Five Rock n’ Roll warriors that go by the name of The Sun Rising Band, laugh, dance, have heaps of fun, are skilled showmen and deliver a power-packed, super-charged, time-whizzes-by-before-you-know-it kind of show. On Saturday night, these retro musos were a dynamic, foot-stomping force and a glorious assault on the ears. Dressed in polka dotted, striped and flower-patterned western shirts, their hair slicked back, greased and coiffed just so, they’ve nailed the look from head to their two-toned, red-socked shoes.
This cabaret entertainment starts quietly enough, well alright it’s a touch ‘schoolish’ but only for a minute or two, while narrator David Cosma introduces a slice of popular music’s history, a mid-twentieth century’s seminal moment. And the keen cabaret audience, nostalgic baby boomers and younger, were beamed back to the future, 1952 to be precise, when Sam Phillips founded a record label for promising African-American artists.
Phillips evidently had the nose to ferret out stars because he signed many golden-voiced superheroes including Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, BB King and the sizzling, red hot, piano-flaying Jerry Lee Lewis. Damon Smith played a mean and nifty piano with wild glissandi slides up and down those keys, and was especially good in channeling Lewis and particularly ‘A Whole Lotta Shaking Goin’ On,’ which was censored by radio stations initially.
And the five-manned group not so much began to play, but exploded into a 50’s hit. After which it’s a doo-wop, whoops, falsetto shrieks, hammered ‘Great Balls of Fire,’ crooning Presley, a full bore ‘Oooby Dooby’ Roy Orbison style and gleeful guitar licks all the way. Adrian Whyte plays an impressive lead, with Trent McKenzie loving that slapped bass and Adam Coad is a smiling, snazzy drummer all the way from Presley’s ‘Mystery Train’ to Carl Perkins’ take on ‘Blue Suede Shoes.’ Perkins’ version was more of a hit than Presley’s we were told.
There’s a call and response segment when Billy Lee Riley’s ‘My girl is red hot’ leapt from the stage and the happy crowd belted back, ‘Your girl ain’t diddlysquat.’ And not forgetting a sonic splash in ‘For When The Saints,’ a hit from the famous ‘Million Dollar Quartet.’ Aptly named, because this was a recording of an impromptu jam in 1954, at Sun Record Studios involving Presley, Lewis, Perkins and Johnny Cash. Thankfully, Phillips had the canny vision to press record.
I overheard David Cosma (narrator, guitar, vocals,) when he signed CDs afterwards say ‘Songs That Made Memphis had only ever played in Queensland at Nambour, before this tour.’ After last night’s enthusiastic reception at the Powerhouse of this entertaining jive they deserve to blaze their white-hot driving, rock n’ roll romp Australia wide.
2016 Queensland Cabaret Festival
Sun Rising: The Songs That Made Memphis
Venue: Powerhouse Theatre | Brisbane Powerhouse QLD
Dates: 10 – 11 Jun 2016
Tickets: $44 – $49
Gillian is the author of ‘Elvis and Me: How a world-weary musician and a broken racehorse rescued each other’, Finch Publishing.