Saturday, November 14, 2009

Divas of Motown

Divas of Motown at the Apollo Hammersmith last night brought together some of the (mostly) lesser known female stars of the great Motown sound in what proved to be a great celebration of the label's 50 years. Excellently supported by Jack Ashford's Funk Brothers Band, the show kicked off with 79 year old Mable John who was billed as the First Lady of Motown but who is better known for her Stax material, which made up most of her act, even if Able Mable was originally recorded, but not released, while she was at Motown. I've seen Mable quite a few times over the years and her voice is as strong as ever. Wearing an elegant white dress she was drawfed by Jack in his flashy red jacket, but there was obvious chemistry between them.
Next on was, for me, the star of the show, Brenda Holloway who, like many of the acts, is a Northern soul favourite. Looking glamorous in a gold dress her set kicked up with a couple of upbeat numbers (hopefully Dave will provide set lists for all the acts!) and followed up with the wonderful Every Little Bit Hurts and then moved on to Mary Wells' Operator and her original You've Made Me So Very Happy. Fantastic voice!
Completing the first half (apart from some well performed Motown songs by the backing group) was Chris Clark, Motown's first white act, who is also popular with Northern soul fans. Her first couple of numbers were rather weak I thought, but she got more into her stride after that. The second half kicked off with two of the eight women who can claim to have been Supremes - Scherrie Payne and Lynda Lawrence - augmented by Joyce Wilson, formerly of Dawn, who ran through the Supremes song book in good style. This was Motown for the masses I guess, but the three women, dressed similarly in purple dresses, gave their professional all. Finally it was the turn of Thelma Houston, a true diva to be sure, but not one associated with the great Motown years of the 60s. But she has a fantastic voice and her cover of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' Don't Leave Me This Way went down a storm. The show finished with the backing group inviting audience participation with My Girl and then the stars joined together for a finale. An excellent show - although maybe not quite top draw - and definitely one for lovers of Motown and Northern soul.


At 12:13 pm , Blogger Stoned Love said...

I was there - fantastic!!! Many of the acts I had't seen before but for me the highlight was Scherrie & Lynda's Supremes. When Scherrie sang the opening to "Stoned Love" I got goosebumps! These ladies are astonishing vocalists who gave their all to a very enthusiastic crowd. Well worth the 200 mile round trip from Birmingham. When are they coming back..?

At 3:34 pm , Blogger Dave C said...

FWIW the following are the set lists of the main artists (from my notes).
Mable John: Able Mable (aka My Name Is Mable), Who Wouldn’t Love A Man Like That, Running Out, Same Time Same Place.
Brenda Holloway: What You Won’t Do For Love, When I’m Gone, Every Little Bit Hurts, Operator, You’ve Made Me So Very Happy.
Chris Clark: Love’s Gone Bad, Do Right Baby Do Right, I Want To Go Back There Again, Do I Love You.
Scherrie Payne & Lynda Laurence (Formerly Ladies of the Supremes): You Keep Me Hanging On, Stop In The Name Of Love, Come See About me, Reflections, Where Did Our Love Go, Baby Love, My World Is Empty Without You, Stoned Love, You Can’t Hurry Love.
Thelma Houston: (Sorry but I don’t remember the title of the first song. I was told it but I have forgotten), Saturday Night Sunday Morning, Medley of eleven Motown songs, Don’t Leave Me This Way.

It was a special night but sadly not a sell-out. Hopefully they made enough money for a return visit.

At 6:43 pm , Blogger Dave C said...

I have now identified the title of Thelma Houston’s first song. It is Baby Mine, a 1966 release on Capitol Records, predating her Motown career by five years.

I have also noticed that I miscounted the number of songs in Thelma’s ‘karaoke’ section; it was ten and not eleven. They were as follows: Get Ready, Dancing In The Street, Uptight (Everything Is Alright), Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing, I Second That Emotion, You Are The Sunshine Of My Life, Baby Love, I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch), What’s Going On and I Heard It Through The Grapevine.

At 7:51 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW! Scherrie and Lynda, Formerly of The Supremes with Joyce Vincent were FANTASTIC!!!!!! They were beautiful, classy, elegant, and ladylike. They performed the Supremes' classics in true "Supreme" style and fashion. This new lineup of FLOS is breathtaking! I can't wait to see them again. Come back to the UK soon Ladies!


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