Review: The Mellotones

Maritime R&B darlings The Mellotones were booked for a weekend of Motown fun at Neptune Theatre. Celebrating twenty years on the road together, this well-oiled, octet powerhouse plucked the finest gems from their catalogue for a night of funkadelic revelry. Cooking up a batch of some delicious “soul stew” (their words, not mine), the Mellotones pull out all the stops, moving through the decades and giving simmering tastes of musical legends who’ve inspired them during their career. Brandishing a solid twenty-track setlist, the night offered up great renditions of songs by Al Green, Edwin Starr, Michael Jackson, and Stevie Wonder – the latter of which deserves a special spot of praise for actually making me like “Superstition.” So for that, bravo.

For a band that has a regular Thursday night residency at the Marquée Club, I can imagine that Neptune’s Fountain Hall was a weird change of scenery. Despite a couple moments of encouragement from Mellotone members to dance on one of Neptune’s three limiting carpet spaces, the crowd seemed content to stay seated for the performance (I’d like to give the two women in the front who tried to get people up and moving a shout-out – keep fighting the good fight). Nevertheless, the band still brought their A-Game to the night. Lead singer/saxophonist Jeff Mosher exuded ample charm and a vocal range that would unnerve many Motown legends. Offering up a few amusing anecdotes, the audience was treated to some tidbits of Mellotone trivia. Like, did you know only two of the band members (trumpet-man Jody Lyne and bassist Michael Farrington Jr.) have been part of the band since its inception? Or that singer Mosher was discovered performing karaoke in Montreal? The more you know…

For a band that has been together as long as these guys have, it’s hard to find fault in what they set out to do. With instrumental numbers matching the same calibre as their cover songs, the musical chops of the band can’t be denied. Guitarist Brad Conrad gets ample time to shine in impressive solo moments. Drummer Damien Moynihan, pianist Ian Mosher, and the aforementioned Farrington keep the band on the groovy rails, while the stellar horn sections comprised of Lyne’s trumpet, Eric Landry’s fiery trombone, and Sean Weber’s sax/ewi (think a synthesizer clarinet) further elevate and enhance their love of Motown music. Put all of these individuals together and you have a showcase of stand-out moments, such as a cover of the Isley Brothers’ “Who’s That Lady” and an encore performance of Wilson Pickett’s ‘Land Of 1000 Dances.” But you know what? When it comes to a band like The Mellotones, you don’t need me to tell you how talented they are. And fortunately for us, we have plenty of opportunities to see them around town.

About the author

Carey Bray

Carey Bray is a local artist, actor/director, and writer residing in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. He's also a theatre critic for The Coast, and has previously written reviews and interviews for The Coast's Halifax Fringe Festival, Atlantic Books Today, and the online blog, Hello Dartmouth. You'll find more of Carey's work on his blog, Sitting Ovation.