Sunday, January 24, 2010

"The Rock Show" - Jon English

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

If for no other reason than the quality of the musicianship on stage, The Rock show would have had its audience screaming for more. But add the outstanding showmanship of ten ridiculously gifted young musicians, (some of whom are likely to become household names soon) who confidently shared moments in the spotlight with Australian rock and roll royalty, Jon English, effortlessly demonstrating why he is what he is, and you have the recipe for a memorable evening.

Focussing on the 50 year career of its star, The Rock Show referenced the music of The Mammas and the Pappas, ranged through Janis Joplin and Jimmi Hendrix (brilliantly channelled by Kita Kerford and Joe Karlow), through David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Along the way it included haunting renditions of "Whiter Shade of Pale", "Stairway to Heaven" and yes, even "Bohemian Rhapsody" until concluding on one of Jon English's best known songs "Six Ribbons" with barely a pause for applause.

Both the director, Stuart Smith, and the musical director, Isaac Hayward, were part of the gifted ensemble, most of whom were multi-instrumentalists and all remained on stage for the entire presentation gravitating between an impressive array of instruments and vocal combinations, as they interpretated Isaac Hayward's sophisticated musical arrangements utilising violins, cellos, flutes and clarinets as well as a variety of guitars, keyboards and drums.

Light years away from the usual tired tribute show, The Rock Show is a brilliantly conceived and executed entertainment which is notable for the quality of its musical arrangements, its intelligent direction, and its excellent production values. Watch out for it when it returns to Canberra in December.

(An edited version of this review appears in the 21-27 January edition of City News).