BLK JKS: Live Last Night

blk jks

Live Last Night

By Mark Jenkins

BLK JKS won't rock you all night long.

That's not because the much-hyped South African quartet, which played Tuesday night at the Black Cat's backstage, lacks the energy; the four Johannesburg musicians were in constant motion during their performance, spinning and stalking about the small riser. But the band (whose name is pronounced "Black Jacks'') prefers to ration the rave-ups, positioning its hard-rock outbursts amid jazzy meanderings, extended dub grooves and call-and-response chants.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

The 65-minute set was so carefully structured that the group's resolve not to play an encore seemed exactly right. Upon finishing a sprawling version of "Summertime," BLK JKS had demonstrated everything it can do. Which is considerable.

Supplemented only by the occasional discreet electronic whoosh or clang, the band played music that was stark yet vast. Bassist Molefi Makananise encouraged the audience to help sing the "way oh oh" chant that underpinned the pulsating "Lakeside," but the musicians didn't really need the assistance. All four of them sang, sometimes simply magnifying guitarist Lindani Buthelezi's lead vocals, but at other times offering robust counterpoint.

Such contrast was the essence of BLK JKS's method. Songs settled into comfortable (or uncomfortable) grooves, only suddenly to ascend on Mpumi Mcata's spiraling or gnashing guitar. A particularly dynamic example came during "Skeleton," whose spare cadence yielded briefly to the guitarist's assault, only to return in an even lankier form. Masters of unpredictability, BLK JKS made such moments seem both startling and inevitable.

By David Malitz |  September 30, 2009; 1:01 PM ET Live Last Night
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