Bigger and better fare from Starke

Dave Starke and Two Bit Mac are among the cast of A Tribute to James Taylor and Carole King, at the Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo this weekend only.

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Stage: A Tribute to James Taylor and Carole King – Rhumbelow Theatre, Cunningham Road, Umbilo, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
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BRAVO to talented, Eshowe-based singer, guitarist and keyboardist Dave Starke for reworking and expanding on his show paying tribute to the music and memories of the great James Taylor and Carole King, which previously had too much James and too little Carole. It’s now a hugely satisfying entertainment.

Hitherto the show, while certainly enjoyable, featured only the confident, classy, articulate, pure-voiced Starke and South African-born, US-educated singer Two Bit Mac, a petite and beguilingly bashful young woman under a pile of African braids.

Now Starke has not only added more material and some new arrangements, offering a more even balance of Taylor and King material, but presents a show that is more deftly paced and made even more appealing with a bigger line-up.

Two Bit is still there, but now shares female vocals with blonde Lizzie Gaisford who also contributes backing vocals, some bass and handles keyboards, accompanying herself on well-received renditions of two of King’s biggest hits, You’ve Got a Friend and I Feel the Earth Move.

Another new addition is the tall and animated Jaran Lienig, from Norway, who also hops between instruments. He starts out on drums then takes to bass, impressing on keyboards with the group’s fun rendition of Taylor’s gutsy, bluesy, amusing Steamroller, and also sharing vocals on the impressive a cappela number, Lonesome Road, featuring the whole cast.

Raised in Cape Town, Starke is a smooth performer with a gentle guitar-playing style, who first impressed Rhumbelow Theatre audiences with his excellent Leonard Cohen tribute show, staged earlier this year after success in the Cape.

Dave Starke… fine guitarist with a pure voice.

With a degree in drama and classical studies from the University of Cape Town, he 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.

A Tribute to James Taylor and Carole King is nicely paced and a joy for anyone appreciating acoustic sounds and more gentle song choice. Fans of the wonderful Ms King and Taylor, a five-time Grammy Award-winner who turned 70 in March, will lap it up.

Highlights include Too Bit performing King’s gospel-like Way Over Yonder, So Far Away and Natural Women, while the cherries on top of this show are Dave’s sweet delivery of Taylor’s Sweet Baby James (which opens the show) and Fire and Rain. Also standouts are Dave’s Carolina in My Mind, Wandering, the lilting One Morning in May and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?.

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.

He 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.

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, but that is a very small grumble. It all adds up to a casually elegant and hugely entertaining production that well deserves support.

Final performances are at 8pm today (Saturday, July 28) and 2pm on Sunday (July 29). Tickets cost R150 (R130 for pensioners) and booking is at Computicket or by calling Roland at 082 499 8636. Book now!


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