Top-notch salute to Paul Simon

The Black Lapels – from left are Rob Warren, Gareth Gale and Garth Warren.

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STAGE: Black Lapels present ‘Road to Graceland – A Paul Simon Tribute’

Rhumbelow Theatre, Pietermaritzburg (Allan Wilson Shellhole)

REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
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IT WAS not without some trepidation that charming Durban singer-guitarist Rob Warren, his bearded bassist brother Garth and mesmerisingly laidback drummer Gareth Gale, collectively known as the Black Lapels, approached the staging of their latest, low-fuss showband tribute.

Rob told me he was little worried about the band’s follow-up to their long-running Johnny Cash show, and more recent Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute.

He was biting nails, he said, because he was afraid of messing up Paul Simon’s lyrics and presenting music from the solo part of Simon’s illustrious career that was synonymous with a bigger, fuller sound.

However, if they had any doubts they’d not pull it off, the trio could sigh with relief after their first performances of Paul Simon shows last November at the Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo, Durban. It was a big success!

Now they are taking their Paul Simon: The Road to Graceland to the Pietermaritzburg branch of the Rhumbelow, at the Allan Wilson shellhole. It will be presented there at 2pm and 6.30pm on Sunday, April 9.

The Black Lapels offer a great salute to the now-75-year-old Simon, the winner of a dozen Grammy Awards.

As I wrote in my November review, published in The Mercury, the show is presented with minimal patter and few frills. It emerges as an excellent tip of a hat to a versatile singer-songwriter whose 1986 Graceland album sold 14 million copies globally and remains Simon’s most popular work since his Simon and Garfunkel days.

Interestingly, Rob admitted it was only in recent times that he listened to the album in full. He had borrowed his wife’s iPod when he went for a jog, played the album, and ended up taking it all in while he sat on a pavement.

The beauty of the Black Lapels’ Simon tribute is that the team come over as relaxed and always cool, always professional, those niggling doubts notwithstanding.

Also, the music choice is great, albeit that two of my favourite Simon songs, Still Crazy After All These Years and Take Me to the Mardi Gras, are missing.

But that’s a small quibble as there is pleasure aplenty to be found among classics both from the solo years and the Simon and Garfunkel era – among them Homeward Bound, Cecilia, Mrs Robinson, The Sounds of Silence, The Boxer and an excellent rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water, a solo by Rob, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.

The team is a tight and talented unit, and does well to sometimes shake things up with welcome tweaks in arrangements – Mother and Child Reunion often hints of reggae; The Sounds of Silence sometimes veers close to the recent (brilliant) rendition by metal band Disturbed; the Graceland encore is slowed down.

Also here are Boy in the Bubble and Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard, which open the show, and such hits as Under African Skies, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes and Late in the Evening.

Slip Sliding Away, That Was Your Mother and You Can Call Me Al also make the songsheet in a very enjoyable show for which tickets cost R150 each.

Book at Computicket or by phoning Roland at 082 499 8636.


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