Thursday, 6 February 2020

REVIEW: An Evening of Marvin Gaye at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley

Wayne Hernandez heads a 10 person line-up (seven in the band and two backing singers) in this Marvin Gaye tribute concert which is strong on musicality.

Wayne Hernandez’s claim to fame is being a member of the Kingdom Choir which sang at Harry and Meghan’s wedding. He’s certainly an impressive singer. I don’t make any claims to be anything other than casually aware of Marvin Gaye’s work, but judging him against the songs I was most familiar with I would say he is not attempting to recreate the exact sound, either vocally or in terms of the band. But this is not to criticise. He and his band take the familiar and make it fresh, with an energetic drive from having both drums and percussion combining with Hernandez’s rich vocals.

Even for the casual listener there are enough familiar songs to keep them coming at regular intervals - How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You), Ain’t That Peculiar, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, What’s Going On, Let’s Get It On and many more.

Supporting Hernandez there was a particularly strong performance from LaDonna Harley-Peters, and a great laid-back bass player called Wayne, effortlessly doing his thing in the back row and looking cool with it.

Despite all the talent on display, though, there is something lacking. We are in a theatre but the show lacks theatricality. I know it’s a concert not a show, but even allowing for this there are two things missing from the mix. One is the absence of any actual or contextual information about Marvin Gaye. The other is the absence of any staging. The band are presented purely functionally and the lighting is adequate at best. Maybe I’m more used to seeing plays and musicals and I should adjust my expectations. It certainly delivers against the claim in the title. If you love Marvin Gaye’s music this is the show for you. But another concert show – The Simon and Garfunkel story – shows how it’s possible not only to celebrate the music of an artist but also provide insight and knowledge which enhance the entertainment value significantly. 

Review by John Charles 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Stalls J18 | Price of Ticket: £29

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