Stage: The Reals and Friends: Poetry in Music
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
POPULAR Durban band The Reals has collaborated again with show devisor, guitarist and singer Colin Peddie, as well as former The Voice SA contestant Samantha Landers – two artists with whom the band last collaborated for the recent revival of its excellent Fleetwood Mac tribute show at this same cosy venue in Kloof.
The new show, Poetry in Music, is a very good one, offering something for all age groups and having a more theatrical leaning as well as a new level of sophistication in presentation. It offers a good mix of classic and more current songs as it celebrates poetic lyrics from a diverse range of artists.
Expect to hear songs from John Lennon, Simon and Garfunkel, Peter Gabriel, Counting Crows, Eagles, Indigo Girls, Mumford and Sons, The Waterboys, Paul Simon, Rodriguez, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and others.
These are occasionally linked with video footage on a raised screen to the side of the stage – footage featuring Durban actor-comic Ben Voss as a pompous professor of poetry with a regular Poetry Hour TV show on DStv.
He is Tobias Montgomery, who reluctantly announces that his latest episode will focus on poetic excellence in modern song lyrics – although he makes no bones about the fact that he doubts this exists – and, with pipe in hand, introduces The Reals, which he refers to as a “house band”.
Every so often, in between songs performed by the group, we return to the screen for more interludes from Tobias, although sometimes he is absent from his on-screen comfy armchair and it is left to the band members to offer explanations and commentary on songs.
Dressed in black and white for the first half of the show, then burgundy and black for the second act, members of the group are on fine form.
Musical direction is by Dawn Selby, who performs on keyboards – with hat on head and scarf tied to microphone stand, as is customary – and offers backing vocals, as well as a sweet solo spot with Sarah McLachlan’s great ballad, Angel.
Each of the band members has time to shine – drummer Mali Sewell on Rodriguez’s magical Sandrevan Lullaby, which has one of my all-time favourite guitar intros; bassist Jason Andrew in duet with guitarist-singer Barry Thomson on Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence; and guest singer Samantha Landers on John Lennon’s Imagine.
The delivery of Imagine is particularly well done, lyrics beamed on to the front of Landers’s white gown – a novel and effective piece of lighting from Durban lighting master Michael Broderick. He also, here and there, flashes lyrics and song titles on to the sides and back of the small stage, and works wonders with dappled lighting on the stage ceiling and in front of the stage. Kudos!
But here a small gripe… with lesser-known songs, such as those associated perhaps with Indigo Girls (Fugitive) or Counting Crows (Mrs Potter’s Revenge), it might have been a good idea to scroll lyrics on the video screen, especially considering the show’s focus is poetic lyrics. Not all, maybe one or two. Just a thought.
Colin Peddie spent nearly a year devising the show and selecting songs with lyrics that follow poetic guidelines, using simile, metaphor and the like. He has done so with passion and it shows in his on-stage performance.
He gets totally swept away in his solo vocal spots, and the audience is largely beguiled by his energy and enjoyment, most notably in two songs with which I, and all others at my table, were not familiar – Del Amitry’s Nothing Ever Happens and Peter Gabriel’s Come Talk to Me.
Barry Thomson hits a high point in the show with his delivery of Leonard Cohen’s very poetic Famous Blue Raincoat, and also while sharing guitar with Peddie on Hotel California, which closes the first half of the show and has all the men sharing lead vocals. I also enjoyed Barry’s delivery of The Waterboys classic, The Whole of the Moon, and his lively rendition of Mumford and Son’s The Cave.
Among other songs featured are Paul Simon’s Boy in the Bubble, Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, Suzanne Vega’s Gypsy (another Landers solo spot), Don McLean’s American Pie, Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone and, the show opener, the Tears for Fears favourite, Mad World.
Also featuring recorded narration by Durban actor Michael Gritten, Poetry in Music is a bit of a bold step in a new direction for The Reals, and a path they should explore further, going forward. It is well worth a visit.
Tickets cost R150 each, booking is by calling Roland at 082 499 8636 and final performances are at 8pm tonight (March 22), tomorrow (March 23) and Saturday (March 24), and at 2pm on Sunday (March 25).