Intimate, informal and rewarding

Durban’s Rob Warren, of The Black Lapels, in One Man Band, his intimate and informal new solo show. It is being staged this weekend only at the Rhumbelow Theatre at Tina’s Hotel in Kloof.

Stage: Rob Warren: One Man Band – Rhumbelow Theatre, Tina’s Hotel, Beryldene Road, Kloof

THE popular and very talented Durban band, The Black Lapels, is not performing at Durban’s Rhumbelow theatres as often as it once did, which is a little sad. So it was with some excitement that I attended last night’s opening of the new solo show by the group’s charismatic frontman, singer-guitarist Rob Warren.

I was not alone in saying there was no disappointment. With easy charm and confidence, and his vocal and musical versatility perfectly showcased, Warren is on tip-top form in the intimate and informal One Man Band.

On a stage subtlely and very effectively lit by Sarah Claxton, Warren serves just the right balance of casual patter and music, and constantly switches between two guitars – one being like a wife going through life’s routines; the other like a wife who gets more playful and naughty after a few drinks, he says with a mischievous wink and grin.

Performing a varied collection of songs that have influenced him over the years, mostly linked to brief anecdotes of his years growing up in the Margate and Ramsgate areas, Rob also performs some pleasing originals which feature on his band’s CD, on sale at the venue.

Singer-guitarist and songwriter Rob Warren in One Man Band.

The beauty of this show is that many of the songs have tweaked arrangements, lending them a crisp freshness and quality that makes One Man Band one of my favourite solo performances by Warren.

His delivery of Dire Straits’ Sultans of Swing, in a more elegant and mellow style that dispenses with the trademark Mark Knopfler dominance, is quite magical, and alone worth the ticket price. But it is not the only gem on a song list that offers lesser-known numbers among the more commercial, some of them with an ache of melancholy.

Warren opens with a Black Lapels original, Other Side of Love, and later also weaves magic with renditions of Danger and Shakedown, all three songs from the group’s All or Nothing album.

Presented over two halves, the show nods to Simon and Garfunkel with The Boxer and Mrs Robinson; Crowded House with the catchy World Where You Live and the lesser known Nails in My Feet; and Johnny Cash with Ring of Fire, Walk the Line, Man in Black and the last song that legend recorded, 2002’s haunting Hurt.

We also get nods to Sting in It’s Probably Me and a fun meshing of the Police man’s Englishman in New York and Men At Work’s Down Under, while Johnny Cash’s catchy novelty, A Boy Named Sue, gets most in the audience merrily bopping their heads, as does the Marc Cohn classic, Walking in Memphis, also a hit for Cher.

Also featuring Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road, Johnny Clegg and Savuka’s Scatterlings of Africa and the encore hits Message in a Bottle and a beautifully executed Hotel California, the show runs only this weekend. Final performances are at 8pm today (Saturday, January 18) and 2pm tomorrow (Sunday, January 19)

Tickets cost R160 each (R140 for pensioners and students with a valid student card) and booking is at Computicket or by calling Roland at 082 499 8636.

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