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ROCK LEGENDS (article first published : 2003-08-17)

Yesterday, I was among a group of KZN journalists who were flown up to Johannesburg to review the Rock Legends World Tour production currently running at the Civic Theatre. Billed as “one of the greatest concerts ever staged”, it has broken all international box office records. Touring worldwide to sold-out performances, it will have shows in Durban at the end of the month.

If I hadn’t been put in an extremely ill temper at the beginning of the show, perhaps this review might have been a bit more favourable. Such words from me? The ever-supportive? Well, yes.

This response has more to do with the fact that the show was being filmed and the process, I believe, interfered with audience appreciation. In fact, if I had been a paying customer, I would have asked for a partial refund of the ticket on the grounds that I had not paid to see a TV crew at work. While the cameras in the auditorium were discreetly placed, a crane-operated camera was constantly being swung in and out over the orchestra and a piece of equipment of that magnitude is hardly unobtrustive. Also, no announcement was made asking the audience’s indulgence for the filming which would have been a small courtesy.

Rock Legends is advertised as featuring “three of the world’s greatest tribute bands who look and sound like the original super stars”. I beg to differ. We have produced equally good - and some a whole lot better - tribute shows in South Africa.

In the ABBA tribute, ABBAAgain made a dramatic entrance and the foursome exuded the appealing qualities of the originals. I enjoyed Chiquitita and Dancing Queen and the latter had many audience members dancing in their rows. But couldn’t the Bjon and Benny characters have found better wigs?

The tribute to ABBA was followed by Royal Queen (Chris Lennon). While the publicity hails him as the “best Freddie Mercury tribute artiste in the world”, they obviously have never seen our own Joseph Clark or Duncan Royce in action. Chris Lennon lacked the tightly coiled energy of Freddie Mercury who was as much about body language as he was about powerful vocal talent. Lennon’s best numbers were Killer Queen and Bohemian Rhapsody.

The second half of the programme is devoted to The Beatles and The Booty Beetles gave a very authentic and enjoyable presentation of the lads from Liverpool although inferior wigs were a jarring feature here as well. I enjoyed Yesterday and Yellow Submarine and was sorry to leave before the end but we had to catch our plane back to Durban.

The show is musically sound and it is the attraction of the well-known and much-loved songs that will draw people. However, the production is only lifted above the average by the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra conducted by Iain Sutherland. In Durban, the singers will be supported by the KZNPO – good enough reason alone to see the show. Mention must be made of the audiovisual images – particularly those of a young Freddie Mercury. Footage of the Beatles reminds us that they were part of the major technological breakthrough when black and white television turned to colour.

Good to see the Civic buzzing with performances or events happening in the various venues. What a pleasure it would be to see the Playhouse operating in a similar vibrant atmosphere.

The Rock Legends World Tour is due to have performances in the Playhouse Opera on August 28 at 20h00, August 29 (18h00 and 21h00), August 30 (15h00 and 20h00) and August 31 (15h00).

Tickets range from a fairly whopping R212 down to R135 and I don’t believe the show is worth the ticket prices. Tap Dogs, maybe, but not this one. Book at Computicket. – Caroline Smart




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