Saluting the dead legends

The cast of Dead Legends. From left are Ross Tapson, Grant Halliday (drummer, obscured), Aaron Saunders and Neil Ford.

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Stage: Dead Legends
(featuring the In the Flesh band)
Next at Rhumbelow Theatre at Tina’s Hotel in Kloof (7.30pm on May 21 and 22, 2pm on May 23); Allan Wilson Shellhole in Pietermaritzburg (2pm on June 27); Northlands Bowling Club in Durban North (7.30pm on July 3).
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GREAT to see seasoned Durban group In the Flesh coming up with interesting new showband tributes to become more of a regular at Durban’s Rhumbelow theatres, where fresh faces and new material are always very warmly welcomed. Long may they remain in the spotlight.

Dead Legends made its debut at the weekend at the Umbilo Rhumbelow Theatre and next moves on to the franchise’s theatres in Kloof, Pietermaritzburg and Durban North (see dates and times above).

In the Flesh is a crack, playfully mischievous team comprising chatty and very talented singer-guitarist Ross Tapson, hard-working drummer Grant Halliday, wild-maned bassist Neil Ford and, a very valuable recent addition to the line-up in versatile and charming young relative-newcomer Aaron Saunders, on vocals and guitar (he also plays terrific blues guitar).

The band has a penchant for harder, often less commercial rock but, as with its earlier Rhumbelow show tributes to Pink Floyd and Southern rock classics, it has always dutifully, deftly, served the favourites while skilfully and neatly sneaking in surprise numbers. They do so again with Dead Legends, their songsheet constantly juggling the crowd-pleasers and the less familiar, encouraging audiences to further explore any new discoveries.

In keeping with the band’s penchant for rock, Dead Legends avoids the likes of Sinatra and Presley (although there is a fine nod to Otis Redding with Aaron’s Dock of the Bay) to instead look back at the more contemporary legacies of the likes of Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Tom Petty and Prince, among others. There is (mercifully) no planned narration of any sort, just some occasional, off-the-cuff patter. The music does the talking!

Durban’s In the Flesh band in Dead Legends.

You immediately know you are in for something a little different when the show’s opening number, the Roy Orbison classic Pretty Woman, has a dirtier, grungier feel to it, Tapson pointing out that this is the late Eddie van Halen’s 1982 rendition of that pop gem.

Straight after that we are into Jimi Hendrix’s Fire and, a big show highlight for me, two David Bowie favourites – Starman and Ziggy Stardust, both featuring Tapson doing justice to the vocals.

We then get a nod to The Doors’ Jim Morrison (Love Me Two Times), with Aaron impressing on lead vocals; Tapson delivering a gentle, lesser-known Tom Petty composition called Leave Virginia Alone (also recorded by Rod Stewart); and some Stevie Ray Vaughn (Tightrope), Gary Moore (Wild Frontier) and, as a closer to the first half, a really good rendition of Prince’s Purple Rain.

The second half offers more Hendrix and a tribute to Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy, as well as a (slightly lacklustre) delivery of Orbison’s You Got It, great servings of Van Halen’s Panama and Queen’s blistering Tie Your Mother Down, and then a quieter moment, with only Aaron on stage with acoustic guitar, to perform Bob Marley’s Redemption Song.

Next comes a most unexpected surprise – the band members returning in sloppy drag, tongue firmly in cheek, for Amy Winehouse’s Rehab and crowd-pleasing deliveries of Queen’s I Want to Break Free, We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions. It’s a nice, amusing touch, getting the crowd singing along and bringing the show to a rousing finale item, Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down.

Tickets for Dead Legends cost R160 each and booking is at Computicket or by contacting Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636. Note that masks must be worn on entry to the venue, where Covid-19 protocols relating to social distancing, temperature readings and sanitising of hands are in place.


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