A rocking nod to British bands

The Reals. From left are drummer Mali Sewell, bassist Jason Andrew, guitarist Barry Thomson and keyboardist Dawn Selby. Guitarist Shaun Dragt joins them for their new show.

STAGE: Badfinger to Bad Company – Rhumbelow Theatre, Umbilo, Durban

INTRODUCING a new concept for them – a showband entertainment in which each half of a show pays tribute to a different artist – the members of versatile Durban band The Reals provide great fun with their nods to British bands Badfinger and Bad Company.

Badfinger, whose 1970s music opens the show, was once touted as having the potential to become the new Beatles. The group had the Fab Four attending their gigs, and Paul McCartney wrote and produced the team’s first hit, Come and Get It, which opens this show with drummer Mali Sewell handling lead vocals.

Badfinger was the first act signed to The Beatles’ Apple record company, but after five years they had quit that studio, weathered management problems, faced lawsuits… and two of the four members eventually hanged themselves.

The group did, however, leave some great songs – the hit singles Day After Day (produced by George Harrison), Baby Blue (used in the hit TV series Breaking Bad) and Apple of My Eye, all performed in the show. Badfinger also wrote Without You, a ballad which went on to be a huge hit for both Nilsson and Mariah Carey (both of whom performed the song infinitely better, I have to say).

Without You is covered here by keyboardist and musical director Dawn Selby, who shares lead vocals throughout the production with guitarist Barry Thomson, bassist Jason Andrew and drummer Mali Sewell. Completing the lineup is guest guitarist Shaun Dragt. They are a crack team.

Making use of video footage on screens flanking the small stage, the show also tips a hat in the first half to The Beatles because of their Badfinger links. There’s some really good stuff – including Revolution, She Came in Through the Bathroom Window and my favourite… the Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight arrangement that I fell in love with on the soundtrack of the 1978 Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band movie.

The show’s second half is every bit as good as the first, and is quick to get the rock fans headbanging along, as it features tracks from Bad Company’s eponymous 1974 album, 1975’s Straight Shooter collection and 1976’s Run with the Pack.

All the biggies are presented, and very well, by The Reals – Bad Company, Can’t Get Enough, Good Lovin’ Gone Bad and Feel Like Makin’ Love – although some at my table were disappointed at the exclusion from the playlist of 1974’s Seagull. And I missed Rock Steady.

Fun, though, to have the inclusion of the amusing and catchy Young Blood, which I recall The Reals performing in one of their many shows at the now-defunct Heritage Theatre in Hillcrest. Here featuring Jason on lead vocals, it’s a 1957 hit song by The Coasters that was covered not only by Bad Company but also Bruce Willis and American Idol’s 2011 winner, Scotty McCreery.

Also among songs featured in the show’s second half are Run with the Pack (Dawn on lead vocals) and Moving On, Shooting Star and Ready For Love (Barry on lead vocals for all).

By the way…  if anyone is a little puzzled by the choice of Free’s All Right Now as the show’s encore piece, it’s because Bad Company was formed in Westminster, London, in 1973, by two former Free band members – singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke.

The Reals show is being presented at the Durban Rhumbelow Theatre in Cunningham Road, Umbilo, every Friday to Sunday until December 17. Performances are at 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 2pm on Sundays.

Tickets cost R150 each, seating is at tables of eight, patrons can take along their own food but have to buy drinks at the theatre pub, and booking is by calling Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636. Treat yourself!

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