[REVIEW] Heineken Symphonic Rocks, 29.09.12

I’ve always known about the Heineken Symphonic Rocks show but have never been interested enough to attend. This year I noticed the varied pop line up which piqued my interest. Just as I was considering going, a friend offered me a ticket! Having studied music myself for many years, the prospect of merging rock and pop groups with classical musicians is always something performers dream about.


As per usual Grand West made parking a complete pain. Irrespective of how long a car is inside (including 10 seconds) the boom won’t open unless the ticket has to be put inside the pay machine. This means all cars have to pull into the slip lane to present the ticket. In this instant, even though they had provided a drop and go zone, the traffic took longer than 10 minutes to get in and out because of the congestion so everyone had to pay for their tickets, causing more traffic. Since Grand West does not allow people to walk onto the premises (but you can walk out) it’s a continued struggle. I’ve mailed them to get a statement regarding this mindless practice and will revert as soon as possible. Getting into the actual Arena was fine although I enjoyed that there were 4 staff members at each door but only 1 taking tickets and putting wrist bands on. This delayed the queue but the concert started late so people had time to get in.

Although the Grand Arena provides a great view wherever you sit, the same can’t be said for the sound. It was really soft in general, we could hardly hear and orchestra as we were RIGHT at the top. I saw many others tweeting that they’d like it to be louder too so maybe it isn’t affected by where one sits, not sure.


The show started with the orchestra playing a classical piece, followed by aKing’s The Dance, which was awesome! Such a rocking, up-tempo song got the audience in a fun mood for a great night. Although I had been warned it was a 4 hour concert, aKing made be feel up for the challenge!

Chiano Sky

Chiano Sky was the first woman to grace the stage. For ages I’ve heard the unique sound of her voice, seen she’s a model and read various articles about her work. My expectations were high for this all-achieving-woman so when I saw her fresh face and innocent plump dimples, I felt like the media/marketing team had really taken something away from her. By promoting her as such a fierce woman, it down plays just how unique she is and how well she’s truly done for such a young woman. Models do start young but it’s not easy, the music industry is even tougher, which makes Chiano Sky’s achievements even greater. She’s not super human but she is a massively talented YOUNG woman which should be supported, cherished and celebrated as such.  She has an amazing voice and she rocked the show. Seeing her in her more endearing, young, live performance self, really show-cased how well such a young woman is doing. Stop over selling her I say and allow her art and achievements to receive the credit that any 19 year old with her CV should receive!

Xolani – Freshly Ground

Veteran songstress Xolani from Freshly Ground took the reins from Chino and entertained the audience in first world fashion, she never disappoints. Her voice too is very unique and I always expect uniqueness to include some sort of extra effort but Xolani makes unique seem SO easy. Her voice cuddled the audience through Do Be Do and I’d Like, comforting ears with her familiar yet solid, angelic sound. She really is a pop voice of a generation just as Francois Van Coke is of a rock generation.


FokofPolisiekar as well as Van Coke Kartel completely rocked the audience at HSR, I literally got shivers hearing Francois’ voice. Whilst Xolani treats the audience like an old friend, Francois seems to me like an alien who whisks the audience away to his planet. He’s totally committed to what he’s singing and I feel that if English speaking people can’t learn enough Afrikaans to appreciate his work, then it’s really their loss.

Toya De Lazy

Toya De Lazy was next and I’d heard mixed rumours about this young women, one side saying she’s great and another side saying she’s ruined her career by lip-syncing at a previous event. I felt she started off a little tentative but “went for it” by the end of her first song Pump it Up. Love Is In The Air rocked the show further and I enjoyed her performance. I hope she stays away from lip-syncing so that her career continues to blossom.

Tumi and the Volume

It was the first time I’d watched Tumi and the Volume and enjoyed the South African hip pop style he brought to the show. It added a different edge, important in the South African music scene and had many of the audience members nodding their head in agreement to his lyrics, “I can’t decide if it’s the morning!” Next was Just Jinger’s Ard Matthews whose voice never fails to pull heart-strings. Another really solid, personal, intimate voice so familiar to the South African music scene yet never boring. I caught the start of his set but then had to listen to it, from the bar queue, emanating from the arena.

Mac Stanley

Andy from Mac Stanley (formerly Flat Stanley) greeted the audience kindly during his set and thanked them for their continued support as well as the sponsors Heineken and Khulula. It’s true that without their contribution, it would be near impossible to host a 65 piece orchestra plus in-house band and featured artists, to try and re-test such a great musical feat. which is why I’ve included their brand association in this post. I’m not much of a pop-rock fan but I thought he sang well and the audience received him especially warmly which I thought was special.


One of the main acts that I was most excited to see was Zahara. So many South African artists have been over marketed and “pushed” onto the pop scene which really annoys me. Zahara, on the other hand, caught my attention from the moment I heard her voice. Although I don’t understand her lyrics, the emotion, commitment and energy in her voice is so compelling that I loved her music. So did the row in front me me! They jumped up, screamed, clapped and sang along through her entire set! Zahara was friendly, clever and far more sassy than I had anticipated, a great performance.


Finally, there was MiCasa. I have to say that even though they were well rehearsed and were enjoying themselves on stage, I felt a little disconnected. Maybe they’re just too Joburg and I’m just too Cape Town! I would have liked them to have deconstructed their songs or did a latin version or them or SOMETHING because I felt the orchestra hardly featured (audibly anyway). I was also annoyed with the lighting man because MiCasa is all about the duo of the singer and muted trumpet, whom he failed to put a spot-light on for half the set. DUH, keep up with the act please.

Collective Soul

I know you’re probably thinking, finally? Yeah – there was still another hour to the show but I didn’t realise! I left at 23:50 thinking I was going to beat the traffic but that means I missed the entire international set: Ed from Collective Soul! Clearly I’m not a fan or I would never have forgotten he was on but after 4 hours, it was time to go. Even though artists only sang 3 songs at the most it’s just TOO long.

If it’s a concert then it can go on for hours (I wasn’t bored at One Night Only) but then there mustn’t be an interval. Just get on with it and ppl can go to the loo / get drinks when they want. Having a 5 hours show including an interval is just too crazy. So sorry Ed from Collective Soul, my bad but actually, I’d been sitting for too long. Hope you had fun!

I hope this show continues to grow – in success, not time! It’s definitely worth attending, just don’t sit at the top and do expect a long night. All the best to the musicians for Johannesburg, they’ll be performing this Saturday night at Carnival City. Here’s an over all look at Heineken Symphonic Rocks 2012!

And here’s Francois singing Hemel op the Platterland, great performance…

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