By DARISE FOSTER
Always & Forever: A Tribute To Luther Vandross / Lyric Theatre / Gold Reef City, Johannesburg
To stand up and sing the songs of a musical great is no easy feat. And when that star is the unmistakeable Luther Vandross, the bar is set even higher. Luckily for all who filled Gold Reef City’s Lyric Theatre on August 14, Timothy Moloi stepped up to the challenge – and delivered.
The Soweto-born vocalist had the full house on its feet with classics such as Love the One You’re With, Power Of Love and Never Too Much. The crowd swayed from side to side and sang along to Excuse Me Miss, Your Secret Love and Always And Forever, and gasps could be heard all-round as Moloi sang the iconic Dance With My Father – engulfed by the energy from the stage.
After the final curtain call, some audience members argued that Moloi’s backing vocalists stole the show. Thee was a valid argument there, as he had some of South Africa’s best live musicians and vocalists behind him. The popular Kurt Herman provided a solid partner for the male duets, while Tia Herman’s crisp, clear voice stole the spotlight during The Closer I Get. But the night belonged, arguably, to Nonhlanhla Mduli. The petite vocalist was barely heard when she stood with her colleagues backing Timmy. But when she joined him for the Vandross and Mariah Carey hit, Endless Love, she proved the dynamite in small packages cliche and her powerhouse vocals deserved the standing ovation she received as she walked off the stage.
So while Moloi’s velvet voice had to contend with the volume of a stellar band and outstanding backing vocalists, Luther for the night gave his own unique spin to the repertoire of a highly respected performer. And Moloi’s inviting smile made the audience feel comfortable with him from the first note sung – enough to make him memorable even before he began singing.
A thoroughly entertaining night all round, and there was not a Vandross fan in attendance with a bad word to say.