Monday, July 23, 2012

Porretta - days 2 and 3

After its uneven start the night before, the Porretta Soul Festival really got into its stride on the second evening. It was all meat with no filler. Once again the Bo-Keys provided backing for two of the acts and after an opening Soul Serenade it was straight into genuine deep soul with the mighty Otis Clay - in my opinion the greatest living soul singer.
Dressed in a purple suit, he began with a tremendous version of Trying To Live My Life Without You, with the Norman Sisters providing background vocals, before launching into another of his all time great songs That's How It Is, with a bit of The Thrill Is Gone thrown in. Otis said that he had a new album many years in the making soon to come out and did a couple of numbers - Still In Love With You (I think is the title) and an impassioned soul drenched number called I'm Over you, with a great sax solo towards the end by Kirk Smothers. Otis finished off with I Got To Get Back To My Baby, with a crossover into She's Looking Good - another new record he said. His time on stage was all too short, especially as it was followed by Robyn McKelle doing You Can Have My Husband But Please Don't Mess With My Man, after which she received a Swarowski swan for some reason. (OK, so maybe there was some filling, but not too much).
Next on was Syl Johnson, another of my favourite soul men, who started brightly with That's Why and Straight Love, No Chaser, but then began moaning about unpaid royalties on sampled records and beginning a lengthy call and response session with the audience. Eventually he got his considerable act together accompanying himself on guitar with excellent versions of Any Way The Wind Blows, Sock It To Me, Is It Because I'm Black (with some Reconsider Baby thrown in) and Take Me To The River. All of these were excellent but the encore Sweet Home Chicago was rather average and he seemed unwilling to leave the stage at the end.
As the stage was reset for the Bar-Kays another presentation took place - this time featuring our very own Woodie Dave Thomas on behalf of In The Basement magazine. Dave bravely, and nervously, read out a speech of thanks in Italian.
The second half of the show featured The Bar-Kays, with Larry Dodson on vocals and original member James Alexander on bass and included another original member, Ben Cauley, in the line up for the first time in over 30 years. The band went through the Stax songbook and it went down a storm with the crowd, even if there was little original apart from the inevitable, and excellent, Soul Finger. Sweet Soul Music, Hold On I'm Coming, Soul Man, In The Midnight Hour, Green Onions, For Your Precious Love, You Don't Miss Your Water, When Something Is Wrong With My Baby, Mustang Sally, Last Night - they were all there, with a video of the original acts playing in the background. A tribute to Otis Redding included I Can't Turn You Loose, Try A Little Tenderness, Satisfaction, Dock Of The Bay and I've Been Loving You Too Long, before they signed off with the Theme From Shaft and an Isaac Hayes styled Walk On By.  Nothing very original then, but the band was tight and Larry put his all into the vocals, and it was much enjoyed by the audience.
After the show many of us retired to the Irish Bar, as usual, and were treated to David Hudson singing without a mic to a backing tape of his album. Slightly surreal, but great fun.
Day three was, as ever, a reprise of the main acts of the previous nights, although it began with an Australian girl ensemble called the Sweethearts - a group of around 30 schoolgirls from Geelong who played a variety of instruments and sang with gusto. They did jazzy versions of My Girl and I've Heard It Through The Grapevine, among others, and although not entirely to my taste, they were easy on the eye and full of youthful enthusiasm.
Then it was back to the main acts with the Bo-Keys on stage again and Ben Cauley singing one number. John Gary Williams sang accapella and then performed 'Shop Around' (specially requested by Dave Thomas) and The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy. David Hudson reprised Let's Stay Together, Honey Honey and Try A Little Tenderness, and Syl Johnson was on great form this time with That's Why, Sock It To me and Take Me To The River, before Otis Clay brought the house down once again with Trying To Live My Life Without You, I'm Over You and Got To Get Back To My Baby. The Bar-Kays varied their shortened act by including Purple Rain and Freak Show On The Dance Floor and as usual all the acts joined together on stage with an Otis Redding tribute.
Another great Porretta - hopefully not the last.


At 12:23 pm , Blogger Nick said...

Graham Joyce commented: Strangely enough Syl Johnson was complaining on stage at the Barbican about being stitched up by his record company - that was sixteen years ago (?) - you'd have thought he'd got over that by now.


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