Monday, July 22, 2013

Porretta sparkles yet again

I've just got back from the Porretta Soul Festival and there is so much to report that it's hard to know where to start. I've already covered day one so now to day two (Saturday), which proved to be another enormously enjoyable experience, as well as a gruelling one: sitting on concrete for seven hours is tough on the backside.
Usually the first act of the evening is a fairly obscure European act which often underwhelms. But this time it was a Japanese band called Osaka Monaurail who kicked off proceedings on Saturday and they were a delight. Smartly dressed in suits and a horn section wearing pork pie hats, they are a funk/soul band with a crisp sound and a good sense of humour. The band's leader doesn't so much sing as grunt to the music of James Brown and Ray Charles, whilst doing some fine foot work, with the deadpan horn men twiddling their trumpets mid song and responding to the singer as he praised the 'shixties' and the likes of 'Sham Cooke' and Otis Redding. Good fun.
Next on was the Paul Brown band who rather unimaginatively repeated the opening numbers of the night before with the addition of a tribute to Bobby Bland by MC Rick Hutton on Turn On Your Love Light.
David Hudson, one of the hits of last year's show, was next on with soulful versions of Who's Making Love and That's The Way I Feel About You, followed by For The Good Times and Groove Me Baby. Then, in a moment of sheer emotion, he declared his love in song for his girlfriend Juanita and went in to the audience to propose to her. Fortunately the lady said 'yes'. David is a great soul singer but this was taking soul right to the limit.
Next on was Charlie Wood, who wrote the Porretta theme song some years ago, who sang three jazzy numbers - One Kind Word, Gonna Slip Away and Lucky Charm. Sadly these did not fit in with the soul feel of the festival and felt completely out of place.
He was fairly quickly replaced on stage by a young and extremely attractive female singer from Mississippi by the name of Falisa Janaye, who put the show back on the road with lively versions of Rocksteady, Betty Wright's Tonight Is The Night, Mr Big Stuff, Natural Woman and A Fool In Love and a couple of songs of her own - What A Man and You Won't Miss Your Water. Falisa looks great and has quite a bit of stage presence and the only downside was the overlong end to her act as she introduced the band members. She may not be the finished article, but she has potential and is definitely one to watch.
Final act of the evening was Bobby Rush, who came on stage with two girl dancers who shook their booty as Bobby sang, played harmonica and, at times, his guitar. Bobby is 80 this year, which is quite incredible given his energy and looks. This was a bluesy set, with numbers such as She's Fine, 19 Years Old, Blues With A Feeling, Polk Salad Annie, Tight Money and Night Fishing, ending with Shake Rattle and Roll. Bobby is always good to watch, with a wicked sense of humour and great showmanship from an earlier era and, even though this was perhaps a slightly toned down act compared with his Chitlin Circuit performance, it was excellent. At the press conference the next morning he bemoaned the absence of horns on recording sessions these days, but said that he was happy to adapt to changing times. He promised to do all he can while he can. Good on you Bobby.
The Sunday show at Porretta usually features a few numbers from each of the artists from the previous two nights, but this time there was an additional act in the form of Charles Walker and the Dynamites. Charles is an old school soul and funk man and the band, from Nashville, provided good support on several tracks from his recent album, Love Is Only Everything, including the title track, Still Can't Get You Out Of My Heart and, his final number, So Much More To Do. Other songs included an excellent version of Donny Hathaway's I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know and a soulful Summertime.
Next on was Sax Gordon's International Soul Caravan, featuring an excellent guitarist from Brazil, Igor Prado, and keyboardist Raphael Wressnig. Sax himself is a good sax player but his vocal rendition of a song called Be Careful Of What You Wish For showed that singing is not his forte.
After another enjoyable slice of Osaka Monaurail, the Paul Brown band returned and the final night became a reprise of the main acts of the previous two nights. It was another chance to enjoy Falisa Janaye, David Hudson (with his new fiance coming on stage, causing him to shed a few tears), Mitty Collier, Latimore (with David and Bobby Rush helping him out on Let's Straighten It Out), Toni Green, looking stunning as ever, and Bobby Rush, with his soul revue. The finale, as ever, featured the stars on stage belting out the Porretta theme and Sweet Soul Music, with the festival eventually closing down some time after 1.30am. Another great Porretta, and another triumph for the enthusiasm and hard work of organiser Graziano Uliani, who yet again has put on what must surely be the world's best soul festival.
Photos to follow soon.
Nick Cobban.


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