Sam Phillips grew The Memphis Recording Service, an avenue for amateur performers, into Sun Records, a record label that shaped the history of music.
Melbourne’s Damon Smith and David Cosma, inspired by their childhood obsessions with the record label, have taken their tribute act Sun Rising from The Wheatsheaf Hotel to capacity crowds at The Dunstan Playhouse.
The show so very apparently is the product of infatuation; the narrative recounting the history of the Tennessee music locale, predominately told by David, is peppered with trivia and obscure factoids, while the ensemble’s instrumentation is a meticulous replication of the original recordings.
Damon’s mastery of Jerry Lee Lewis’ piano chops, in particular, is a spectacular highlight of the show. Vocally, however, the performers do not overtly imitate, apart from on Elvis and Jerry Lee cuts such as ‘Old Shep’ and ‘Great Balls of Fire’ respectively.
Johnny Cash songs without the menacing growl and Howlin’ Wolf songs without the howl are not quite the same though; the vocal delivery is a vital ingredient of experience. In a world where impersonators abound, though, Sun Rising’s genuine interpretations of the songs and the genre that they love distinguishes them from other tribute acts.
Their set also contains hidden gems by lesser names such as Billy 'The Kid' Emerson and Rufus Thomas, providing a depth not offered by your Vegas Elvis impersonator.
One criticism of the experience is that the banter between songs was sometimes messy and distracting. Given the average age of their audience, the abundance of dad jokes between songs is probably well targeted, but the comedic improvisation was slightly haphazard.
As a tightly honed band of musicians, though, the five piece shine, deserving their moment in the sun.