SOME things are just timeless. Others glide along effortlessly with changing times. Some things require so much more than a retune, a fresh lick of paint on the set and a letting out of the suit hems to reach a new generation. For the first half of The All New Tribute to The Blues Brothers, I feared we were marooned in the latter category but, by the time we reached the medley within the encore – a recap of the night’s highlights, the review of the revue – the enduring power and appeal of these classic songs had finally won through.
There are nods aplenty to the modern world: a double-decker set of faux brickwork daubed in graffiti (the words “On a mission from God” emblazoned prominently above a dingy Chicago backstreet garage), the side-slung baseball cap on bassist Zane Maertens and the skimpy cheerleader-style outfits on the three Bluettes. But you sense these efforts to bring the sound to the iPod generation are lost on an audience whose hair has a distinct shade of grey. The blaring police radio broadcasts adds precious little and even some of the comedy dialogue between Brad Henshaw and Daniel Fletcher, Jake and Elwood Blues respectively, appears a little forced.
But the repertoire of music is a well-stocked treasure chest of gold and platinum records and, once silliness has given way to sophistication after the interval, Henshaw and Fletcher truly deliver.
For all the excellence of the note-perfect Blues Brothers Band, it is the intimate songs which make the biggest impression on the audience. The version of Under the Boardwalk, with the brothers stationed at either extreme of the stage and the breathtaking Bluettes – Jocasta Almgill, Alexus Ruth and Victoria Goddard – huddled and harmonising in the centre, swept powerfully to every reach of the Victorian auditorium.
By the time the suits, shades and Pork Pie hats are replaced with the black vests and denim more befitting of performers who swigged Budweiser and Jack Daniels on stage for the encore, the crowd are on their feet and satisfied.