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Live and solo with Rory Eliot

Saturday night was one of those nights that took me back a few years. I took the stage with no band mates and just my acoustic guitar in a packed Crossways Pub in Hilton.

The occasion was actually the gig of Plush frontman Rory Eliot, who was out to showcase a few new tunes as the band goes into the studio shortly to record their fourth album. Rory invited me along to open up proceedings for the evening, post-Sharks/Stormers game.

On arrival, you could just tell it was going to be one of those evenings. Everyone is ticking after the steady flow of beer and shots, and the air has that smokey haze about it. It’s noisy inside and out, and getting from one side to the other of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd means everyone has to breathe in and out alternatively. “Acoustic evening”… yeah, right.

And everyone is more courageous on a night like this. Occasionally some young executive gets up on a table and leads a slurry war cry. A few brawls ensue outside from time to time. You get the feeling that anything could happen on a night like this. As I say, it took me back a few years.

It’s a completely different vibe when you’re on your own up on a stage. Truth be told, it’s terrifying. It was terrifying back then, and it still is. Normally if things get out of hand, I can just go and hide behind my bodyguard Rudi at the back of the stage. But not tonight. There are times when you just have to remind yourself why you pay medical aid every month, and off you go.

To kick things off, On The Edge. Then I’m Alright. Wide Open World and More Beautiful Tonight brought out more drinks and the lighters swaying to and fro amidst the dopey haze. It’s nice to be playing to someone else’s fans, actually. You know that they’re not there for you, and as a result there’s less pressure. And this lot seem drunk enough and surprisingly happy enough to accommodate some of my originals, and there’s generous applause after each song.

Better Days rounds the set off and the crowd is warm, my job is done. My guitar is still intact, and I’m only bleeding from my fingertips. I send my wife an sms to assure her that I’ll live to sing another night and all my limbs are intact.

I then sat back and relaxed, and took up my seat to catch the Plush tunes. Today, Tainted and Wishing Well all fulfilled the usual magical fan club’s sing-along sessions, but I was interested in the new stuff. Carousel, Closer and Furtherest Place From Home show a new depth in Plush’s music, and it would be obvious to make the deduction from Rory’s university studies in songwriting in Bath (UK).

When we performed with Plush (in Cape Town at the Assembly), Rory told me that the growth from his studies is not something he’s necessarily aware of, but it seems “that’s what everyone else thinks”.

I first met Rory about three years ago, during the season of Rory Eliot and the Reason. It was after a hiatus of Plush, following the death of Rory’s band-mate and close friend Chas Smit. At the time we met, the band was rebuilding momentum, and one of the things I remember Rory saying was, “We do well because we write good songs.”

I agree. He does write good songs. The band works hard, they reach for greater things and are working their way up the SA music ladder even more. No doubt their fourth album will be a great new chapter in the band’s repertoire and something they push hard for, in the world of radio and in the commercial and corporate sphere. Here’s wishing them well.


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