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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

TONY COX/STEVE NEWMAN (article first published : 2002-07-14)

It’s getting towards the last two days of the festival and some 18 shows behind me and over 4,000 words written in review, it was time to look for something to enjoy rather than critically analyse.

Who better than the inimitable duo, guitarists extraordinaire and just helluva nice guys, Tony Cox and Steve Newman. I urged a colleague to accompany me as I wanted to share what I knew would be a great show. Rather diffidently he agreed, professing that he wasn’t that mad about guitar music. The Cox/Newman magic worked – once again – and halfway through the show he was hooked!

There’s not a lot left that I can say about these two – I’ve used up so many superlatives before - so I’ve cheated a bit with this one and hauled out extracts of my review of the show, in its longer version, when it played the Royal Backstage in May this year.

“No hyped flamboyance or artifice here. Just sheer honest artistry. … Brimming with wry humour and casual patter, they produce numbers awe-inspiring in their technical brilliance while including pieces that mix different styles and moods. For instance, we have Mozart heading for South America with Rondale Tico or Roger Moore and Peter Sellers forming a relationship with a tango number that encompasses the themes for the James Bond and Pink Panther movies.

Both bespectacled and endowed with luxuriant hair, they are wizards in understanding the many facets of their instruments and skilled at utilising these facets to the full. Highlights for me were a piece by Fernando Sor, Tony Cox’s soulful and compelling In the Distance and a number where Steve Newman extracted as much exciting percussion from the wood of the instrument as he did melody from the strings.

Their musical relationship – borne of 21 years of working together and independently - is concrete solid. They barely look at each other while they’re playing, each seemingly spiritually in tune with the other. They anticipate each other’s phrasing and appreciate the finer moments”

So there you have it. In Grahamstown they performed six shows, each one a sell-out!

Even if they decide to play a teapot and a milk jug, catch them wherever you can – it’s a great experience! – Caroline Smart




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