Adelaide Cabaret Festival – Darren Percival: A Tribute To Ray Charles

Darren Percival’s sold–out audience felt the warmth on a cold winter night in Adelaide.

Darren Percival
Darren Percival

If anyone came expecting to see Percival channel Ray Charles then they’d be disappointed. The only thing Percival has chosen to channel is Percival. However, those same aficionados couldn’t possibly be disappointed with the performance of Charles’ standards. Percival has such a beguiling personality and such a warm, loving voice and he clearly enjoys doing this show that the only people who enjoy it more are his audience.

The quality of the songs is a big help though, Charles had such a long history in music and an ear for great emotional melodies, anyone with a voice as good as Percival would find it hard to fail the original artist’s cannon. Percival’s personality is just a living, loving bonus.

The stage and set are simple but the lighting is highly effective in helping to create the appropriate mood for each song.

Percival was also simply dressed in a black bow tie dinner suit with his only “gimmick” being a ‘50s style microphone. But this show isn’t about gimmicks – it’s all about quality – and Percival, the band and the singers all delivered in copious amounts.

The highlights were many and varied: Percival walking into the audience singing 'I Can’t Stop Loving You', kneeling down on bended knee to serenade a woman in the 2nd row and eliciting an enormous sigh from the crowd. Adelaide’s own Libby O’Donovan (Percival's backing singer), taking centre-stage to duet with 'Night Time Is The Right Time', blowing the audience away with the strength of her voice. Clicking fingers and some audience participation in 'Hit The Road Jack' was also thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Each and every one of the 16 numbers was fresh and exciting but the sound was most impressive when the 4 piece band was augmented by a 4 piece brass section and the 2 backing vocalists.

The show ended with one of the most palpably joyous moments in the 13 year history of the Cabaret Festival with everyone singing and clapping along to 'I’ve Got A Woman' and the exuberant finale 'Shake Your Tail Feather' which is exactly what much of the audience was on their feet doing.