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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE MAGNIFICENT 7 2 (article first published : 2007-09-21)

Like most of us in Durban at the moment, I am trying to shake off the dreaded flu as well as its attendant infuriating cough so my bed beckoned very invitingly this evening. However, duty called and sent me in the direction of the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre to catch a performance of The Magnificent 7 which I missed when they appeared in Durban the first time around.

I am so glad that duty had the upper hand – otherwise I would have missed out on a highly enjoyable and entertaining evening – resulting as much from watching an excellent band play tribute to some legendary groups aided and abetted by Aaron McIlroy’s whacky humour as well as being swept away by the audience’s spontaneous and enthusiastic response to the music.

The Port Elizabeth-based Centrestage All-Star band (Casb) moves the focus from the 60’s to the 70’s and 80’s with The Magnificent 7 2 – The Next Generation. They recreate – accurately and respectfully – the work of The Electric Light Orchestra, The Eagles, Smokie, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Fleetwood Mac, U2 and South Africa’s own Juluka.

Aaron McIlroy provides the link pin as the band up set their configurations for each new band and costume change. We’ve seen his wild and whacky characters in his own show but here they are all called some derivative of William and are tailored to fit the action whether it be a Teletubby version of Superman, his popular Vijay Moodley, a tousle-haired Irishman or the suave corporate suited crooner. He has an amusing take on a nudist camp in the Drakensberg – think of it, all that wind and poky bushes!

How would I describe The Magnificent 7 2 ? An impressive band tribute show with a hilarious MC or an Aaron McIlroy show backed by a really hot group of musos? Call it what you like, it’s well mounted like a major rock show – excellent lighting, good sound and three video screens playing original footage of the band under focus. It’s refreshing that the band members don’t put on affected or hyped performances, they just do what they do well – play good music.

Under the musical direction of guitarist Donovan Hattingh, the group includes Gino Fabbri, Candy G, Wayne Kallis, Grant Leonard, Mike McAully and Rory McLaren (who is suffering from a broken foot). Completing the line up are vocalists Melvyn Matthews, Donna Africa and Lelane Fourie with Shoes putting in some hectic dance routines! The efficient interaction between the group members is evident and there are some fine performances. My favourite numbers were Donavon’s Lying Eyes; Gino’s Oh Carol and Melvyn’s Buffalo Soldier as well as Rory’s Desperado and Still Haven’t Found by U2.

Perhaps the finest endorsement I can offer came from an audience member who was standing near me at interval on his cellphone urging whoever he had called to book immediately because it was “the best show” he’d ever seen!

The Magnificent 7 2 – The Next Generation runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until September 30. Shows are Tuesdays to Thursdays at 19h30 with Fridays and Saturdays at 18h00 and 21h00 and Sunday shows at 18h00. Tickets are available through Computicket. – Caroline Smart

The Centrestage All-Star band has an extremely comprehensive website at www.centrestage.co.za




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