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The Songs That Made Memphis


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Get down to the Space Theatre – there’s a whole lotta shaking going on.

Melbourne band Sun Rising is rocking the Adelaide Festival Centre with an utter belter of a show. The Songs that Made Memphis is an exuberant, potent homage to the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll that has the audience jiving beyond the exit.

At the soul of this reverence is Sun Records Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, and its owner, Sam Phillips. Phillips discovered a whole host of artists and produced the records that made them into stars.

The show swirls and bursts into rhythm with songs by African-American blues singers Howlin’ Wolf and BB King, and what is often considered the first genuine rock-and-roll record, Rocket ’88, by Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner.

Phillips is quoted as saying: “If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound … I could make a million dollars.” Fortunately for him, in 1953, Elvis Aaron Presley walked through his door. The rest, as they say, is rock ’n’ roll history. Hot on the heels of Elvis followed Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and “Blue Suede Shoes” writer Carl Perkins.

Sun Rising cleverly pays homage to these great performers but never tries to impersonate them. Instead, the members allow the music, songs and Sun’s rockabilly sound to all work together in rocking, electrifying harmony.

Despite – or possibility because of – two-and-a-half years on the road with this show, the band crackles with energy and chemistry. It embodies the spirit of the 1950s and specifically the magical year when Sun was home to the “Million Dollar Quartet”.

The Songs That Made Memphis is a show about music and there’s a lot of great songs, including Cash’s “Cry Cry Cry’, Orbison’s “Ooby Dooby” and Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire”. Adelaide’s Cookie Baker also makes a guest appearance to sing a couple of more obscure female tracks.

This is a fine production in every aspect. History comes alive. Everyone will love the music and admire the performers as they take us back to the roots of rock ’n’ roll and Sam Phillips, the man who recorded the King, the Killer and the Man in Black.

Sun Rising are performing The Songs That Made Memphis at the Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, until June 13 as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

More Adelaide Cabaret Festival stories and reviews here.

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