep floating around from the euphoria of seeing two awe-inspiring concerts on the weekend, both by the same ou. I’m talking of course about Rodriguez who finally performed to his many South African fans and it’s difficult to decide who was more overawed by the confrontation.

Rodriguez had not performed since 1981 and even those concerts, in Australasia, did not nearly attract the same fans as the SA concerts, so, when Rodriguez walked out onto the stage at the Bellville Velodrome, he almost staggered backwards from the roar and vibes that poured onto the stage from the first night crowd. The performance that Friday night was fine if a little patchy but no-one seemed to notice. Rodriguez forgot the odd line and on a few occasions played at a different tempo to the band, who very professionally managed to plaster over these musical cracks.

Rodriguez, Sugar and his family and Eva

Rodriguez, Sugar and his family and Eva

The second concert on Saturday night, however, was wonderful. A far larger crowd arrived due obviously to a strong local word-of-mouth promotion. Rodriguez and his band were prepared and well-rehearsed and once again the crowd maintained a remarkable level of energetic approval and non-stop singing to each and every song. All the age groups were represented, from 60-year-olds to young children, all caught up in the magic of the moment, signifying indisputably that Rodriguez’s music has passed the test of time and is not simply a ’70s phenomenon.

The response to these concerts was repeated throughout the tour. The two concerts in Johannesburg at the Standard Bank Arena were sold out and generated the same fanatical and ecstatic reaction. One of the Durban dates was replaced by a show at the Carousel complex outside Pretoria and that too was full. There is a strong feeling that this remarkable tour could be the spark that hopefully kick-starts Rodriguez’s long overdue world-wide recognition. Through the Internet, his fans all over the world have been closely monitoring these events in South Africa and requests for tours have been received from as far afield as Australia, Canada, England and the USA. Some United States newspapers have already started making enquiries, sensing a story in all of this!

Rodriguez is a humble, intelligent and sensitive man who deserves all the recognition he will no doubt be receiving. After both the Cape Town shows, he mingled with the assorted press and fans who had lingered backstage to meet him and shook hands, hugged, spoke to and signed autographs for each and every one of them until he was satisfied that no-one had been overlooked. As they say in Yiddish, he is really a mensch!

I am still quite overwhelmed by the whole Rodriguez situation. We all believed he was dead but he most certainly wasn’t and here he was recreating his music that meant so much to so many people for so long. I will always remember singing along to all those songs that are so deeply embedded in my/our memories, but three special memories stand out for me. The first was seeing Rodriguez’s two daughters, Eva and Regan, sitting at the foot of the stage watching their father perform. Eva was a teenager when Rodriguez toured Australia and Regan was much younger. The pride and joy that radiated in their faces was quite beautiful.

The second was the guitar solo by Willem Möller that turned the band’s jammed improvised version of ‘Climb Up On My Music’ into the high(est)light of a concert packed with highlights. The third image I have is of Arno Carstens, lead singer with the Springbok Nude Girls, standing transfixed at the base of the stage watching Rodriguez perform. On his T-shirt was the simple yet ironic slogan that seemed to sum up the whole evening. It read: “Dead people are cool!”

13th March The Village Green Durban

The Set List

  1. I Wonder
  2. Only Good For Conversation
  3. Can’t Get Away
  4. Crucify Your Mind
  5. Jane S. Piddy
  6. To Whom It May Concern
  7. Like Janis
  8. Inner City Blues
  9. Street Boy
  10. A Most Disgusting Song
  11. Halfway Up The Stairs
  12. I Think Of You
  13. Rich Folks Hoax
  14. Climb Up On My Music

    Encores:

  15. Sugar Man
  16. Establishment Blues
  17. Forget It

I attended the Durban gig. It was amazing! I am 17 and was introduced to Rodriguez by the Brother. Rodriguez’s music has changed the way I look at music, life and poetry (he is a poet!)
– Darren Wood, March 1998

