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Whole Lotta Shakin' - The Shakin' Stevens Story. Hull Truck Theatre. 22 February 2024

I know that this blog usually reviews across Lincolnshire - my geography is not so bad that I believe Hull to be in Lincolnshire. I am reviewing this show in Hull because just over a year ago, Review Culture did the inexcusable and missed the show at Blackfriars in Boston after star Rebel Dean had organised access for us to shoot and review the show. We apologised profusely, but the guilt remained and we promised to review the show as a paying punter when it next came to the area. Thus it was, that we found ourselves crossing the Humber to review this show, one which is dear to my heart.

I originate from South Wales, more particularly from a small town just outside Cardiff called Penarth. In certain circles, Penarth is known as Rock 'n' Roll City because it was the spiritual home to many bands and artists who went on to greater things in later life. Dave Edmunds found fame with Love Sculpture before going solo and having a huge hit with I Hear You Knockin'. In the 90s Damon Rochefort found fame as Nomad with his global smash I Wanna Give You Devotion which led to him dating Madonna. But the performer who had the greatest number of Top 40 hits in the Eighties was based in Penarth with his band Shakin' Stevens and the Sunsets prior to finding fame globally. I grew up in awe of the band and was later picked up by Shaky's erstwhile manager Paul Barrett for a time at the age of 15. So, I always wanted to review this tribute show to South Wales' finest rocker ever.

Rebel Dean is the closest thing to Shakin' Stevens that you are ever likely to see and won the number one spot at the National Tribute Music Awards in 2017. He sounds incredibly close to Shaky vocally and bears a strong physical resemblance to the original. So much so that when I posted a photo of myself with Rebel on my Facebook page, people assumed I had met Shakin' Stevens himself, somewhere last night. I cannot think of a better performer to pay tribute to the Welshman in this show. He spent a huge amount of time meeting the fans after the show last night and ensured that no fan left without a signature and/or a photo if they wanted one. It is an immensely committed performance that continues even after his lengthy show and I thoroughly recommend him to anyone who fancies a bit of 80s nostalgia.

The show began with a medley of hits from the Top 40, all of which were to feature in their entirety in the second half of the show. Dean provided a narrative retelling of the rags to riches story of Michael Barratt, from Ely in Cardiff. Barratt had been the youngest of 13 children in his family and spent his early years in a variety of unknown bands before finally forming Shakin' Stevens and the Sunsets. Dean and his band treated us to some of the early sounds of Shaky such as Blue Moon Of Kentucky from their fourth self-titled album, and took the audience through songs such as Sea of Heartbreak from his second album I'm No JD and I Hear You Knockin' (originally sung by drummer Rockin' Louie rather than Shaky) from his first album, A Legend. Shaky and the Sunsets played support to a huge number of bands including Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis or even The Rolling Stones. Personally, I loved seeing the early photos of the band that I had first seen on the walls of the late, lamented "Legs" Barrett's house back in the day. It was a real trip down Memory Lane, though I was slightly disappointed not seeing the video sections Paul Barrett had recorded for previous iterations of the show. The first half of the show moved onto the point at which Shaky came to the public's attention as Middle Elvis in Ray Cooney and Jack Good's Elvis The Musical (which I saw in 1978 at the Astoria Theatre in London). Dean performed a selection of Elvis songs followed by songs performed by the star when he went on to star in Jack Good's TV revival of the 1950s powerhouse show Oh Boy! and the subsequent show which followed, Let's Rock.

As the first half drew to a close Shakin' Stevens, now a solo artist was poised on the brink of pop stardom releasing a few singles on Epic to little notice until in 1981, his star really ascended when he released a new interpretation of Rosemary Clooney's hit This Ole House. Once the juggernaut attained acclaim, Shaky went on to record 40 top 40 hits and 4 number ones in the UK and great fame across the world. This time we heard hit such as Marie Marie, Oh Julie, A Love Worth Waiting For, Green Door and You Drive Me Crazy. Hit followed hit and Rebel Dean's energy never once dipped, as the audience showed huge love and respect for him both as a performer and as a fan desperate to do justice to the man who inspired the show. It is no wonder that Shakin' Stevens family and former members of Shaky's original band have supported the growth and development of this hugely satisfying tribute.

Overall, Rebel Dean provides a wonderful and highly informative tribute to Shakin' Stevens and long may he continue to do so. For a first visit to a large theatre in Hull, there was a very respectable crowd, none of whom would have been disappointed by the high octane entertainment on offer at Hull Truck Theatre. Dates in this neck of the woods are quite sparse at present, but I really hope Rebel Dean and his band can find a few more venue in this region to truly demonstrate his charismatic portrayal of the icon that is Shakin' Stevens. If he does, do yourself a favour and get a ticket. You will not be sorry.

Andy Evans - 23 February 2024

All photos sourced online. We do not own any of the photos and if you won the copyright and want accreditation or removal, please contact us and we will amend the review.

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