FRINGEWORLD: Richard Jackson and the Soul Rhythm Spectacular (4 stars)

Review by Brandon Taylor

Coming all the way from Cincinnati Ohio, soul singer Richard Jackson has brought his velvety voice – and the sound of greats like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and James Brown – to the West Australian Spiegeltent for Perth’s Fringe Festival. Backed by (mostly) local rhythm and blues six-piece The Velvet Playboys, Jackson lays down the smooth, playful and hearty music he’s famous for over a backdrop of Perth talent that seems custom-built to support him.

The Soul Rhythm Spectacular hints aptly at the energy and variety of this show. The Velvet Playboys are lively and like to experiment with covers (and the audience) so you’ll get a bit of an act with your music, but the focus will be on Jackson – and for good reason.

Listen to Jackson sing just one line, and you don’t need to be told he’s headlined major festivals around the world. Watch him close his eyes, knit his brow and beckon absent-mindedly while he sings it, and you don’t need to guess that soul music is at his core. From his massive frame pours the sort of voice you’ve only heard on an old Temptations record, and it’s one-hundred times better live than from the grooves of a dusty 8-track.
Sharing the spotlight with Jackson is trumpeter and vocalist Adam Hall. Leader of The Velvet Playboys and undisputed MC during this show, Hall cajoles crowd between tracks and sings a bright if occasionally pitchy lead tenor on songs like “The Way you Make Me Feel” and Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie”.

The rest of the Playboys bring a lot of energy, a tight sound and more variety than most six-pieces do to the table. Mark Turner alternates between equally impressive lead guitar and saxophone, Adam Hall’s expert trumpet is more than worthy of its own mention, Anthony Dodos rounds out the horns with his trombone, Matthew Schmalkuche plays some seriously funky keys, Matt Hanson rocks the drums, Pete Jeavons grooves out on the bass, and most of them sing backup vocals to boot.

Throughout the set, the Playboys do justice to soul classics, solos rip from every instrument, and Jackson waxes poetic on vocals. With a bit of Cincinnati, a bit of Perth, and a heap of soul, Richard Jackson and the Rhythm Soul Spectacular offers a well-balanced diet of grooviness for all.

When: 15 – 21 February 2016 (8pm)

Where: West Australian Speigeltent, The Pleasure Garden, Northbridge, PERTH

Tickets: $15 – $38

Info: Duration 60 minutes, Suitable for all ages