Artistry seeks out greatness like a moth does a flame. One of the true marks of great artistry is the crafting of exceptional live performances that not only endear yourself to your audience but sets you apart from your contemporaries. With Fill up Orlando Stadium, Cassper Nyovest has done just this.
There’s a psychological investment that the fans have in the artist with the concert-going experience. Music stirs up powerful emotions in us. One guitar riff can take you back to that particular day when you heard that particular song and you felt that particular way; sometimes unintentionally but almost always vividly and emotionally. More so with live performances.
It’s also an opportunity for the artist to connect with the fans in a way that they can’t on record. The music literally comes to life in a concert arena, and a particularly convincing performance can make fans out of an apathetic audience. This is where Cassper has separated the wheat from the chaff.
The one thing you can’t deny about Refiloe Phoolo is his audaciousness. His career has gone from one leap of strength to the next because he dares to dream and he surrounds himself with a team who not only believe in those dreams but work tirelessly to help manifest them. Filling up the Ticketpro Dome in October last year with 20,000 people was a reflection of this. The move that not only begot him personal congratulations from President Jacob Zuma on the historic achievement but also lost him R2.8M in the overall financial loss of the production showed exactly how committed he was to his craft and the work he was willing to put into it.
When he sold out The Dome and the venue approached him to put on another show, he decided that he wanted Fill up The Dome to be a unique fan experience and that he would start working on another show to follow it up. The bravery and conviction in him steered him towards the Orlando Stadium as his next concert venue with double the capacity of The Dome. Fast forward 12 months and we have the most incredible concert – local or international – that I have ever attended.
Upon entering the arena the first thing that struck you was the stage setup, the work of Formative Stage & Production Design who were ‘responsible for the entire stage concept, creative direction, lighting and visual design and all technical planning and programming of the entire show’. Second only to U2’s 360 stage, this was one of the most complex but also visually arresting performances setups that South Africa has seen, and definitely a first for a South African artist. There were a few individual elements that were somewhat familiar. The two raised LED boxes with video screens were reminiscent of Beyoncé’s massive centrepiece in the Formation World Tour, and a floating LED square above the main performance stage together with a LED strip circling the main stage reminded me of Kanye West’s VH1 Storytellers setup, however the entire concept came together beautifully in an overall impeccable finish.
The band members were arranged in a horizontal single file on a raised platform and the centrepiece was a raised stage, slanted and revolving, and in a diamond shape. There was a lighting rig in tandem with the floating LED square that was raised and lowered throughout his performance where the square screen would angled between 45 and 90 degrees throughout the show. The long walkway extended to a mini stage at the end of it that was surrounded by lights that extended in a vertical halo.
There were also two mini stages to each side of the main stage for the supporting acts who thrilled the crowd as the venue filled up. Supporting artists included DJ Tira, Ms Cosmo – whose set had a shortened live performance of the LeFemme Remix with Patty Monroe, Gigi LaMayne and Rouge, F.eU – who brought out DJ Cleo with them, Khuli Chana, Gemini Major, Nadia Nakai, Major League DJz, DJ Shimza, AReece, and DJ PH. The event was hosted by Somizi, in a blindingly sequined pants suit, and Boity, styled by Boogy Maboi in thigh-high olive boots and metallic booty shorts that Somizi couldn’t keep his hands off of.
The main performance started with the entire arena blackened and Cassper emerging from a shroud of red smoke. His set was incredible, starting with 428 to LA that the crowd sang along word for word with, straight into Skelm, a personal favourite of his. His guests on stage included Doc Shebeleza to perform their track Monate So, Mgarimbe whose track Gologo no Beer he features on, Yanga and Tshego for Phanda Mo, Nasty C and Anatii for Jump, and the entire Family Tree on an amazing performance of Ragga.
Babes Wodumo and Mampintsha emerged to perform a new collabo, Family, with Cassper to such a crowd roar that he asked her to perform the ‘national anthem’ Wololo soon after. Among other rapturous crowd responses were the surprise guest Wizkid, Emtee, and the artist with the biggest reception outside of the headliner, Riky Rick.
Two particular poignant moments on the night were a remembrance to his late grandmother where he shed a few tears singing about her and talking about his influence on his life; and a dedication to Boity, serenading her while she sat on stage. Comic relief of the night was a few instances of fans running on stage to be later escorted off by security, one of whom danced along with Cassper on stage before security realised that he, in fact, wasn’t part of the backup dancers.
My only criticism of the night were the long and awkward pauses in between wardrobe changes and the subsequent transition into the performance being not quite as smooth as it should be. The band was one of the best I’ve seen perform, the crowd would have been better served by them doing instrumental performances to segue the segments.
Cassper ended with one of his biggest tracks, Doc Shebeleza, and a new one, 2 Legit. I can only sum it up as three hours of awesome. Rap performances generally aren’t the most creative, with the artist usually just going from one side of the stage to the other, peppered with animated jumping up and down. Cassper has set the bar with this one. Not only was his dance choreography intricate and entertaining, but he didn’t sacrifice his singing/rapping to cater to it. He was expansive in his use of the stage, with every section of the crowd attended to.
Apart from the visual and audio excellence, Cassper delivered a moment in South African music history so magnificent that can’t be replicated. He has turned me into a fan. He has elevated himself to legendary status. He had every person walk out of that arena inspired by seeing him achieve so much in his career motivated to stand a little taller and dream a little bigger. Cassper did that.