Much of James, little of Carole

Dave Starke and Two Bit Mac star in A Tribute to James Taylor and Carole King, at Tina’s Hotel in Kloof this weekend. Final performances are at 8pm on June 2 and 2pm on June 3.

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Stage:
A Tribute to James Taylor and Carole King  Rhumbelow Theatre, Tina’s Hotel, 14 Beryldene Road, Kloof
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
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RAISED in Cape Town and more recently from Eshowe, Dave Starke is a confident, classy, articulate, easy-on-the-eye charmer, a singer-guitarist and composer who might be recalled from his being a contestant on the first season of The Voice South Africa.

Regulars at Durban’s Rhumbelow Theatre franchises, however, are sure to more recall the smooth crooner with the gentle guitar-playing style, from his elegant and excellent Leonard Cohen tribute show, staged earlier this year after success in the Cape.

With a degree in drama and classical studies from the University of Cape Town, Starke has chalked up more than two decades in the entertainment field, and in addition to corporate and wedding entertainment, composes music for television and movies, most notably the South African feature film The Killing Floor, presented at last year’s Durban International Film Festival.

He is now back in the spotlight with a new supper show which unites him with South African-born, US-educated singer Two Bit Mac, a petite and beguilingly bashful young woman under a pile of African braids.

A Tribute to James Taylor and Carole King is scheduled for final performances at Tina’s Hotel, Kloof, at 8pm today (June 2) and 2pm tomorrow (June 3), and will be staged again at the Rhumbelow Theatre’s newly revamped Umbilo branch, in Cunningham Road, off Bartle Road, from July 27 to 29.

The show is elegant, nicely paced and a joy for anyone appreciating acoustic sounds and more gentle song choices, the music coming mostly from Dave on guitar and occasional keyboards, and also from backing tracks.

Dave Starke and Too Bit Mac.

However, as much as I loved the show, I have to say I was not alone in feeling a little disappointed by the paucity of songs on the programme associated with Carole King, a longtime friend of, and collaborator with, James Taylor, the five-time Grammy Award-winner who turned 70 in March.

The show is billed as a tribute to both artists but Taylor hogs most of the limelight, only four songs associated with King getting an airing, among them Natural Woman, which closes the first half and best shows Too Bit Mac’s vocal power.

She also performs Way Over Yonder from King’s Tapesty collection and joins Dave in duet for You’ve Got a  Friend, while Dave, accompanying himself on keyboards, offers a show highlight in his poignant rendition of King’s Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?.

But that’s it with the Carole King section, and even the show’s encore item is a surprise reprise of You’ve Got a Friend. A rather curious encore choice when you consider the many King classics from which one could have chosen.

King is given a bit of a back seat here, for sure, but you will still be treated to a fun ride with this show as the two offer a captivating entertainment, Too Bit Mac mostly coming and going to contribute moments of harmony.

As he did with his Cohen tribute show, Starke has researched his subject well and while chatting often about Taylor unearths some interesting facts – listen for references to The Beatles, Beach Boys, Paul Simon and Linda Ronstadt, among others.

Starke also offers anecdotes that include his having become a fan of James Taylor when, as a 17-year-old with attitude and a passion for heavy metal, he spent several days with his theatre set designer uncle in London and discovered and enjoyed his old record collection.

Starke’s early admiration for Taylor resulted in his self-composed Birds, a song in the style of Taylor, which tells of an unlikely romance between a nightingale and a raven. Starke performs the song in this production.

He also features the likes of Taylor’s Sweet Baby James (which opens the show), Carolina in My Mind, Fire and Rain, You Can Close Your Eyes, Wandering, the lilting One Morning in May, the country hit She Thinks I Still Care and the fun, bluesy Steamroller. The show closes with both singers in a stellar, a cappella delivery of Lonesome Road.

I was rather surprised at the exclusion from the songsheet of one of Taylor’s biggest hits, and my personal favourite from the American, 1972’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight. And, for that matter, where was the catchy hit, Mocking Bird, recorded with Taylor and former wife, Carly Simon?


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