In mellow mode with Rodriguez

The Reals – former Johnny Clegg bassist Trevor Donjeany, drummer Mali Sewell, keyboardist and musical director Dawn Selby and singer-guitarist Barry Thomson. Catch their tribute to Rodriguez in Kloof this weekend.

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Stage: The Reals Present Cold Fact: A Tribute to Rodriguez
Rhumbelow Theatre, Tina’s Hotel, Beryldene Road, Kloof
Final performances at 7.30pm Friday and Saturday (March 26 and 27) and 2pm on Sunday (March 28)

REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
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SIX times, over the years, I have seen this excellent tribute to the music and memories of the man who gave us the classic hits I Wonder and Sugarman – and I never get tired of it!

That man, of course, is the now-78-year-old, Detroit-based music phenomenon, Rodriguez, who wowed South Africans and Australians in the early 1970s but, until the 2012 Oscar-winning Seaching For Sugarman documentary of his life, remained virtually unknown in the rest of the world.

First staged by popular Durban tribute band The Reals eight years ago, the show is being revived again until Sunday only, at the Rhumbelow Theatre at Tina’s Hotel in Kloof.

With exemplary vocalist and lead and acoustic guitarist Barry Thomson centre-stage, backed by ace drummer Mali Sewell and the band’s fine new bassist Trevor Donjeavy (who was the bassist for Johnny Clegg), the production is held together by keyboard-player and musical director Dawn Selby.

An informal, slick presentation in which the team gets into a more mellow mood with music that Barry describes as melancholic but soothing, the show has brief spurts of casual narration, more facts really, nodding to the Rodriguez story. It also makes use of snippets from a Rodriguez interview from Searching For Sugarman.

For the most part, though, it is the music that does all the talking – and what great music it is, classic songs that I and many other South Africans grew up with in our teens.

In the early ’70s the albums to have in my neck of the woods included Rodriguez’s 1970 debut, Cold Fact, containing Sugarman and I Wonder. Highlighting songs from that album and also the 1971 follow-up, After the Fact (known else in the world as Coming From Reality), the show opens with Barry performing Inner City Blues and Rich Folks Hoax.

Mali, whose voice sounds the most like Rodriguez in this show, then takes lead vocals on Crucify Your Mind before Barry handles Like Janis.

The first half also offers Hate Street Dialogue, Jane S Piddy, Heikki’s Suburban Bus Tour and Barry’s great delivery of the plaintive, haunting Sandrevan Lullaby, with its wonderful guitar intro and Dawn providing the orchestral sweep. The first half closes with the amusing A Most Disgusting Song.

Second-half songs include Halfway Up the Stairs, I’ll Slip Away, Cause, Silver Words, Only Good For Conversation, Climb Up on My Music and Establishment Blues, with I Wonder, Sugarman and Forget It kept for later in the programme.

Final performances of the show are at 7.30pm on Friday and Saturday (March 26 and 27). A 2pm matinee is scheduled for Sunday, March 28. Tickets cost R160 each (no concessions) and booking is at Computicket or by calling Roland at 082 499 8636. 

PLEASE SUPPORT OUR LOCAL ARTISTS AND THE RHUMBELOW THEATRE IN THESE EXTREMELY TOUGH TIMES!!!!


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