Singer-songwriter Shaun Shears sort of fancies himself as a 21st Century reincarnation of the medieval Troubadour, travelling the country performing his songs about life, love and sex to whoever will listen. Unfortunately, it appears that his spell-checker couldn’t cope with this idea, suggesting labrador instead–hence the title of his debut Fringe show. A shame, really; not least because Shears doesn’t appear to own a dog, and so is surely flirting with a breach of the Trades Description Act
Despite his 21st-century affectations, Shears is an old-school singer-songwriter; his lyrics are very much based on his own life experiences, and are performed with a roughness that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. His between-song ‘banter‘ is also a thousand miles away from the meek platitudes and worthiness you get from most of today’s pop stars. Shears feels a need to explain, with sometimes painful honesty, their origins and how performing them can be a sharp reminder of the often mournful and dark times which inspired them. For audiences not used to such directness, Shears’ directness is rather unsettling.
But that is how it should be; for the one unavoidable fact about Shears is that he’s in a wheelchair, thanks to his cerebral palsy and arthritis. And yet, such disabilities do not hamper or factor in performance; it is at all times his obvious creativity and determination to be given a chance that shines through. It’s other people who would seem to have the problem, not least those he talks about who give him the evil eye for daring to sing along to prerecorded musical tracks. The fact that Shears is very much in control of their composition and creation doesn’t seem to change some people’s opinion that he’s essentially just doing karaoke.
But that is so, so wrong; Shears is sharing his life, singing about his hopes and fears, the good times as well as the bad. Plus, of course, about the family and friends who have helped keep him going through his darkest moments. It may be somewhat trite to say Shears’ show is life-affirming, but it is.