One of the greatest gifts an audience member can get from watching a live performance is witnessing a musician acting outside of their shell, taking control and baring their pure essence to a crowd. Thando managed to execute this perfectly in a career defining show at Chapel off Chapel, highlighting her versatility as a performer. Her vocal range boomed across the room, her backing band were technical yet subtle and let her voice breathe, and the sheer amount of character, charm and intrigue during and between songs made this more than a show, it made it an experience.
Thando stepped out, opening in what was to be a series of deeply personal songs for her first set. The first of the tracks came from her Digital Love Letters EP in an intimate setting, just Thando and her pianist. The stripped back balance between voice and piano allowed Thando’s singing to course through the air unfettered – accentuated vocal pacing, lyricism and mood was emphasised, outlining both the strengths of her and the artists she worked with throughout the night.
The show continued with a cover of Ngaiire’s Fall Into My Arms, wherein Thando found herself joined by her team of backing vocalists. As the set progressed, more and more band members hit the stage to deliver a smooth range of R&B/soul styled riffs, beats and hooks. Songs reached climatic peak as each instrument gained pace and boomed, Thando’s voice unsurprisingly powering over them even at their noisiest. No matter what happened, she was always louder – both in voice and personality. She was more than performing, she was commanding.
The second set was dedicated to the songs Thando had performed for the musicals Dreamgirls and The Colour Purple. Even though the musicians had changed around her and these songs weren’t written by her, there was no doubt that the music was still hers. Through boisterous, in your face stage presence and belting her pipes out as hard as she could, Thando earned herself standing ovations – not only at the end of the show – but between songs. As a sweetener, she pulled her sister to the stage for a cover of Ms Celie’s Blues, along with many of her cast members for the final two tracks of the second set, which captured the energy and vibrancy that the musicals would have boasted.
As the set wound down, the earnestness of the performance was seen in a teary eyed Thando who seemed overwhelmed by the positive reaction from the crowd. In a set of intimacies, she once again surprised audience members with a encore performance of City Lights, accompanying herself on piano for a calm moment to ride out the storm.
Words by Tom Brand
Image by Juan Castro
Highlight: The personality injected into the show – never seen anything like it.
Lowlight: Trying to hoof it to Swim Team afterwards with a bung leg.
Crowd Favourite: And I’m Telling You.