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The Magnificent7 - The Next Generation Review - Billy Suter The Mercury
More mirth and memorable music THE MAGNIFICENT 7 – THE NEXT GENERATION
Review – Billy Suter
The Mercury – Friday 21 September 2007

For sure, the line-up of bands saluted this time around isn’t quite as magnificent as it was when this tight Port Elizabeth tribute group, along with local comic Aaron McIlroy, first wowed Durban six months ago, at this same university campus theatre. However, judging by opening night’s standing ovation, there can be no denying there’s more than enough energy, excitement and enjoyment in what remains a slick and colourful sequel, performed by a zealous and versatile cast of 12.

During its first successful Durban season the Centrestage All Star Band, headed by musical director and lead guitarist Donovan Hattingh, turned spotlights on the music of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Abba, Bee Gees, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Queen. Now we have the hits of, in order of appearance, ELO (Electric Light Orchestra), Eagles, Smokie, Bob Marley and The Wailers and, in the much better second half, Fleetwood Mac, U2 and Juluka.

The format remains as it was first time around, zany McIIroy – with assorted wheezes, elastic movements and an array of characters, accents and outfits – arriving to set the laughter loose before each segment. Many of McIIroy’s popular alter-egos are here – among them the other-worldly Big Willy, the effete blond in a suit and the Indian motor-mouth who believes “witous” are stealing all good comedy.

Also in Mad Mac’s merry mix are curly-topped Irish dude singing the praises of Dublin’s best; a cheerful coloured guy in a discussion about SA’s past and present; a supersize Superman who promotes the Indonesian Wave (as opposed to the Mexican Wave); and a gung-ho Zulu warrior whose bark is worse than his bite.

McIIroy also sings the occasional number in character or, in the case of the Marley tribute, dons dress and wig, and bends a wrist, to blend in with Donna Africa and Lelane Fourie on backing vocals.

Vocally, McIIroy impresses with ELO’s Rock ‘n Roll is King and Eagles’ Heartache Tonight, but it’s guitarist Wayne Kallis, hopping constantly between instruments, who steals top vocal honours.

He’s best during a brilliantly lit U2 sequence that sets the Sneddon rocking and delivers all the Irish group’s early, better hits – including Where the Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and In The Name Of Love. A close-runner up in the popularity stakes has to be the Fleetwood Mac sequence, Kallis again shining in a rendition of Tusk that also has him beating a large African drum, while Africa and Fourie float about in wispy black outfits. Also in the sequence are You Can Go Your Own Way and Don’t Stop.

The Marley and Juluka moments are highlighted by fine vocals from Melvyn Matthews and also worth special mention is sweet-voiced keyboardist Rory McLaren, who does a good job with Eagles and ELO chart-toppers.

Performed on a large, tiered stage surrounded by impressive lighting rigs, The Magnificent 7 – The Next Generation also features jovial drummer Gino Fabbri (a standout on vocals for Smokie’s Oh Carol) Candy G on keyboards, Mike McAully on bass and “Shoes”, a hyperactive background dancer. I’d have preferred a Mango Groove tribute instead of the Juluka segment, good though it is. Mango Groove has bigger hits which would give the female vocalists the solo limelight.

But that is a small gripe. This is a vibrant, fell-good production with no pretensions and the emphasis on fun and letting down your hair. Roll up and party!

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