Reals rocking the Rhumbelow

The Reals in Rock Guitar Legends. From left are Jason Andrew, Barry Thomson and Dawn Selby. Drummer Mali Sewell is behind Thomson.

Stage: Rock Guitar Legends by The Reals – Rhumbelow Theatre, Cunningham Road, Umbilo, Durban

I KNOW of at least one regular theatregoer and music-lover in Durban who rates this new show by versatile local showband, The Reals, as the best he’s seen in years in this city. I wouldn’t go that far but there is absolutely no denying that Rock Guitar Legends is excellent entertainment, a truly memorable show from one of the most versatile, popular and respected groups in this city.

The Reals, of course, is the hard-working team comprising seasoned singer-guitarist Barry Thomson, singer, musical director and keyboardist Dawn Selby, singer-bassist Jason Andrew and singer-drummer Mali Sewell. They’re most noted for their fine Fleetwood Mac, Dire Straits, Woodstock, Neil Diamond and Rodriguez tribute shows.

Rock Guitar Legends, first reviewed when it premiered in March at the Rhumbelow Theare in Kloof, is a low-fuss but high-impact production that is special in that it marks the first show in many years from The Reals in which they are simply themselves – a good band in their own right. There are no guest singers/musicians. There is minimal theatricality, neither props nor costumes, and no audio-visual aids. The team simply shines with good music, sheer professionalism and an unbridled passion for what they do.

Jason Andrew and Barry Thomson in Rock Guitar Legends.

All in the group have their moments and, as a whole, remain dynamite, but there can be no denying the spotlight is most bright on charmer Thomson, one of the best and most likeable guitarists in the country. He is superb here, delighting with interesting, casual anecdotal information about various artists and guitars. and showing his skill and versatility on vocals while switching between four different guitars.

The emphasis is on guitar rock legends so there is never a dull moment and the mix of songs selected is excellent – ranging from the opening Apache instrumental (a salute to the distinctive style of Hank Marvin of The Shadows), through to salutes to Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Brian May of Queen. We also get nods to blues great Stevie Ray Vaughan, the soulful Gary Moore, Slash of Guns N’ Roses, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple.

Highlights are many, not least an exemplary delivery of Dire Straits’ Sultans of Swing and, best of the lot for me, a rousing Santana section, featuring Soul Sacrifice and Samba Pati. The iconic Brian May guitar solo from Bohemian Rhapsody. leading into Queen’s Tie Your Mother Down, is another special moment, along with Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall and Comfortably Numb, and Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water and Difficult to Cure.

I also loved the Jimi Hendrix spot (yes, Barry plays the guitar behind his neck) and the Led Zeppelin section – Whole Lotta Love and  Immigrant Song – as well as an excellent delivery of Gary Moore’s Still Got the Blues.

Barry is on lead vocals for most of the show, but Dawn takes the microphone for Guns N; Roses’ November Rain (a rather average song in my book) and Jason handles lead vocals for ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man.

Rock Guitar Legends, featuring atmospheric lighting and very good sound control by Andre Norden, is being staged in Umbilo at 2pm today (October 27) and again at 8pm next Friday and Saturday  (November 1 and 3) and 2pm on Sunday (November 3). Tickets cost R150 each and booking is at Computicket or by callling Roland at 082 499 8636.

The Reals. From left are Mali Sewell, Dawn Selby, Jason Andrew and Barry Thomson.

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