By PAUL ELLIOTT
It came from the deep, or the dark… I don’t know – but it eventually came once Jason Zeeman had warmed up the chilly Joburg crowd ahead of Tree63’s reunion gig at Bryanston’s New Life Church on 16 April. Now all that stood in the darkness; yes, all that stood between us and the rock and roll reunion about to wreck us was the glint of lamplight bouncing off John Ellis’ gleaming genius pip.
Looking like a henchman, playing like a boss and fuzzed up like a Middle Eastern metallurgist, Darryl Swart bliksemed his pots and pans all night long, with much passion and agility. I had forgotten how tight these guys actually are, switching and swinging from rockstar to rasta and back again, with John’s witty cover song slip on Hey Jude in the middle of a Marley tune getting the crowd laughing along.
There are two kinds of guitarists; face-pullers and breathers. Now the thing with breathers is that you wouldn’t be able to tell if they were worrying about the stove still burning back home, even in the middle of a chorus. Face-pullers on the other hand, always look as if they are either having a stroke or, more honestly, thinking: “Crap… I haven’t played these songs in years, what the hell is a D# Minor 13 flat 5?*”
*Index finger on the A string, I think.
When Harry met Sally, or John met, er, John … or his dad. No-one was quite sure what this fan was yelling, but his name was John as well and predictable banter ensued. John (Ellis, not the random lunatic in the crowd) is a seasoned and sharp entertainer and easily converts awkward into fine with the elegance of water into wine.
Look, here’s the bottom line. No really. He plays the bottom… – I’ll stop*. Daniel Ornellas is sublime. His playing is everything a three-piece needs. Bullet-proof, reliable, right on time all the time and providing all the harmonic change that is the mystery magic of melody partnership. If you want to know where the secret sauce is in John’s rhythm inversions, take a look at Daniel’s bottom end.
*Couldn’t help myself.
The night delivered everything and more. John looked like he was having an absolute ball and Daniel had either sweat or tears on his face, both profoundly telling and apt for a grand reunion gig. Darryl was the conveyor belt for the whole thing and I have a new respect for the man, having not seem him in his rightful position for about a decade. He’s a machine. With a heart.
The Tree trilogy, finally re-published in hardcover. This band is still a great read. Don’t wait for the movie. Go see the audiobook.