Johnny Clegg and Savuka (Zulu for “we have risen”), touring in support of their fifth Capitol Records release, “Heat, Dust & Dreams,” lived up to their reputation as expert showmen.
Incorporating the musical rhythms of his native South Africa into a pop sensibility, Clegg’s music lent itself quite easily to a high-energy, choreographed show. Clegg, well-versed in Zulu song and dance, moved with finesse and put on a naturally theatrical show. The near-capacity audience was an enthusiastic participant in the evening, rocking the room to the rhythm of the songs.
Though they’re great entertainers, Clegg and Savuka are also thoughtful lyricists. Songs like “One Human, One Vote” speak of human struggles, and Clegg also expressed his views in monologues between songs. His addresses were just intense enough to move people without leaving a dark cloud over the Wiltern Theater.
For an encore, Clegg and Savuka sang an a cappella prayer in their native language, then finished with a dramatic upbeat song.
Opening artist Murray Atteway (on Geffen Records), accompanied by only two guitars and an occasional harmonica and keyboard, was in good voice, but displayed too much self-indulgence in an attempt to be a comedian.