(Adelaide Cabaret Festival, 24 June 2022)
Before his bizarre death on 11 December 1964, at the somehow apposite age of 33, and his subsequent apotheosis, Sam Cooke was already a key figure in modern music. He took elements of R & B, Gospel and Pop, and created Soul, which emphasizes vocals and venerates both God and the Ladies. In his short life, he made 29 singles that made the top 40.
Gary Pinto (pictured, photo by Simon Upton) is a leading performer of R & B and Soul music. The Sam Cooke Tribute he has developed in recent years comes at a fortunate time for Adelaide, and on Friday night he and his terrific band lit up the Dunstan Playhouse. Pinto’s snippets of back story concerning Cooke, his mastery of stage and crowd, and his vocal range and control, were impressive, even if he was a little strained in a couple of moments (on “Cupid”, and “Unchained Melody,” although in the case of the latter song, who wouldn’t be?).
We respectfully disagree with Pinto’s opinion that Cooke’s music has not dated – what good and great art does not date? But Cooke’s oeuvre, locked in the 1950s and 1960s, with all the constrictions of pop song structure of the time, is still a mighty thing, and this show made for a mighty evening. Equally as good as the Cooke covers (see below) was a ripping version of a song Otis Redding made his own, “Try a Little Tenderness,” Pinto and his cohort moving from soft and slow to the speed and strength of a freight train.
From gospel pieces such as “Jesus Gave Me Water,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Touch the Hem of His Garment”; to fun songs like “Having a Party,” “Shake,” “Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha” and “Twistin’ the Night Away”; pop classics “Wonderful World,” “You Send Me,” “Sad Mood,” “Somebody Have Mercy,” “For Sentimental Reasons,” “Bring It On Home to Me,” “Another Saturday Night,” “It’s Alright,” and “Stand By Me,” dreamy ballads “All of My Life” (and the particularly strong “Summertime,”); and the social takes
“Chain Gang,” and “A Change is Gonna Come” (which Cooke only got to perform 5 times), Gary Pinto and his crew were On-Song. Sam would have been pleased.