Venue: Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Duration: 60 mins
Vocal groups of one form or another have been around for centuries but until the last century the norm was based around traditional four part harmony. It was not until groups such as The Swingle Singers came along that wordless vocals, with arrangements of such composers as Bach, came on the scene. Twenty years ago a group of unemployed actors, nothing unusual there, decided to form a singing group as a way of generating their own employment. They called themselves The Flying Pickets, and were a big success, Joe Zawinal’s Birdland being a big hit for them.
Now there is another singing group, The Magnets, who have moved things along even further with their exciting a capella arrangements of pop/rock numbers. Their performance for this year’s Festival, their first trip to Australia, was a sell out, and it was not hard to see why. They jokingly refer to themselves as a man-band, rather than a boy-band.
Two of the six in the group have the job of providing the ‘instrumentals’, but they do it vocally. Fraser Collins (Colin G Fraser) is the vocal bassist and Andy Frost is the beat-boxer. Fraser has an amazingly powerful bass voice with an enormous range, and a ground-shaking bottom octave. Andy Frost is actually a drummer, which gives him a greater insight into his beat-boxing than most, but he goes way beyond anything that you might have heard before. At one point he gets to do an extended solo, first taking over their lines from each of the other five in turn, driving them off-stage. He then creates an imaginary mixing desk and takes off on a routine that astounded the audience.
Nic Doodson, James Fortune, Steve Trowell and Patrick Smith are the other four Magnets, and they have many ways of putting their voices together, from non-verbal backing harmonies to a single vocal line, or a lead vocal with a counterpoint and two wordless harmonies, through to full four part harmony. You will be amazed at what they do with a vast range of pop and rock songs by all of your favourite artists.
There is also plenty of humour in their performance, some hectic and wide ranging choreography and massive amounts of energy. Their A to Z of bands number had everybody on their toes as the sextet sang snatches of songs, inviting the audience to guess the bands that made them famous. Starting with AC/DC, followed by The Beatles, they soon got the better of us when they started singing several at the same time.
It has taken them a decade to get here. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait that long again.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.