Stage: The Reals with Neill Solomon and Dan Chiorboli – Rhumbelow Theatre, Tina’s Hotel, Beryldene Road, Kloof
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
AFTER some 45 years as a musical team and two whole decades since they last performed together in Durban, their hometown, local music giants Neill Solomon and Dan Chiorboli are back in Durbs with music old and new, performing alongside the popular The Reals. And it’s good to see and hear them again.
It’s a different sort of show for The Reals, in that the band generally takes a back seat to Dan and Neill, with mostly singer-guitarist Barry Thomson and singer-keyboardist Dawn Selby to the fore, but with Dan and Neill always firmly in the centre-spotlight.
Part of the reason for that is that Dawn and Barry were among many musicians who recently contributed to a new triple-CD album masterminded by the special guests. That album, scheduled for release in September, is Songs That Made Us Free – South Africa/Italy/Cuba, co-produced with Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music and Pink Floyd fame.
That musical adventure, based on the freedom and liberation theme of the three countries, features 36 songs recorded in 20 different studios around the world, with a total of 142 musicians and groups from 18 different countries.
Two songs from the collection, both accompanied by animation shown on a screen to the side of the stage, close the first set of the Tina’s Hotel performance – and both are haunting, memorable songs: one about a man fighting for a cause in the memory of his father; the other about Steve Biko.
For the most part, however, this show is about making memories, the repertoire offering songs of depth and character from singer-songwriter Neill – from his early solo career (anyone remember him from Durban’s long-gone Persian Room, when he played covers there?) through to his successes with Neill Solomon & The Uptown Rhythm Dogs, The Passengers and The Uptown Rhythm Collective.
A gravel-voiced singer with an easy charm, adept on guitar and keyboards, Neill and master percussionist Dan, here performing with a wonderful assortment of instruments, offer great entertainment backed by The Reals.
Neill, an award-winning film and television soundtrack composer, songwriter and musician, formed Uptown Rhythm Dogs with Dan and multi-instrumentalist Tony “Lizard” Hunter in 1980.
After the release of their The Occupant album, and on the strength of their hits Roxy Lady and Junk Food and Disposable Ladies, the trio got the nod to support Janis Ian on her South African tour, but on the eve of that tour Hunter was tragically killed and, although Neill and Dan completed the shows with additional players, the Uptown Rhythm Dogs broke up a few weeks later.
After a short hiatus Neill formed Neill Solomon’s Bazaar in 1983 and toured South Africa for nearly two years. In 1985, it is reported in Neill’s biography, he joined the now-defunct Loft Theatre Company at Durban’s Playhouse and performed in numerous plays, including the award-winning Kwamanzi.
Later that year he formed The Passengers along with Chris Bekker, Stuart “Woody” Woods (ex-Bay City Rollers) and George Spencer. This line-up recorded three singles before disbanding in 1988.
Retaining Woods, Neill forged ahead with a new line-up and recorded the album Rule of the Swallow, which produced the single, What. Throughout this period Neill continued his interest in theatre, and after joining playwright Nicholas Ellenbogen, he went on to score the music for the plays The Trophy Hunters and Gone By the Wind.
He also appeared in the film The Angel, the Bicycle and the Chinaman’s Finger, which won him an award for the music score. Neill has since scored many internationally recognised films and theatre productions, such as the acclaimed Jock of the Bushveld, Gavin Hood’s A Reasonable Man and the award-winning production Nothing But The Truth, by John Kani.
His biog adds that in 1992 he gathered together some of the country’s finest musicians to record his third album, The Gathering of the Beasts, which featured the chart singles In The Year 2000 and I Don’t Want To See You.
Neill remains a renowned composer for television series and ads, most notably A Place Called Home (for which he won a 2010 Safta Award for best composition in television), Isidingo and 90 Plein St. Some of his commercials include Eskom, BMW and Guinness.
In the Tina’s Hotel performance, listen out for the likes of Neill’s The Occupant, Roxy Lady and Magic Man, as well as covers – also featuring The Reals and special guest, flautist and saxophonist Paul Seaman – of Al Green’s Take Me to the River, Otis Redding’s Sitting on the Top of the Bay and Van Morrison’s Moondance.
The Reals, Neill and Dan, nicely lit by Sarah Claxton and with sound in the capable hands of Colin Peddie, will give their final performances at 8pm nightly from today until Saturday (August 16, 17 and 18) and at 2pm on Sunday (August 19).
Tickets cost R150 (R130 for pensioners) and booking is at Computicket or by phoning Roland at 082 499 8636.