Still rocking strong!

Andy Turrell, Barry Thomson and Dawn Selby in Rock Guitar Legends II. Drummer Mali Sewell is behind Barry.

Stage: Rock Guitar Legends II by The Reals – Next performance scheduled for 2pm on March 13 at Pietermaritzburg’s Allan Wilson shellhole)

MUCH less a sequel than a tweaking of the original Rock Guitar Legends show that The Reals tribute band first presented in Durban in March and October 2019, Rock Guitar Legends II nonethless remains hugely enjoyable entertainment from one of the most versatile, popular and respected groups in this city.

The Reals, of course, is the hard-working core team of seasoned singer-guitarist Barry Thomson, singer, musical director and keyboardist Dawn Selby and singer-drummer Mali Sewell, joined now by versatile Andy Turrell on bass.

When it was first staged three years ago, Rock Guitar Legends was noted as a low-fuss but high-impact production that was special in that it marked the first show in many years from The Reals in which they were simply themselves – a good band in its own right. There were no guest singers. There was minimal theatricality, neither props nor costumes, and no audio-visual aids. The team simply shone with good music, sheer professionalism and an unbridled passion for what they do. All that remains true today.

Everyone in the group has their moment and, as a whole, remain strong, 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 great here, delighting with 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 Shadows instrumental (Apache in the 2019 show; The Rise and Fall of Flingel Blunt now) 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’s more uptempo version of Sultans of Swing, which was performed at London’s 02 arena, 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 the Pink Floyd classics Another Brick in the Wall and Comfortably Numb.

Smoke on the Water has been dropped from the Deep Purple tribute sequence this time around, but we have the hard-rocking Burn, followed, as in the original show, by Difficult to Cure and a fun, hectic delivery of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

I also loved the Jimi Hendrix spot (sadly, Barry does not play the guitar behind his neck this time around) and the exciting Led Zeppelin section – Whole Lotta Love and Immigrant Song, featuring Barry and Dawn sharing vocals – as well as a truly excellent delivery, by Barry, 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 (an overlong, rather average song that could easily be cut). Where former, much-missed Reals bassist Jason Andrew handled lead vocals for ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man in the first show, we now have Barry taking the spotlight with Joe Walsh’s Rocky Mountain Way, adding the novelty of voice box to imitate additional guitar sounds.

Wonderful news is that Rock Guitar Legends II sold out their recent weekend performances at the Umbilo Rhumbelow, and one holds thumbs the Pietermaritzburg performance is as successful! It is scheduled for 2pm on March 13, at the Allan Wilson Shellhole at 5 Durban Road in Pietermaritzburg.

Tickets cost R180 and booking is via or at Computicket.

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