Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Dunstan Playhouse
Until 25 Jun 2022

Review by Brendan Watts

If you are fortunate enough to have a ticket for this particular performance, then you will be in for a nostalgic evening of music and historical references drawn from the life and career of Sam Cooke.

As the show opened with an amazing acapella rendition of his early gospel songs, the audience was held in awe of the vocal strength of the performance that was to follow.

The harmony created between the five performers was mesmerising and created a depth of sound that reached out and wrapped itself around the audience like a familiar old blanket, providing feelings of warmth and comfort.

The talent and experience of those on stage was most evident, as their enthusiasm for the performance shone through in both their body language and facial expressions. Supported by a small band consisting of a drummer, bass guitarist, keyboard and lead guitar; Gary demonstrated the full range of his skills as a performer. Combining well known Cooke originals, with several covers of Otis Redding songs, he kept the audience on the edge of their seats for the entire 125 minutes.

As so many of Sam Cooke’s songs are firmly ingrained in the public psyche, it was indeed unexpected to learn that his amazing repertoire was created over a brief career of only eight years. With this familiarity it was no surprise that the audience were quickly tapping their feet and swaying their heads in time with the music. Titles including “Chain Gang”, “Twistin’ the Night Away” and “Cupid” had the audience eagerly singing along.

The strong vocal and instrumental performances were strengthened by the vibrant background lighting, varying in colour between songs to create a strong visual backdrop.

The only distracting presence during the performance, albeit minor, was a tendency for the spotlight to leave the singers in darkness at times. The audience, however, was more than willing to overlook this, joining in to provide their own voices in the latter songs as backing vocals.

The music of Sam Cooke is endearing, and it is heart-warming to see it being presented in venues that he himself was not able to perform in. Do yourself a favour and find where Gary and his friends are performing next… it will be a night that you would not forget in a hurry.