A Cat’s Attic: Peace Train Tour – Opening Night
The stillness of a serene Johannesburg evening was well and truly shattered when Yusuf / Cat Stevens’ Peace Train steamed into town. The lights and glamour of his theatrical production transported a slice of London’s West End directly into the calm African night and the sounds and songs that defined an era of hope rang out proudly, calling people to share in the message of peace.
2017’s A Cat’s Attic: Peace Train Tour is the first time that Yusuf / Cat Stevens has toured South Africa. “It took a long time to get here” he mentioned during the show. “Can’t Keep it In” was a huge hit in the country and, perhaps more poignantly, South Africa was where Yusuf first took to the stage after an absence of some27 years from the Music Industry. Encouraged by Peter Gabriel, he performed at the 46664 concert in honour of Nelson Mandela, whom Yusuf greatly admired.
Fans, who were still eagerly streaming into the vast domed venue when Yusuf took to the stage, erupted with excitement when, armed with his trusty Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar, he launched into a tender rendition of “Don’t Be Shy”. He then flowed into a similarly intimate version of “Where Do The Children Play” and, again, the audience couldn’t contain their joy when he reached the song’s iconic chorus. Yusuf’s command of his material is total and his remarkable voice has grown deeper and acquired a richness over the years that adds a certain gravitas to songs whose relevance is undiminished.
As the first set progressed Yusuf was joined by his Roadsters: Kwame Yeboah, Eric Appalpoulay and Glen Scott. They swap instruments masterfully and explore a dynamic range of styles and genres throughout the set. A cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” showed off their infectious grooves and their wonderful three-part harmonies shone in songs such as “The Hurt” which was a particular highlight of the show. A driving rock version of “Matthew & Son” went down a storm as did “Can’t Keep It In”, which hasn’t been played live since Yusuf begun performing his songs again. The concert seemed to reach its zenith during a rendition of “Wild World” that, to the obvious delight of the audience, featured verses in Zulu. Yusuf performed a largely a cappella arrangement of the Zulu version of the song in South Africa at the Mandela concert in 2003, right at the start of his journey back into live performance and it was powerful to be referencing that rendition some fifteen years later, this time backed by a full band.
Throughout the performance Yusuf charmed the audience with personal anecdotes between songs. He mentioned trying a variety of substances during his youth “I did tour with Jimi Hendrix” he explained. He also joked that he’d be “in big trouble when he got home” if he dared to play ‘Lady D’Arbanville’ after it was called out from the crowd. The audience were clearly captivated, scores of them were dancing in the aisles and many others were pressed as close to the stage as they could be to soak up the experience.
After a second set that was packed full of his classics, Yusuf thanked his audience with the same sincerity that he’d been pouring into his songs. He’ll perform one more night at the TicketPro Dome in Johannesburg and then onto the Botanical Gardens in Cape Town. There are four more concerts in South Africa and then the Peace Train rolls on to Australia and New Zealand. Information on the tour dates and how to buy tickets can be found HERE.
– Hallam Kite