Fringe Box



Review: The Drifters: Band or Brand? – G Live

Published on: 9 Jun, 2013
Updated on: 9 Jun, 2013

The Drifters – a self-confessed brand band.

According to facebook, Pierre Herelle was ill during the Drifters’ Friday performance in Guildford but, despite leaving the stage briefly and skipping one of his songs, the singer soldiered on. Real old-time showmanship.

The music industry is big business hiding behind a casual, “we’re just a bunch of mates jammin'” image. Not so The Drifters. They are a self-confessed brand band and proud of a longevity achieved by regularly drafting in new members who fit the look.

The current incarnation hit  ready to wow us with a melodious mix of doowop and R&B soul songs in a disappointingly half-full G Live. Dragged along by a friend who’d grown up listening to such classics as “Under the Boardwalk” and “Save the Last Dance”, I was surprised at how many of the songs I knew well enough to sing along to.

This is the 60th Anniversary Diamond Dynasty Tour and the singers enter one-by-one, wearing gleaming crowns, to croon around a throne.  Michael Williams, Carlton Powell, Ryan King and Pierre Herelle are today’s reigning princes.

The legacy is underscored by film footage of former brand [sic] members intermittently projected on to a giant screen, along with their stories and dates. Accustomed to split screen TV rolling credits, I kept thinking that the show was about to finish and found the history lesson at-once interesting and distracting.

Three songs in, the brand scheduled their first commercial break: a song written for injured servicemen and a plea to donate to Walking with the Wounded. A number of Drifters have served in Korea and Vietnam.

Other new songs were added to the mix of covers and golden oldies. There was a tribute to Barack Obama and a Ronan Keating ballad. In our early 40s, we were relative young’uns in the audience and recognised Think Twice as a Celine Dion song. I loved Stand By Me, a Ben E King classic but claimed by the brand as King is a former reigning prince.

Costume changes signalled the show’s journey through musical eras. There were dance hall DJs, burgundy teddy jackets, blue disco DJs with black shirts and satin lapels, and a jacket my fashion-savvy friend called “mandarin”.

In the final commercial break the audience was asked who had facebook. The tumbleweed rolling across the stage was the biggest clue to the age of the gathered foot tappers. However, that didn’t stop them jumping up when requested to dance to the final tunes – ensuring a standing ovation and the mark of a professionally choreographed show.

My companion commented: “I was disappointed not to hear Under the Boardwalk, but Mr Cute Guy [RyanKing] singing Celine Dion made up for it.” A Friday night out high on the cheeseometer but we left with harmonies running through our brains.

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