11th March The Carousel Pretoria

The Set List

  1. I Wonder
  2. Only Good For Conversation
  3. Can’t Get Away
  4. Crucify Your Mind
  5. Jane S. Piddy
  6. To Whom It May Concern
  7. Like Janis
  8. Inner City Blues
  9. Street Boy
  10. A Most Disgusting Song
  11. Halfway Up The Stairs
  12. I Think Of You
  13. Rich Folks Hoax
  14. Climb Up On My Music
    Encores:
  15. Sugar Man
  16. Establishment Blues
  17. Forget It

A Night To Remember

Review by Michelle (Micci) de Clerqc

You ain’t seen nothing yet… Rodriguez is NOT dead…he is very much alive and still the same inspiring poet he always was. On the 11th of March the man himself performed at the Carousel just outside of Pretoria – he is a brilliant artist and a humble man. Rodriguez, alive and performing in South Africa ? I cried when I heard this over the radio. I was broke and I HAD to see the show. So, I climbed on my phone and spoke to my mother, she and my sister decided that since it was so close to my birthday, they would buy me the tickets. This brought the smile back to my face.. So there I was on the 11th of March, broken ankle and all, on my way to the Carousel. Upon arrival, there was this huge tent and I thought that that’s gotta be it. When I went inside I was pleasantly surprised by the huge amount of people that were waiting for their “Sugarman”. There were people from all ages, even a little girl who sat right in front of me – I think she was 10 years old, next to her was a guy of about 55 and there I was, 22 going on 23, waiting for a life long hero.

Rodriguez walked onto stage and started singing “I Wonder”, the crowd went wild! It looked like it was so easy for him to sing, it was so natural, as if he just opened his mouth and the words flowed out like a calming river over his fans. Everyone jumped to their feet and cheered harder and with more feeling than they would for their favourite rugby team. He just smiled and kept on singing. Some of the people screamed, others just sat mesmerized, captivated by the words, the music and the man. Between songs his name was called like a mantra, no one was quiet; he gave all the credit to the band.

He bent down to touch the audience, as if to make sure that they were real. The songs were known off by heart by the audience and most of them sang along to old favourites like “Sugar Man”, “Like Janis” and “I Wonder”. He had captivated everyone with his down to earth manner and honesty. It was a night to remember and memory I will treasure forever.

10th March Standard Bank Arena Johanneburg

The Set List

  1. I Wonder
  2. Only Good For Conversation
  3. Can’t Get Away
  4. Crucify Your Mind
  5. Jane S. Piddy
  6. To Whom It May Concern
  7. Like Janis
  8. Inner City Blues
  9. Street Boy
  10. A Most Disgusting Song
  11. Halfway Up The Stairs
  12. I Think Of You
  13. Rich Folks Hoax
  14. Climb Up On My Music
    Encores:
  15. Sugar Man
  16. Establishment Blues
  17. Forget It
Ellis Park Sold Out

Ellis Park Sold Out

Long Live Rodriguez

Review by André Bakkes

At last Rodriguez arrived and I was going to see a show by the Man.  It was with a bit of uncertainty that I went to the show. I wanted to go, but I also didn’t want to go. The thing that struck me was how mellow the people were, there was no pushing at the doors to get in, there was a nice steady flow into the arena. People from all walks of life were there. In the audience I saw serious new wave ravers (the one’s who cut their hair except for a little lock on the front of the hairline), also there were old guys with bald heads. I could not believe that Rodriguez had such a wide spectrum of followers.

When he came on the crowd went wild. The same type of reaction as at recent, very well known bands concerts. As the songs were sung the people sang with him and they vibed to the sounds and the music.  The jazzing up of “Climb up on my Music” was brilliant and could do well as a mix for the dance floor. It seems that Rodriguez is such a NICE person he would rather give limelight to his support band than hog it himself. He came across as an absolute gentleman and unaffected by the hype. My overwhelming feeling as I left the concert was one of peace and fulfillment,  here was a person whose music stood the test of time and was honestly grateful that we paid money to see him perform.

Long live Rodriguez!! I hope you do very well.

