Stage: Barry Thomson: Times Like These – Rhumbelow Theatre, Cunningham Road, Umbilo, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
ONE of Durban’s most humble, versatile and respected musicians, Barry Thomson is an exemplary, seasoned guitarist-vocalist with a wide range of material on his songsheet. He seldom disappoints.
Putting aside his popular band mates from Durban’s top showband, The Reals, Times Like These marks Barry’s latest solo performance, for which he uses all four guitars positioned in a semi-circle around a stool on which he perches on stage. Again he does not disappoint.
The presentation is informal and relaxed, the easy-going and charming Barry chatting about himself, his instruments and life in general.
He offers his captive audience a rich and varied programme of songs and guitar excellence, sometimes using a loop device (allowing him on-stage, instant recording and playback of a repeating section of guitar) to augment his sound. He also throws in some good harmonica for two songs.
At the first performance of the new show, a Wednesday fund-raiser for Umbilo’s St Cyprians Church which is in desperate need of a new roof, some in the audience were heard to titter that they’d prefer a programme of only hit material.
However, I’m with Barry, who says in passing during the show that while he enjoys covering other people’s songs, he would prefer, in a show format, to combine the familiar with the less so. In so doing, he says, he gets to simultaneously feed his soul and introduce his audience to material they might otherwise have not come across.
I support this decision as there have been a number of occasions where I have left a show by Thomson or The Reals to further research songs or artists they have introduced me to.
Opening with US singing surfer Jack Johnson’s Times Like These, Barry devotes the first half of his two-act show to many less commercial songs, numbers that look at life and provide him with challenges and reflection.
The more well-known songs, mostly from previous hit shows by The Reals, come in the second act and embrace the likes of Neil Diamond, Dire Straits, Tears For Fears, the Eagles, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac and, as a teaser for the upcoming new show by The Reals, The Travelling Wilburys (the superband that comprised Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan).
Highlights of the Times Like These first half are definitely Neil Young’s plaintive Harvest Moon (featuring harmonica), Bob Dylan’s Forever Young and two lesser known songs, both upbeat audience-pleasers: Sonny and Brownie’s You Bring Out the Boogie in Me and Irish singer Foy Vance’s catchy Upbeat Feel Good, which involves an audience singalong before interval.
We also get Tom Petty’s Learning to Fly, Barry’s own Take It in My Stride and, in the second half, Tears For Fears’ Mad World and Shout, Marc Knopfler’s fun The Bug, Neil Diamond’s I Am, I Said, Dire Straits’ Romeo and Juliet, and the Eagles hits Take It Easy and Life in the Fast Lane. A nice surprise is Hold On Tight by ELO, an exuberant hit I haven’t heard in yonks.
Performances of Times Like These are at 8pm this Friday and Saturday (April 19 and 20) and 2pm on Sunday (April 21). The show will then be staged from April 26 to 28 at the Rhumbelow Theatre branch at Tina’s Hotel in Beryldene Road, Kloof.
Tickets cost R150 each (R130 for pensioners). To book or for more information visit Computicket or phone Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636.