Space Theatre, Thu 11 Jun
Sun records holds a prestigious place in the history of early American pop music, and the Sun Rising Band have put together a selection of mostly well-known hits recorded at the Memphis Recording Studios in the 1950s. I, and many in the audience I imagine, have read the story many times, heard all the songs, and watched documentaries of this period, But seeing it recreated live on stage was much more engaging and a great way to relive those exciting times.
Sam Phillips was the main man behind Sun Records and is credited with launching the careers of many musical luminaries – among them Howlin’ Wolf, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis. Front man David Cosma narrated the stories behind the songs, and in an accidental touch of authenticity, plays a right handed guitar upside down (Some early blues players apparently did this because they didn’t know any better. I don’t know what David’s excuse is!).
Photos of all the early Sun recording stars were displayed on a screen behind the excellent band as they played their songs. Damon Smith on piano is a blues/boogie virtuoso, and Trent McKenzie is a treat to watch plucking away on his double bass. Local singer Cookie Baker provided an infectious cameo appearance to represent the female Sun stars.
Musically this show couldn’t be faulted. The band transformed relatively simple pieces of blues, pop and rock and roll into musical showcases. I wondered if the Sun singers back then had musicians of this calibre.
Towards the end the narrative was let slip and we didn’t get to hear what happened to Sam Phillips and Sun records in the long run and that was a shame. But by then most of the audience was too busy enjoying the music to notice – at least half the audience rose for a standing ovation at the close of a really enjoyable reliving of the roots of pop music.
Sun Rising – The Songs That Made Memphis continues at Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, from 9.30pm until Sat Jun 13.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.