Gig Report: Incoming! OG South African rockers The Narrow kick off their 20th reunion tour with blistering insanity
On their first gig of a nationwide reunion tour, Hanu, Emile and Deon rocked the sold out crowd with a blistering set of all the old favourites, from ‘Promised the World’ to the ‘The Banded’ at Sognage in Joburg and followed it up with more insanity at Railway Cafe in Pretoria the next night. blunt was elbow deep in the pit at both gigs.
By Michael Bower. Photos by Wayde Flowerday.
I was 16 years old. Puddy Zwennis and Sick Nick de Wet were dominating the pages of blunt magazine. The drummer from my band, which was unknowingly going nowhere fast, handed me a cold Black Label quart to hold against my throbbing eye. Earlier that day, I had been punched in the face for having a Korn patch sewn onto my school bag.
The drummer then turned on his cracked and decrepit CD player and played The Narrow’s smash hit album – Travellers. For the rest of that warm autumn Friday afternoon, we sat and listened to that album on repeat. It filled me with this undying sense of longing. I wanted to be a part of The Narrow’s history. I wanted to write music like them, dress like them, even move like them.
“The Narrow are brutally humble about their accomplishments. As I watch them run through their blistering set to a packed venue with classics like ‘Promised the World’ and ‘The Banded’, I ponder what they have gone through to get to this point.”
Fast forward many years, more black eyes, and hundreds of quarts later, led as always by Hanu De Jong, The Narrow take the stage at Sognage, for their first show of their 20th anniversary formation tour. There is a palpable energy in the air. They are ready to conquer the SA alternative scene yet again.
I wonder if when Tony Hawk first did the 900, or when Pastrana did the double backflip, they knew how much they had changed the game. Because The Narrow are brutally humble about their accomplishments. As I watch them run through their blistering set to a packed venue with classics like ‘Promised the World’ and ‘The Banded’, I ponder what they have gone through to get to this point.
I ponder the fact that Hanu De Yong lives on a completely separate continent, I ponder that they have had to replace their drummer, I ponder about their cancelled tours and shows because of Covid. I am simply transported back to a time when Frankie Du Toit was playing ‘Lonely Lonely’ on Tuks FM’s breakfast show and Barney Simon was playing ‘Shoot The DJ’ on the Night Zoo at 5FM.
I’m transported to The Narrow’s Oppikoppi set when they played just before Deftones and destroyed that stage, cementing themselves as the kings of SA’s hard rock scene.
I knew that the opening show of the tour at Sognage was going to be good, but I had no idea it would be this epic.
ATFN and Straatligkinders whipped the crowd into a frenzy, and by the time The Narrow took the stage there was nothing left to do but just sit back and watch the insanity unfold. A special treat happens when they invite Facing the Gallows’ frontman Reegan Du Buisson on stage to perform ‘Hunt the Ghosts’. His natural stage presence compliments Hanu’s energetic style beautifully.
It’s a crazy evening. But I have not had nearly enough yet. Billie Joe Armstrong has maintained for years that the second night is always the best night. The Narrow proves that true on home turf, as Railways Café plays host to a sold out show. A crowd of Pretoria’s finest comes out in droves to witness this special event.
The opening acts are properly measured and selected for the occasion. Grand Villains clearly have something to prove, because they take to the stage with a ferocity that Railways has never seen before. The Cavalier brings an element of flat out rock and roll to the evening. Drumfish are on fire, their Motorhead meets punk rock style is exactly what the crowd wants. Crash and The Void just Destroy it. Leaving the heaving crowd hungry and ready to move.
“The show itself is everything I wanted it to be and more. I’m constantly asking myself how does a band 20 years into their life cycle constantly get better? How does a front man like Hanu do what he does? I have no answer other than that they are and forever will be the greatest hard rock band the SA scene has ever seen.”
I caught up with The Narrow’s axe men Emile and Deon backstage at Railways. Their calm and humble demeanour reminds me why this band is loved nationwide. Deon has been struck by the number of new fans the band has attracted, “There are a bunch of people here who don’t even know who we are.” He goes on to justify his modest approach by asking “What does famous even mean?”
The show itself is everything I wanted it to be and more. I’m constantly asking myself how does a band 20 years into their life cycle constantly get better? How does a front man like Hanu do what he does? I have no answer other than that they are and forever will be the greatest hard rock band the SA scene has ever seen. Well, that’s just my honest opinion!
The Narrow are playing gigs in Cape Town and Stellenbosch this weekend before returning to Pretoria to play with Fokofpolisiekar for their closing show.
Check out The Narrow on Facebook for more info.
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