The show opened with a fascinating projection of people speaking to Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records, about Sun Records, and vision of Beale Street, the iconic live music/bar/café strip in Memphis, Tennessee.
Aria winner Pat Powell lead singer and electric guitar opened the proceedings along with Louis King on guitar and Craig Kelly on double bass. Powell was an excellent MC, providing the audience with chatty anecdotes about the early days of Sun Records under Sam Phillips. His mantra being “Find a white boy who can sing like the black man’s blues (and I’ll make a million dollars! )." Sun Records opened for business in 1950.
In order to achieve his dream he held open auditions for days and as a result he discovered and recorded artists of the calibre of Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and of course Elvis Presley. Although he famously sold Elvis Presley's contract for $35,000, he was a visionary record producer and talent spotter who is credited with recording the first rock'n'roll record, "Rocket 88".
The original line up gradually expanded with the addition of Alex Burns on harmonica, Dave Evans on piano and Chobby on drums, Stuart Ferguson made a brief, but memorable appearance on trumpet. A highlight was the addition of another lead vocalist, Jamaican Pat Powell. His deep, rich tones perfectly suited to the material.
The band powered their way through hits such as It’s Alright Momma, Blue Moon, Folsom Prison which neatly segued into Ring of Fire, My Babe, Mystery Train, BB King’s Dynamite, Doggin’ Around and finished in a blaze of glory with Great Balls of Fire.
Personally, I felt the volume was a little too loud. Downstairs at the Maj is not a big room, it’s an intimate space and seven enthusiastic musicians can certainly make plenty of rocking hullabaloo. It’s probably my age. I heard no other complaints.
The audience was quiet at first but soon warmed up into clapping and singing along in chorus. They were aficionados of the musical period and had a ball.
2019 Fringe World Festival presents
Venue: Downstairs at the Maj | His Majesty’s Theatre, 825 Hay St, Perth WA
Dates: 22 – 26 January 2019
Tickets: $36 – $42