Paul Boekkoi schree 21 mei 1997 The Star (Zuid Afrika)

Mesmerising his audiences

Travelling troubadour Herman van Veen is a chameleon showing and confronting us with some very rare shades of life's ever-changing colours.
Just as you smugly thought you'd seen it all only 14 months ago at the Klein Karoo Festival, you realise the man has something like a magic fountain up his sleeve which seemingly never ceases to flow.

With that Belgian-born legend, Jacques Brel, he does have a few things in common: especially his scrutinisingly clear perception of the mystery we call life. Brel was the idealising and romantic pessimist; Van Veen the ironic realist. With Brel hope was usually short-lived; with Van Veen it certainly has a longer life expectancy.
To Van Veen the late Brel moves in the spheres of a holy icon. When he sings Brel, he moves back, outside the ring of the spotlight so that Brel's legacy receives the applause and accolades at the end of a song. Not that Van Veen is overtly modest, but he has a typical European way of communicating with his audience: never condescending, nor bloating his ego.

Apart from his artistic endeavours - his own songs are often a strange hybrid of staunch levelheadedness and dreamlike images - it is his physical chemistry which mesmerises his audiences: sometimes to a point of severe attacks of delirium. You can't escape the Van Veen treatment of mixing words and imagery to their full potential. That is usually reached by total understatement.

I loved the show as a whole for its total originality It's like a world tour travelled in a couple of hours, which often catches you up in a timewarp, bringing forth fascinating perspectives on life.
One could feel the amazing support and attune-ment between Van Veen and his two musicians: saxophonist, clarinettist and singer (in an hilarious send-up of the three tenors phenomenon) Nard Reijnders, and pianist Erik van der Wurff, who started off with him about 30 years ago.
I'm still struggling to describe Van Veen's very own stage show. It's not cabaret, nor revue. It's doing his own thing that made him the international legend he is.