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THE SONG RIDERS (article first published : 2006-01-28)

The Song Riders, the latest offering by the Catalina Theatre, Wilsonís Wharf, highlights the innovative, boundary-breaking original music created by a generation of talented, fearless, skilled musicians during the '60s, '70s and '80s, i.e. The Song Riders, viz. Neill Solomon, Roger Lucey, Ken E Henson and Dan Chiorboli.

The show runs until Sunday 29 January with special guests Nibs van der Spuy and Guy Buttery on the first two nights (Wednesday and Thursday) and legendary singer/songwriter Wendy Oldfield joining the renowned Song Riders on the subsequent three nights.

The first impression on entering the theatre is the absolute abundance of musical instruments spread across the large Catalina stage, no less than eight guitars, a piano, keyboards, a multitude of drums etc. etc. You might, as I did, have the fear that the audience would be blasted to next week by the volume but full marks to the sound man and all concerned. The volume is well controlled throughout - many other managements could learn from this. The stage really looks good.

The show starts with Roger Lucey coming on stage and introducing Nibs van der Spuy and Guy Buttery who then enchant with their special blend of contemporary acoustic guitar wizardry. They are really accomplished and deserve their reputations. I would have liked a spotlight on their centre stage performance, including perhaps on Roger's introduction. Nibs van der Spuy was joined by Ken E Henson for one song. The lights were turned up for the last number in the first half when Roger Lucey on trumpet and Dan Chiorboli on drums joined the two guitarists. This really illuminated the stage in more ways than one, it's a pity more use was not made of the many lights on the stage earlier. The first half lasted about an hour.

After a short interval, The Song Riders mentioned above took the stage. Roger Lucey gave anecdotes about Ken E Henson and Neill Solomon as well as details of his past (he was a press photographer) which were most interesting, greatly enhanced by the evocative multi media photography and images by Paul Weinberg and Roger Lucey. The narration by Roger Lucey was accompanied by most appropriate background music. He has a very pleasant delivery and the stories and slides complement the songs and the performance admirably. I was particularly impressed by a DVD of Roger Lucey and Brendon Jury's previous performance, of The Rain of Bologna (without sound) on the screen while Roger Lucey was singing the song on stage at the microphone - with perfect lip sync, quite a switch from the infamous singers who performed on stage by mouthing the words to recordings being played.

A huge variety of musical instruments are played, besides the guitars (Nibs van der Spuy, Guy Buttery, Ken E Henson and Neill Solomon), including drums, bongo drums and percussion (Dan Chiorboli), piano and keyboards (Neill Solomon), and trumpet, saxophone, flute and a variety of other instruments (Roger Lucey). In addition, the musos are joined by Paul Weinberg on T-box base. I missed the lack of any vocals in the first half but this was made up in the second half with songs by Paul Lacey (including I'm Alright Now and Blame it on the Weather), by Neill Solomon (e.g. Can You Hear My Call which he wrote for Jock of the Bushveld) and even by Ken E Henson, apparently a rare event, and brief appearances by Helene.

The show is really well directed and flows very nicely. It is a great evening's entertainment at just under three hours, including the interval. It could perhaps be trimmed by about 15 minutes but I would hate to have to decide what should be cut as all the music is worth hearing and retaining.

To summarise, this highly recommended show at the Catalina Theatre, Wilsons Wharf, runs from January 25 to 29 at 20h00. For more information contact the Catalina Theatre on 031 305 6889. Booking in advance is strongly recommended. Tickets R65 but there are pensioner and group discounts. - Maurice J Kort




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