STAGE: Legends of Reggae – Rhumbelow Theatre, Tina’s Hotel, Beryldene Road, Kloof
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
HAVING got my nod as 2019’s Newcomer of the Year on the Durban theatre scene, modest and charming singer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Tanner Wareham scores again with his salute to reggae, his second supper theatre show following last year’s tribute to Bob Dylan.
Blessed with a captivating, somewhat unique voice and also a multi-skilled musician, he appears in his laidback and informal new show on acoustic and electric guitar as well as keyboards and loop machine, backed by jolly bassist Reece Cook and fine drummer Yesh Naidoo.
Now a lot more confident and relaxed than when he took to the Tina’s Hotel stage last year for the first performance of his Dylan tribute, Wareham and his team offer a deft, highly enjoyable tribute to the sleepily catchy music style which originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s, evolving from the earlier genres of ska and rocksteady.
With a grin and a shrug, Wareham announces early in the performance that the show unapologetically comprises mostly songs associated with the godfather of reggae, Bob Marley. He also said at last night’s opening performance that, after the angst of Dylan, he was going to be keeping things cheerful… so it was a “no” to a shout-out requests for UB40’s Tyler and King, the trio offering Red, Red Wine instead.
Besides good renditions of Marley classics such as the opening Jammin’, Buffalo Soldier, One Love, Is This Love?, Three Little Birds, Redemption Song (a solo acoustic highlight for Wareham) and, of course, No Woman, No Cry and Get Up, Stand Up, there are other songs of note. These include an excellent version of Sting’s Englishman in New York (with a jazzy keyboard flourish midway), Inner Circle’s Sweat (a La La La Long) and Big Mountain’s cover of the Peter Frampton-penned Baby I Love Your Way.
Also featured are chart favourites such as Eddy Grant’s Gimme Hope Jo’anna and his overlong I Don’t Wanna Dance, and a delivery of Jimmy Cliff’s rather mediocre Reggae Nights which came over as surprisingly lacklustre as an encore piece.
Often the trio puts a welcome fresh tilt on the obvious, be it in Wareham’s phrasing or a song’s tempo being changed (most notably in a good, speeded-up delivery of Marley’s Could You Be Loved), and a packed and jovial opening night audience seemed more than happy.
“Please don’t accost us outside and ask why we didn’t include you favourites; there are just too many,” said bassist Cook at one point in the show’s first half… and he speaks the truth.
On that note, it would be great for the trio to consider a show sequel – and, for starters, I’d like the inclusion of Eddy Grant’s Can You Feel My Love? and Electric Avenue, some early UB40 and Johnny Nash’s I Can See Clearly Now. And how about a fun novelty medley of (Hey) Fattie Bum-Bum, Barbados, Suzanne Beware of the Devil and Rat in the Kitchen?
Legends of Reggae has final performances in Kloof at 8pm today (February 29) and 2pm tomorrow (March 1). Tickets cost R160 each (R140 for pensioners and students with valid student cards) and booking is at Computicket or by calling Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636.
Note that a season of Legends of Reggae at the Umbilo branch of the Rhumbelow Theatre is likely later in the year