Review: International Soul Divas

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For a section of society, the music of Sybil, Robin S and Cece Peniston has served as a soundtrack to daily life for decades. These extraordinary performers became a hit amongst Cape Town’s coloured community in the late 80s and their music has lived on through the generations. A live performance of all three divas together was always going to be a great night out.  Only now, having seen them live, do I feel I have truly lived.

As they started filling up the auditorium at Grand Arena, the audience was treated to the skills of DJs Willy and Ready D. Although entertained, the crowd was itching for the main event. The sense of restlessness grew to the point of booing when MC Nigel Pierce asked them – again – to wait another five minutes.

At last Sybil made an appearance adorned in a white gown, true diva style, and launched into ‘Wildest Dreams’ to shouts of joy from the audience. Disappointingly the all-female New York City Orchestra did not appear as advertised but the (presumably last minute) band of locals, led by Camillo Lombard, did a superb job.  The crowd’s reaction to the more popular songs was electric, with loud cheers reverberating from the walls. Clearly everyone present was a committed fan for whom the show was a mind-blowing cultural event. The hits rolled in one after the other with ‘Easy on Me’, ‘Walk on By’, ‘When I’m Good and Ready’ and a song Sybil made up on the spot called ‘Sexy Boo’. As the gentle piano intro to ‘The Love I Lost’ began, the auditorium rocked with applause. I’m not one for audience participation but growing up with much loved songs such as this, it was only instinctive to sing along.

Robin S was up next, opening with one of her classics ‘Love for Love’ while the crowd jived along. She then went on to perform a new single ‘Shake’. Although hearing it for first time, the crowd lapped up its catchy lyrics. And of course, what would a Robin S show be if she didn’t perform her no. 1 hit, ‘Show me Love’, which has been remixed countless times since the early 90’s and never ceases to get a crowd on its feet. Cece Peniston shimmied across the stage showing off her impressive vocals, the highlight of which was undoubtedly her massive hit ‘Finally’.  And as a performer she was unforgettable in her high heels, dark tights and a cleavage to make any diva envious.

For the finale, the audience was treated to a first time ever trio performance which ended with ‘I’m Every Woman’. It’s a song I’m not too fond of, but everyone sang along, and I mean everyone – even the few straight men in the audience – such was the magic of the moment as these three powerhouses took to the Cape Town stage.

Lauren Vogt

International Soul Divas took place at the Grand West Grand Arena on 6 July 2013.         

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