Springsteen – unplugged excellence

Gary Nixon (left) and Rob Warren, the stars of A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen. The unplugged performance will be staged again at 7.30pm on Wednesdays October 17 and 24, at Durban’s Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo.

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Stage: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen – Rhumbelow Theatre, Cunningham Road, Umbilo, Durban
(Next at 7.30pm on Wednesdays October 17 and 24)

REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
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ONE of the most successful of American recording artists, Bruce Springsteen is currently the rage in New York with his Springsteen on Broadway show which, extended three times, secured the singer-songwriter a special Tony award in May. It is scheduled to close in December.

That show has the 69-year-old Springsteen singing his music, reading snippets from his 2016 autobiography Born to Run, and performing other spoken reminiscences.

Good time, then, for the very talented Durban singer-guitarist, Rob Warren, of The Black Lapels, to be producing a tribute to the great man whose Born to Run and Born in the USA are top classics among the 18 studio albums he has released between 1973 and 2014.

The Black Lapels – a trio also featuring Rob’s bassist brother Garth and drummer Gareth Gale – teamed with Durban guitarist Rusty Red, keyboard player David Langley and singer-guitarist Gary Nixon, of The Kickstands, to present the Springsteen show at the recent Hilton Arts Festival. Now, however, Rob has decided to go for something different. With only Nixon at his side, and both sharing vocals and guitar, he is offering a stripped-down version of the original show.

The result is an acoustic show that works a treat, scoring from slightly slower, beguiling, arrangements here and there. These allow the poetry of Springsteen’s lyrics to shine brighter, without spoiling the impact of the melodies.

The revised show was first presented last Wednesday at the Rhumbelow Theatre’s Kloof branch at Tina’s Hotel, and on the Wednesdays October 17 and 24 it will be staged at the Rhumbelow’s Umbilo theatre, in Cunningham Road, off Bartle Road.

I urge you to give the production your support as the show is great – two excellent musicians in a low-fuss, straightforward presentation of skill and classic sound.

Rob has always been a favourite of mine and, as usual, does a great job here. But it is Nixon, who I have not seen on stage before, who is the stand-out and who handles most vocals.

Not only is Nixon a fine guitarist but the tone and raspiness of his voice is ideally suited to a Springsteen retrospective. He also really gets to the nitty gritty of the songs, connecting with the nuances and lyrics, and presents a fascinating repertoire of facial expressions to emphasise these connections.

Eighteen songs make up the two-act show which opens with the two performers arriving on stage to be seated on stools, guitars in hand, and Nixon then handling lead vocals on a slowed-down Born in the USA, then Glory Days, Tunnel of Love and Trapped.

Warren takes lead vocals for the first time on From Small Thing before he leaves the stage for Nixon’s solo deliveries of the standout I’m on Fire and Dancing in the Dark. Warren then returns for the guys to deliver Hungry Heart, which got the audience singing along at the performance I attended.

Warren opens the second half with Blinded By the Light, a song, we are told, that marked the only Springsteen No 1 on the singles charts – and it didn’t even feature him. It was Manfred Mann’s Earth Band that topped the US hit-parade with a rearranged version of the song.

Springsteen, who also wrote the Pointer Sisters hit Fire and Patti Smith’s Because the Night, has sold more than 135 million records worldwide and more than 64 million records in the United States alone, reports Wikipedia.

The father of three, who has long been nicknamed The Boss, also has to his credit 20 Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes and induction into both the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Springsteen also has an Oscar for having written the hauntingly beautiful Streets of Philadelphia, theme song for the 1993 Tom Hanks Aids drama, Philadelphia., which, sung superbly by Nixon, highlights the second half of this show.

Also in the production are Thunder Road, Brilliant Disguise, Human Touch, Badlands, Born to Run, Rosalita and two very catchy songs associated with Springsteen’s concerts in Ireland with the Seeger Session Band: Old Dan Tucker and Pay Me My Money Down.

Tickets for the final performances at the Umbilo Rhumbelow Theatre cost R150 each (R130 for pensioners and students with cards). Book at Computicket outlets or by phoning Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636.


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