24 July 2012 | BRUCE DENNILL
SHOW: Chris Chameleon - He explains, with great charm and wit, that he will be performing only English songs at this gig, as Grahamstown’s high-profile colonial background makes it the perfect platform for him to explore a part of his back catalogue that’s paled into relative insignificance given the chart success of his work in Afrikaans.
VENUE: Cuervo Music Room, Grahamstown
“Also,” he says, “if you try and rock out in Afrikaans – or Hebrew – it sounds like you’re choking on broccoli.”
Someone boos, but in Chameleon’s world (he’s also the lead singer of the band Boo!), that counts as praise, which he enjoys pointing out.
He launches into his first song, and by the end of it has showcased a range of “space noises” and all of his four-octave range – the man is a unique performer.
Sitting on a barstool, Chameleon betrays the influence of his many years of bass playing in the patterns he plucks out on his acoustic guitar.
The Boo! songs he performs, though – in that band he sings and plays bass – do work well in this simpler format, stripped down as they are from much more complex arrangements including keyboards and trumpet.
Occasionally, a bit of rustiness shows as Chameleon revisits a tune that’s no longer in the foreground of his memory – something he warned might happen at the beginning of the show. His face momentarily betrays his frustration, though the bulk of an adoring audience doesn’t notice, and the rest of it doesn’t care.
His inter-song banter and anecdotes are wonderfully wacky – at one point he discusses developing “potato intuition”.
Chameleon is very comfortable with a seated, thoughtful audience – not surprising given that some of his most popular material is built around Ingrid Jonker poems.
In this context, where his set is not packed with hugely familiar, that’s a bonus, as his listeners can more fully appreciate his interesting sonic ideas.
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