The Sun Rising, "Songs That Made Memphis" show at Cherry Bar on December 15th 2012 saw a rather classy production performed in a small club, small stage environment. Taking such a show to the fun Cherry Bar showed its adaptability, with Sun Rising’s previous performances taking place in much more spacious theatres and clubs. Rather than this resulting in the production feeling cramped, the intimacy at Cherry Bar made it easier for the crowd to eye off the many large vintage instruments and framed photos placed around the stage.
What you get with Sun Rising’s show is an entertaining and educating look into the history of the highly influential Sun Records label. The show has been put together by the main performers of the show, David Cosma (Vocals, Guitar) and Damon Smith (Vocals, Guitar, Piano). David Cosma chiefly narrates the show, running in a chronological order from Sun’s inception to its peak, referring to the photos placed around the stage to put faces to the names he refers to. Providing information along with entertainment, Cosma discusses the historical significance of the person and piece of music before he and the band launches into their spirited rendition of the aforementioned song. The show pays particular attention to the earlier acts on Sun Records, blues artists that many people may not realise were part of the label, and of course members of the million dollar quartet, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley. Fitting in all of the significant acts of such a prolific label is not really feasible in one rockin’ night, so some classics didn’t make the bill. Similarly missed were songs from any of the fantastic women that came out of Sun Records, however with an all-male cast this omission is certainly understandable.
Keeping the audience captivated and interested while feeding them a significant amount of information at music show doesn’t seem like a format that would carry that well, but it did. While audiences seem to generally prefer a "less talk, more rock" format, the shows structure of “introduce, discuss, play” helped the flow and kept the audience captivated. It may be because the history of Sun Records is so interesting, and because Cosma conveyed the information and anecdotes with such great enthusiasm. It may even be because the audience recognized many of the names and songs and Cosma just pieced them together into an interesting story.
Musically, The band played with great energy, skill and sounded great. All the instruments used by the band were authentic both in appearance and sound to achieve the classic Sun Records tone. And appearance went a long way for authenticity of the show; a friend of mine with whom I saw the show commented that the band looked as they could have been the actual musicians recording in Sun Studios. All of the members were of a similar age and clean cut appearance as the performers of Sun’s heyday. Especially noteworthy was that they dressed in period-appropriate clothing and the whole band wore such grins of enthusiasm when playing it was as though the tape in the historical studio was rolling.
“Sun Rising - The Songs That Made Memphis” provides a great night of entertainment for both avid fans and those people less familiar with the influence of Sun Records on rock and roll and blues music. The top notch musicianship and passionate sharing of information enables this team to leave audiences not only tired from dancing, but with a greater appreciation and understanding for one of the world’s most influential record labels. It is an extremely fun and highly recommended show to catch if you have the chance!
Thanks very much to Lydia Leong from GurlRilla Shots (www.gurlrillashots.com.au/) for the great photos and to Shannon Driscoll for the editing help.