Thursday, December 20, 2012

Martha Reeves at the Jazz Cafe

Not even her biggest fans would claim that Martha Reeves can hold a tune these days. Clutching a tambourine she warbles and screeches, occasionally hitting the right note, more by luck than good judgment, but more often missing by quite a distance. Despite that, after 50 years in the business she knows how to please a crowd, and the audience at the Jazz Cafe last night seemed to be well contented with the show.
Accompanied by two attractive young Vandellas - the gorgeous Vanessa from London and Stella from Leeds - and a band featuring two saxophones and trumpet, she stuck mostly to her Motown hits fom the 1960s, interspersed with a few seasonal Christmas songs.
Martha began with a trio of her uptempo numbers - Quicksand, I'm Ready For Love and her second single Come And Get these Memories - before reminiscing about the Wigan Casino and launching into Nowhere To Run. She drew breath with the slower Love (Makes Me Do Foolish Things) before cranking up the beat again with Jimmy Mack, followed by its B side Third Finger, Left Hand. Next it was In My Lonely Room, before again slowing things down with Oh Holy Night, followed by her favourite track, she said, My Baby Loves Me. After a lively Heatwave she turned seasonal again with Silent Night and then her later hit No One There and Billie Holiday's God Bless The Child.
It was time for her finale and Martha and her Vandellas listed some of the artists who have recorded versions of her 1964 smash hit Dancing In The Street over the years - everyone from Mick Jagger to Bruce Springsteen to Lulu. It was a great way to finish and to remind the audience of her fantastic back catalogue. Martha may warble, but she still thrills. Maybe she should have left things there, but she returned to the stage with a glass of Guinness and was singing Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire as I left for my train home.


At 4:15 pm , Blogger Dave C said...

After several debates about whether to go or not, I found the evening strangely yet thoroughly captivating. Despite reservations about her voice, Martha has the songs, the personality, the warmth and enthusiasm, and, importantly, the magic of Motown, which she sprinkled freely about her. The varied audience, some of whom looked young enough to be her granddaughters, were behind her all the way. The two song encore ended with ‘Honey Chile’, and then, as the band played ‘Dancing In The Streets’, Martha followed the Vandellas up the stairs.

At 4:39 pm , Blogger Nick said...

Excellent comment Dave and I very much agree. Great personality and warmth.

At 4:48 am , Blogger john marriott said...

Very pleased to read this and Daves reply also. I've lost track on the number of times I've seen Martha since 1965 - a good few times each decade I'm sure. There is an incredible amount of at times venom about her voice now etc from various sources but as you say she still can put on a show and has still incredible enthusiam which still is infectious.
Nice honest review.


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