9th March 1998 Standard Bank Arena Johannesburg

The Set List

  1. I Wonder
  2. Only Good For Conversation
  3. Can’t Get Away
  4. Crucify Your Mind
  5. Jane S. Piddy
  6. To Whom It May Concern
  7. Like Janis
  8. Inner City Blues
  9. Street Boy
  10. A Most Disgusting Song
  11. Halfway Up The Stairs
  12. I Think Of You
  13. Rich Folks Hoax
  14. Climb Up On My Music
    Encores:
  15. Sugar Man
  16. Establishment Blues
  17. Forget It

The Star Tonight 12 March 1998

Time and time again

by Peter Feldman

The legend that is Rodriguez simply couldn’t believe his eyes or his ears at the fanatical response he evoked at his opening Johannesburg concert on Monday. I don’t know who was more awestruck, the performer or his capacity audience. He couldn’t stop grinning. The minute he stepped onstage, in a smart dress-suit and clutching his guitar, the arena exploded. And as he casually strummed the opening bars to I Wonder, the crowd rose to their feet in sheer adoration. It was a magical moment in music, and an eerie kind of a time-warp, in which this folk-rock icon rekindled a string of memories of an age of stirring protest. The songs have not dated and have as much relevance today as they did when Vietnam, the draft and campus drugs were high on the political agenda.

Young people, many not yet born when Rodriguez stormed the barriers in South Africa, one of the few countries to embrace the man and his music, sat transfixed as the hits unfolded. The voice has not been corroded by time – only made better. The hardcore cynicism, the angst and the disillusionment remain dramatically intact. Sugar Man, Inner City Blues, Cnrcify Your Mind, Jane S Piddy, the highly emotive Street Boy, Rich Folks Hoax, Slip Away and Establishment Blues formed the core of a concert nobody ever dreamt would actually happen here in Gauteng. After all, the rumour was the man was dead … how wrong could one be. Rodriguez was so delighted to be onstage, and so overwhelmed by the occasion, that he kept asking for the house lights to be turned up to remind himself it was not an illusion. He also took great delight in shaking hands with various members of Big Sky, which gave him solid support throughout.

Big Sky, with an energetic Steve Louw at the helm, provided a tight set with a nicely honed country-rock edge. They waded through many of their hits, including Waiting For The Dawn, Another Country and Get Down With Mr Green, and introduced the right mood for a happening.

Wow!

7th March 1998 Bellville Velodrome Cape Town

The Set List

  1. I Wonder
  2. Only Good For Conversation
  3. Can’t Get Away
  4. Crucify Your Mind
  5. Jane S. Piddy
  6. To Whom It May Concern
  7. Like Janis
  8. Inner City Blues
  9. Street Boy
  10. A Most Disgusting Song
  11. I’ll Slip Away
  12. Halfway Up The Stairs
  13. I Think Of You
  14. Rich Folks Hoax
  15. Climb Up On My Music

    Encores:

  16. Sugar Man
  17. Establishment Blues
  18. Forget It

Scan of the sound engineer’s set list, dated and autographed.

Set List 7 March 1998

From Sweet Songs To Street Songs

Review by Brian Currin

From the simplistic, yet instantly recognisable bass guitar intro of I Wonder, to the last fading echoes of Thanks For Your Time, this was a show that enthralled everyone from the die-hard old fans with their balding heads and beer paunches to the new virgin devotees.

From sweet songs to street songs,
from bitter to beautiful,
from minor keys to metal mayhem,
from tear-jerker to tear-it-up,
from disgusting songs to rock anthems…this was truly a magic show of vast proportions.

Rodriguez has not released new material in over 25 years, he has no chart-topping singles, yet he opens to a standing ovation – and everybody sings along to all the songs.

Colin Taylor from KFM radio opened the show by shouting with great enthusiasm:
“Cape Town, put your hands together and welcome a true legend on stage – Rodriguez!”

Reuben Samuels started a slow drum beat and when Graeme Currie introduced that classic bass line (de-de de-de de-dum) the crowd went wild in instant recognition and when The Man slipped quietly onto the stage, the Velodrome stood up in adoration for this long-lost legend. I Wonder was wonderful and after the song, Rodriguez just stood and stared at the audience in awe.

Only Good For Conversation was done hard and heavy with great guitar from Willem Möller.
“..you’re so proper and so cute” sang Rodriguez with a smile in his voice.

Can’t Get Away was superb and when he started to sing the second verse again by mistake, the band supported him and the audience forgave him.

