On Sunday afternoon, before we went off to our respective Thanksgiving dinners, I headed to Theatre Passe Muraille with a few friends to see LIFE, DEATH and THE BLUES.
Raoul Bhaneja and his fine three piece band (Jake Chisholm, Tom Bona and Chris Banks), team up with the fabulous Divine Brown to share Bhaneja's personal story about his obsessive love for blues music. He's not just a fan: he's been a blues bandleader for 16 years, and has won a Maple Leaf Blues Award.
Bhaneja, a diplo-brat and private school boy, seems an unlikely advocate or frontman for hard-loving, hard living, blues refrains, but, as he explains, the blues speaks to the heart and soul of universal human experience. With an Irish mother, and a South Asian father, he's a "beige" man, not a black one, but he feels the blues in his soul.
He's also a charming performer, and, his unassuming and personable style draws the audience into the story.
Divine Brown makes a compelling foil to the enthusiastic Bhaneja, and an interesting discussion around race, cultural appropriation, and gender ensues between them. Does Bhaneja have the right to sing the blues?
In the end, the music speaks for itself, and the lively performance of the band, with vocals by Brown and Bhaneja (who also plays a mean harmonica) give the show its beating heart.
Bhaeja's passion for his subject and the depth of his knowledge, combined with the mix of projections,
story-telling and great live music make this an interesting and fun night out. Divine Brown has a voice that is heaven on earth, and her singing is a great highlight of the show. The night ends with a jam session, which features a special musical guest each night. Sunday it was Danny Marks. The audience loved it!
You've got one week left to grab a ticket, order one of those fancy bourbon "theme" cocktails on offer at the upstairs bar, and see this highly enjoyable show.
LIFE DEATH AND THE BLUES at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Street, Toronto, Tuesday to Sunday, October 19th. call (416)504 7529 for tickets.