STAGE: The Black Lapels – California Sunshine
Rhumbelow Theatre, 42 Cunningham Road, Umbilo, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
HOT on the heels of their recent, brilliant, Bob Dylan tribute with guest guitarist-vocalist Cornel Meyer, Durban trio The Black Lapels now tip hats to the galaxy of twinkling ’60s talent that emerged from the legendary generation of hippies, beatniks, bohemians, artists, poets, protesters and lovers of excess and freedom associated with California’s Laurel Canyon community.
Once again bearded bassist Garth Warren, the captivating and always-in-his-own-zone drummer Gareth Gale, and fine singer-guitarist Rob Warren, with his usual deft marriage of passion and playfulness on stage, have invited a guest to join them.
This time it’s talented redhead Luke Wyngaard, better known these days as Rusty Red, who appeared in the Dylan show at the Rhumbelow and also The Black Lapels’ hit Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute there. He also recently led his own Rusty Red team’s excellent Eric Clapton showband tribute.
The Black Lapels, with Rusty Red, make a crack team and offer a really good mix of classics in an entertainment that, as is customary with this outfit, is low on chit-chat and high on quality performance, the music doing most of the talking.
It has to be said that the opening Hotel California, the Eagles favourite, was marred a little on opening night by Rob struggling to reach high notes and Rhumbelow soundman Andre Norden having to sort out some really ear-shattering sound distortions, but thankfully that was sorted out quickly.
It was all plain sailing thereafter, and the show emerges as another winner from a team that has also given us tributes to Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash. The group, please note, will also soon be zhooshing up its earlier Paul Simon tribute, adding a choir, a drum line-up and extra musicians for performances at September’s Hilton Arts Festival at Hilton College.
California Sunshine has Rob on lead vocals and guitar throughout, the other guitarists adding backing vocals, and at one stage the show sees Rob alone on stage, on acoustic guitar and vocals, for Bread’s Guitar Man.
Another highlight is another mellow moment that sees Rob, backed only his own guitar and Rusty Red’s harmonica, performing Neil Young’s Heart of Gold.
Rob explains that, as sons of a pastor, he and brother Garth missed out on a lot of music in their youth. Heart of Gold, he tells the audience, was a song he had never heard until he took a long drive and it popped up on the radio, leaving Rob teary-eyed.
The song became so special for him and his wife that it was chosen by them for the first dance at their wedding.
California Sunshine lights up the small Rhumbelow stage with many golden greats – the songlist including The Byrds and Bob Dylan hit Mr Tambourine Man, America’s Horse With No Name, Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson, Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty and the Eagles’s Take It Easy and Tequila Sunrise. And that is all in the first half.
After interval we get Stealers Wheel’s Stuck in the Middle With You as an opener, followed by Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth, The Byrds’s jaunty Mr Spaceman and one of my favourite songs of the era, Teach Your Children by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. We also get a crowd-pleasing delivery of Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone, before the finale, a great delivery of The Band’s version of Dylan’s I Shall Be Released.
California Sunshine has performances at the Rhumbelow Theatre at 2pm and 6.30pm today (July 2) and then at 8pm next Friday and Saturday (July 7 and 8) and 2pm and 6.30pm on Sunday, July 9.
Tickets cost R150 each, seating is at tables of eight and booking is at Computicket or by phoning Roland at 082 499 8636.
Note that patrons are permitted to take their own eats (light meals and snacks are also available at the venue) but drinks must be bought at the theatre’s pub.