All the favourites followed with the arrangements staying very close to the originals and the crowd hanging on every word. Tonia Selley from The Pressure Cookies and Big Sky provided superb backing vocals throughout.

A highlight was the solo rendition of “A Most Digusting Song” sung with great humour. “There’s someone here who’s almost a virgin I’m told” was met with much laughter.
And when he sang “…your government will provide the shrugs” a responsive chord was hit, even though this song was written in 1970!

Rodriguez doesn’t say much, he lets his music and words speak to us, but he did give us one message:

I want to wish you the best of luck
in everything you do,
you’re gonna do it,
you’re gonna solve it,
you’re gonna heal ’em,
you’re gonna do it

– perceptive and profound words from this poet and prophet.

And then into an absolutely incredible blues-rock version of Climb Up On My Music. Willem Möller burnt up his fretboard with a classic rock guitar solo and Russel Taylor played a jazzy-blues keyboard solo which left us breathless.

Rodriguez slipped away as the band ended the song, but soon returned to perform a 3-song encore starting with Sugar Man, then Establishment Blues and ending with the perfect show-closer Forget It with those poignant words “Thanks for your time“.

Thank you, Cape Town” sang Rodriguez.

No, thank YOU, Rodriguez – the mystery and myth may be gone, but the music and memories will live forever and the magic of that night will stay with us always.

6th March 1998 Bellville Velodrome Cape Town

  1. I Wonder
  2. Only Good For Conversation
  3. Can’t Get Away
  4. Crucify Your Mind
  5. Jane S. Piddy
  6. To Whom It May Concern
  7. Like Janis
  8. Inner City Blues
  9. Street Boy
  10. Halfway Up The Stairs
  11. I Think Of You
  12. Rich Folks Hoax
  13. Climb Up On My Music

    Encores:

  14. Sugar Man
  15. Establishment Blues
  16. Forget It

Here is a scan of the planned set list from the sound engineer’s mixing desk; compare this to what was actually played!

Set List 6 March 1998

Sunday Argus 8 March 1998

Rodriguez Live in Bellville
(reprinted here with kind permission of Evan Milton)

70s (and 80s and, it seems 90s) folk-rock “icon” Sixto Rodriguez played his first South African performance live at the Bellville Velodrome on Friday, 6 March 1998.
Evan Milton was there.

“He’s really alive!” were the words on more than one nostalgic fan’s lips as a crowd of over 2 000 listened to Rodriguez’s first ever live performance in South Africa – and his first appearance on stage in 18 years. The “Sugar Man” enthralled from the first, instantly recognisable, notes of “I Wonder” through to the much requested and long-awaited “The Establishment Blues”. South African Music Association “Best Album” winners Big Sky ably supported the visitor, with Willem Möller’s electric guitar providing a focus during the simpler musical songs, with Russel Taylor’s hammond and Graeme Currie’s bass underpinning the set. Rodriguez was visibly moved by the audience’s enthusiastic response, chanting his name between every song, and with a round of applause and calls of “Rodriguez we love you” following each song.

The Mexican American revealed a refreshingly contrasting “superstar attitude” to other recent international visitors, repeatedly bowing and thanking both band and audience. At one point the singer called for silence, in his unmistakable voice said, “A picture” and stepped back, miming the action of taking a huge snapshot of his fans. Ranging in age from 16 to 50-plus, those fans sang along to most tunes, with nostalgia and youthful idealism in equal measure as the older remembered their upstart 70s youth and the younger drew on the libertarian lyrics and social commentary as idealistic focus inspiration. Finishing the one-and-a-half hour set, Rodriguez was briefly visible on a parapet leading to the dressing rooms, and waved a final farewell to the ecstatic crowd. After the concert, he shook hands with, and personally thanked the hundred-or-so VIP guests, eagerly and animatedly signing autographs, engaging with stories of when and where people had listened to his albums and impressing everyone with his warmth and sincerity. Many left the concert with plans to purchase a second ticket for Saturday night’s performance.

This review was also published with a few changes in the Sunday Argus on the 8th March 1998 under the title: “Sugar Man” Rodriguez sings it to adoring crowd.

