Dave Koz seemed over the moon. Every entertainer tells each audience in each city that it is the very best audience. But when Dave Koz spoke to the crowd at the Cape Town Jazz Festival, you could see that he really meant it. He was sincere. His enthusiasm for performing in Cape Town was palpable.
He started his set by walking onto the stage playing the South African National Anthem. Immediately, the African crowd was connected to the Americans. Later in the set, he explained that in 1999, he received a call informing him that his blockbuster album, “The Dance,” had gone platinum. Where had the one-millionth sale of the album taken place? South Africa.
The venue was set up in the style of European pop concerts. Seating is in the back, and most fans vie to stand and dance at the foot of the stage. The dynamic it creates between the artist and the audience is noticeably different from the U.S. standard arrangement in which all the guests are seated.
I have always thought that performers rise to the level of their audience’s enthusiasm. Where would you put out your very best performance? In front of a somewhat distant, seated group which has a “show me if you’re worth it” attitude? Or in front of swarms of fans who are at your feet and responding with high energy when you invite them to sing along?
Dave wore a look of amazement throughout his performance. You could see that he loved performing for this crowd. Every song with lyrics was met with a convention hall full of fans singing along.
When Dave divided the room into two groups in the age-old effort every live performer uses to get the audience to sing along while competing to be the “loudest” and “best” part of the room, he couldn’t believe the response. Each group did its part expertly and loudly. There was none of that “oh come on, you can do better than that” from Dave. Instead, he stood on stage incredulously enjoying the audience’s excited obedience. He stopped the musical accompaniment and the three groups of the audience continued with their parts, a capella.
He stood properly still and listened to the audience’s rendition of his song with obvious pride. He seemed to be happily thinking out loud, “Is this going to go on all night?”
The greater significance of his rapport with this audience—an audience two decades removed from the apartheid era—was not lost on Dave Koz. Before he closed his set, he said to the rainbow, but largely black and brown, audience that so clearly adored him, “Imagine apartheid and this! I am just a white guy from Los Angeles who has the privilege of performing here is South Africa for all of you. We couldn’t have imagined this not long ago.” And he was right.