Tell Mama: The music of Etta James – Stratosfunk

Tell Mama: The Music of Etta James - StratosfunkThe fabulous professional ensemble Stratosfunk mounted their own show Tell Mama for the FRINGE WORLD Festival 2013. A tribute to a great lady of soul, Miss Etta James (1938-2012).

As the excitement mounted in the Spiegeltent I wondered what exactly motivated the 300 strong and incredibly mixed audience to revel in this nostalgic program.

For the second time in the FRINGE WORLD season I noted rampant enthusiasm for high energy fun and good time music. The first instance being the wonderfully flamboyant The Divine Miss Bette.

Times are pretty good in Perth. The FRINGE FESTIVAL has been an enormous success. PIAF is off and running.

OK, we have the most expensive cost of living in the country, it gets pretty hot here sometimes (try 41 degrees for a few days in a row) but it doesn’t seem to get us down too much.

Hordes venture out from Monday to Sunday nights to feast on comedy galore and get on down to glamorous soul and cabaret. Young girls in vintage dresses, groovy 30-somethings, middle aged couples, aged hippies and plain elderly, hooted and hollered their approval as Stratosfunk hit the stage.

The line-up is impressive; Marek Sprogowski – Saxes, Flute; Gary Benness – Bass Guitar; Dom D’Leno – Drums; Glyn MacDonald – Keys, Trombone; Robbie Bresland – Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Jon Matthews – Guitar; Daniel Greening – Trombone, Clarinet.

They were loud, they were hot!

The temperature shot up as front woman and soul queen Yaro Neto hit the stage. Clad in top-to-toe irridescent sequins and a glossy Motown swing wig she ripped into ‘Tell Mama’ and the audience began to sway, shoulder shimmy and tap along, They never really stopped.

Special mention to the so-called backing singers, Amy Rosato and Jessie Gordon, who were right up in the foreground for almost the whole show. As they cooed and sang along they worked up gorgeous moves in their slinky cocktail frocks.

Starting at Etta’s earliest days the band and singers bumped and thrusted through some rarely heard numbers such as ‘In The Basement’ and ‘Pay Back’.

The 1960 hit ‘I Just Want To Make Love to You’ was delivered with oozing sensuality by Jessie Gordon.

When singers and a band have such palpable enjoyment in what they are creating onstage it’s infectious and everyone in the room feels the delight.

Velvet-voiced rockabilly artist Rusty Pinto joined Yara Neto for Etta James’s first hit (she was just 14 years of age), ‘The Wallflower (Roll Me Henry)’.

They followed up with a grooving version of ‘Spoonful’.

Perennial Perth favourite, Libby Hammer, joined the band for a couple of early Etta numbers. Elegant, as always, in silver sequins she wowed the crowd with a soulful ‘Tears of Joy’. This number showcased an extravagant keyboard solo by Glyn Mac Donald.

‘Good Rockin’ Daddy’ was a bumptious invitation for a man to hit the dance floor. Moving on to a Little Richard inspired Etta creation ‘Tough Lover’. Amy Rosato explained “Etta had some bad boys and they made her furious.” Cue the bittersweet ‘I Prefer You’, with a full throttle trombone solo by Daniel Greening.

Scorching brass and keyboards underlined ‘Fire’ delivered by the band and singers.

The audience was then transported by a fabulous version of ‘At Last’. Appropriately the stage was washed in blue as Neto’s voice soared in Etta James’ signature song.

The entire crew merged onstage for a rousing version of ‘Something’s Got a Hold On Me (it must be love)’.

Audience members danced. Joy abounded.

The audience rose to its feet for the closing reprise of Tell Mama.

I’d be surprised if there’s a ticket left to sell by tomorrow lunchtime.

$33.50 (approx 70 minutes)

Groups 6+ $30.50



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