Louis Donnarumma is the real deal. When a 19 year old takes on the challenging works of Jeff Buckley, you might show up expecting a slight let down, but fans of the late artist can leave their doubts at the door, certain to be impressed by this Fringe debut. As much as Buckley was an incredible guitarist, it’s his smooth, limber voice that represents the most difficult aspect to match, but Donnarumma is up to the challenge.
This is not a theatrical tribute show, it’s all about the celebrating the music of a man who, tragically left the world with too little material. Even though Donnarumma doesn’t assume the role, Buckley is clearly beloved inspiration, and the performer really does embody these songs in his singing, playing and mannerisms.
The show gets around the problem of limited material (Grace was Jeff Buckely’s only complete album) by including Buckley style covers of Dylan, Sly Stone and the artist’s father Tim Buckley, and of course that eponymous rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’. This works very well, given Buckley’s renown for interpreting the works of others. Grace is therefore a well structure and satisfying show.
Donnarumma is supported by three other musicians; it’s an accomplished ensemble who deliver note perfect renditions of the material. The sound mixing at the Wheatsheaf must also be singled out for praise, despite a full band on stage, everything comes through crystal clear.
On opening night there were the odd nervous moments between the songs, but that’s quite understandable in a debut performance, and this did get smoother in the second half. The sold out crowd were very receptive, responding well throughout the show.
If Grace is anything to go by, Louis Donnarumma is quite a talent, and someone worth watching as his career inevitably takes off. Get in quick for tickets, as there are only two shows left and they are selling fast!
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor
Matthew Trainor is a writer, teacher, musician, lawyer and father.
You can follow him on Twitter: @zmattyola