Rolling with The Stones…

Evan Cullum, Ross Tapson, Aaron Saunders and Neil Ford in It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (A Tribute to The Rolling Stones). Obscured is drummer Grant Halliday.

STAGE: It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll (A Tribute to The Rolling Stones) by In the Flesh – Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo at 2pm today (March 20), then at Pietermaritzburg’s Rhumbelow Theatre, Allan Wilson Shellhole, at 2pm on Sunday, March 27).
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER

DURBAN tribute band In the Flesh is turning into an increasingly popular draw on Durban’s Rhumbelow Theatre circuit and the team deserves all the praise and support it receives. The members are a hard-working, amiable bunch of very talented musicians who make some interesting production choices.

At the group’s core is the seasoned trio of drummer Grant Halliday, bassist Neil Ford and charming show narrator, ace guitarist and versatile vocalist Ross Tapson. Teamed with varying guest musicians they have given audiences fine tributes to Sting, Pink Floyd and Southern rock icons, among other successes.

For their Stones tribute, the trio is reunited again with young singer-guitarist Aaron Saunders and has also roped in, for the first time, Barnyard and Rockwood Theatre entertainer Evan Cullum, who makes a big contribution both on keyboards and vocals.

The Stones show is undeniably enjoyable and with great song choices that had some in last night’s audience dancing and baying for more. However, I have to say that it would be so much better were Ross not to equally share lead vocals with Aaron.

I don’t mean to sound mean. There is no doubt Tapson, always an ace on guitar, has a good, versatile voice – put to stellar use in the band’s Pink Floyd and Bowie tributes – and he certainly gets by here. However, for Stones songs, his vocals are mostly too light, often lending an awkward sweetness to such classics as It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, Satisfaction and Under My Thumb.

Ross jokingly remarks that he has “the shakes like Richards”, but not the “moves like Jagger”. Sadly, on last night’s showing anyway, he also lacked the gritty rock edge, the raunchy vocal oomph, needed to best salute The Stones.

By contrast, and making Ross’s vocal shortfall more conspicuous, Saunders ticks all these boxes, and is perhaps at his finest with his delivery of You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Saunders, in fact, is more relaxed, more confident, than I have seen him on stage before. Of course, like Ross, he is also a terrific guitarist and both, in this respect, shine throughout this show.

Two of the show’s audience highlights are Start Me Up and Dancing in the Street, both with Cullum handling lead vocalists with aplomb. Sadly, these are the only two numbers he gets to sing, which is another great pity.

These gripes aside, this show is fun, containing all the biggies associated with Mick and the boys. Among them are Get Off My Cloud, Paint It Black, Gimme Shelter, Time on My Side, Mother’s Little Helper, Honky Tonk Woman, Brown Sugar, Sympathy For the Devil, very nice renditions of Dead Flowers and Wild Horses, and a rousing Jumping Jack Flash finale. Also here is my longtime favourite Stones song, Angie, done, not too remarkably, with Aaron and Ross sharing vocals.

First presented at the Rhumbelow Theatre at Durban North’s Northlands Bowling Club, the new show features good sound by Andre Norden and effective lighting by Barry Meehan. It will next be staged at 2pm today (Sunday, March 20). It is also scheduled for a 2pm performance on March 27 at the Rhumbelow Theatre at the Allan Wilson Shellhole in Pietermaritzburg.

Tickets for all Rhumbelow Theatre performances of this show cost R180 each. To book, or for more information, email theatre manager Roland Stansell at roland@stansell.za.net. You can also reach Roland at 082 899 4636.


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