Bob Dylan fans are in for a rare treat as Eastern Cape-born rock n roll showman Duck Chowles is set to front the Centrestage Band to pay tribute to the greatest singer-songwriting poet of this generation.
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan will be staged at Old Grey in Port Elizabeth from Tuesday to Thursday, September 26 to 28, before moving to the Guild Theatre in East London for a single performance on Friday, September 29.
Chowles is co-owner of the acclaimed national Barnyard Theatre franchise and is well known for his performances as Mick Jagger over the years in his tribute to the Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers, which he has staged since 1992.
Chowles grew up on a farm in the Eastern Cape near Alexandria and spent his childhood listening to his brother’s Rolling Stones albums and Beatles seven singles.
“I attended Graeme College in Grahamstown, where I first learnt to play the acoustic guitar and discovered my first life-changing Dylan anthems – A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall and The Times They are A-Changin’,” he said.
“I went on to finish my schooling at Winterberg agriculture school in Fort Beaufort. This was at a time when most boys were rugby mad and planning to become farmers, but I did the unthinkable by forming a band and playing at dance halls in Alexandria and Tarkastad, which in a farming community high school was completely unheard of at the time!” Chowles chuckled.
“I moved to Cape Town in 1993, playing in tribute shows covering ’60s and ’70s music. Here my love for Bob Dylan grew as I discovered the seminal albums Blood on the Tracks, Blonde on Blonde and, of course, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
“In 2013, I specially travelled to London to experience Dylan in the flesh at the Royal Albert Hall, whereafter I immediately decided to create my own special tribute to my favourite songwriter, vocalist and icon.”
Chowles called up long-time associate Gary Hemmings of Centrestage, himself also a great Dylan fan, and discussed the possibility of putting a band together to cover the hits from the Nobel prize-winning musician’s incredible songbook.
“Bob Dylan has been my single greatest musical hero since I was 18 years old,” Hemmings said.
“Despite having created dozens of musical tribute shows over the years, such has been my respect for Dylan that I have never been prepared to attempt to have our band cover him, for fear of not being able to adequately capture the spirit, heart and soul of Dylan as well as his different enigmatic vocal stylings,” he said.
“I have enormous respect for Duck’s uncanny ability to perfectly mimic artists down to the tiniest idiosyncrasy, but it was Duck’s unbridled passion for Dylan which immediately sold the idea.
“Duck brings a deep sense of understanding of the role Dylan played in shaping musical culture to his performance, along with an ability to copy Dylan’s distinctive vocal stylings associated with different eras of his career to perfection.”
A band of like-minded musicians will join Chowles on stage, with Alan Kozak acting as guitarist and musical director.
He is joined by Joe van der Linden, also on guitar, Claire Venn on vocals, Boet Strydom on keyboards, Andrew Warneke on bass and Kevin Mattheus on drums.
Dylan transcended musical genres to become the greatest folk and rock singer of all time, receiving 11 Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, an Academy Award and his 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature along the way.
He has been described as one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, both musically and culturally.
Dylan was included in the Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century list where he was called “master poet, caustic social critic and intrepid, guiding spirit of the counterculture generation”, and Rolling Stone ranked him at No1 in its 2015 list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.
Dylan has sold more than 130 million albums worldwide.
Tickets for all performances cost R160 each (R140 each if eight or more are bought) and can be booked through Computicket or by calling Wendy on 082-661-6921. Shows start at 7.30pm.