Cape Review April 1998

Cape Review, April 1998

Hail Sixto Rodriguez!

“Hey I thought this guy was dead?”
by Kitty Couzyn

It’s one of those Fridays. You know the ones; tickets and invites abound, but all a poor journalist feels like is slipping down a pool cue into a coma some where. Mr Branson’s Virgin Cola launch on Wednesday still monkeys the brain (The Sandton Sun will never be the same again… yuk yuk – those little red canned Virgins with a twist of V-vodka thrown in. shudder). Ah, what the hell, it is after all the Rodriguez concert I’ve been invited to. Time to scrape the carcass into the volkswagen and speed off in the same direction as Zaire. Finally, after finding directions from a toothless garage attendant that assuredly I’ve seen speaking backwards in a Lynch movie, screech to a halt outside the Bellville Velodrome. It’s always heartwarming to see how the local constabulary selflessly protect us at big concerts. (It’s like the annual Big-Blue-Braai out here). Judging by all the rumour and heresay I’d heard this concert was either going to a significant moment or a vaguely embarrassing spectacle. Didn’t this guy shoot himself in the head on stage to protest the general dullness of life when I was about seventeen? Didn’t Agent Mulder discover proof that Nancy Reagan had abducted his father? After eventually wheedling my way into the VIP section for free booze, I witnessed a story that could unfold into an epic fable:
They found him serving petrol in a garage in South America”
“No it was America.”
“Isn’t it amazing that this guy was only famous in Australia, New Zealand and SA”
“You’re kidding? I always thought He was a god in America!”
“Nah, his record company went bust before he was distributed.”
A PR company couldn’t have created a better angle if they had been on Peyote and Prozac simultaneously. We were about to watch a man perform for the first time in about twenty years. I met the SA journalist who had tracked him down and asked him how he was doing. “Well the truth of the matter is that he’s got severe stage fright. We’re just calming him down.”

As the crowd waited and the news of his shyness filtered out to the four thousand odd devotees, a chant begun. Rodriguez! Rodriguez! Rodriguez! We were all gently encouraging the dude that virtually defined our hey-shoo-wow contemplate-the-universe and overindulge-in-giggle-twig-years. Finally there he was. The Bob Dylan of the Southern Hemisphere, the green poet of our generation. The deliciously anti-establishment prophet of the grey-pit in which we currently reside.He’s dressed in a tie, black shirt and squiggly-print waist coat like some caricatured spaghetti-western version of a coke-dealer.
“That’s funny, he’s actually the age now that I’ve always expected him to be”
In most of our minds he was the dude from the Cold Fact album cover. There he looked like some big bad-ass Indian oil-rig worker. The sweet man with the Donny Osmond shades and ingriating smile was not who we expected. It was impossible not to pick up the sheer bewilderment on his face. It was like:
“Hey esse! Who da fok all these people shouting fo?”
Then began the singing. There it was, that golden voice. After twenty years, like it was mellowed in casks of oak – if anything, more rich and golden. The only way to describe the tidal wave of emotion that erupted is with gratuitous exploitation of expletives and superlatives. Unbelievable! Awesome! Shivers up a thousand spines! One of, if not the best concerts ever in Cape Town. Everyone, knew every word. No, you don’t understand. Every! Word! At one point, the man faltered on a verse and the crowd calmly kept on singing, lifting him back onto the melody like a nurturing mother on the day of her baby’s first steps. What made the whole scene specially touching was the transparency of his true amazement. Imagine going to an obscure country that you’ve never seen before, just to find there are thousands of people who still adore you, for songs you sung in your youth. He was literally a resurrected angel for two mightily special hours. The encore would have gone on all night if they had been allowed to.

At the after-party, the buzz was just soooo infectious. He signed autographs and graciously met all those who wanted to shake his hand. I am Twenty-seven and like to think of myself as beyond the sycophantic irritation stage. But this I had to be part of. Everyone in that room had dreams of Rodriguez taking over America – a resurrection supreme. Some sadly doubted the reality, I for one believe wholeheartedly that Rodriguez could storm the Grammies in 1999.
If we have anything to do with it, he will.
Thank you Mr R, we’ll never forget you,
Now give us your sunglasses!