Motown music has always held a pretty special place for me. Growing up to songs like Ain’t too Proud to Beg, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted and artists like Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Barrett Strong, Aretha Franklin and of course, Marvin Gaye, the Prince of Motown himself. They say it was the sound that changed America – but I think it changed the world; driving a sense of soul and wonder into music that was determined, passionate and real. Motown music doesn’t have a shelf life, it’s timeless – and local music lovers were lucky enough to be treated to a little Motown magic Saturday night.
Flaunting all things exquisite, the Regal Theatre came alive with sophistication and sexiness. Offering Motown fans a two-hour musical narrative of brilliance, Andrew De Silva (ARIA award winning RnB group CDB) took to the starring role with ease, leading us into the life and music of Marvin Gaye in all it’s beauty, pain and glory.
Alongside Andrew was the powerhouse talent of the sensational Vika Bull who represented some of the women in Marvin’s life like Diana Ross and Tammy Tyrell. The two portrayed Marvin’s story in an emotionally moving and compelling way. Through his soulful songs and tragic story Andrew and Vika, backed by 8 of Australia’s finest musicians that make up the Funk City Band, explored Marvin’s musical journey in the most breathtaking and magical way.
Switching between songs and storytelling, the audience dove headfirst into Marvin’s abusive upbringing and tainted relationship with his father, his introduction to the Motown scene and its pressure to transform his beloved jazz into RnB. We were shown the highest peaks of Marvin’s life to the breakdowns and destruction of a man that was so talented yet so troubled. It really reminds you about what fuels great music and the extreme emotions – good and bad – that gets reflected through his story.
Andrew and Vika sung all the classics with almost as much heart and soul as the man himself did; including Let’s Get It On, Dancing in the Streets, I Heard it Through the Grapevine, It Takes Two, What’s Going On and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, just to name a few. Whilst it took a few songs to really get into the show’s groove, Marvin’s songs portrayed by Andrew and Vika went off explosively. But it was the stripped back performances that really did it for me, like when Andrew stepped into the character of Stevie Wonder playing piano at Marvin’s funeral. Incredibly raw and heartfelt, they added another dimension to the concert that left the audience eerily still and almost twitching with goosebumps.
If you’re familiar with the story of Marvin Gaye you know already how naturally sad it is. Seeing it expressed through his songs and the narrative story however, made it even more bittersweet and gut wrenching. His life was cut short from a gun shot by the hands of his own father, a gun which Marvin had brought his father himself in a paranoid attempt to keep his family safe from harm. As we witnessed the change in Marvin’s journey, from the women in his life and their influence on his music, to his messy cocaine addiction which left his life littered with losses, Vika’s words rung true; “When the rest of the world was celebrating Marvin’s music, he was dealing with his marriage breakdown, drug addiction, family problems and ongoing issues with his record label”.
But the tragic story of Marvin Gaye was lifted in an essence of beauty throughout the second part of the show, with tracks like Can I Get a Witness and Vika’s extraordinary version of Stop, Look and Listen that breathed energy and life into the room. Then there was the cheeky tease of Sexual Healing, that literally had the audience begging for more; and when it came back around at the end of the show the audience was on an absolute high, grooving along and singing at the top of their lungs. I suppose every story really does have its own happy ending.
The energy, professionalism and stage presence of Andrew and Vika were spot on and they complemented each other perfectly. Combined with the flavoursome backing instruments and vocals of the Funk City Band, it was certainly a show that’ll be on everyone’s minds for some time. And whilst Andrew was never playing the role of Marvin Gaye, his voice and momentum behind the songs had us reliving the life of a Motown legend in every striking aspect. A fascinating story about a man whose music continues to bring joy to millions around the world, Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On will ground you and make you appreciate every part of his musical journey.