Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Prestatyn Soul Weekender - 5th - 8th March 2015

Here's another review by Seamus McGarvey - this time featuring some great Northern soul. 
I've been attending the Prestatyn Soul Weekender at Pontins for over 15 years  and this visit was yet another memorable one. Richard Searling had managed to bring together an R&B hit-maker from 1965 who, almost unbelievably, was making his UK debut - Mitch Ryder - plus as The New York Northern Soul Revue, original members of two key soul vocal groups from the 1960s - Bobby Shivers from The Spellbinders and Gary Gant from The Invitations - plus Bob Blanding (a member of The Invitations since the 1970s) and newest member and M.D., Terry Roberts.
The New York Northern Soul Revue opened the 'live' music roster on the Friday night with a neat collection of Invitations and Spellbinders classics. Sharply suited, the first half of their set focused on The Invitations and largely the Dyno Voice, MGM and Silver Blue labels with a well-balanced set of six including Bob Blanding's lead on the medium-stepping 'Look On The Good Side' supported by strong backing harmonies, while Terry picked up the pace with 'Watch Out Little Girl', coming across as a confident stage performer. Gary introduced the medium-tempo 'Isn't It Just A Shame' which he had co-written with Gary Knight for Kenny Wells, before the classic 'Skiing In The Snow', a neat stepper with some well-crafted choreography. 
He also introduced former member of the Velours, Fantastics and Invitations Richie Pitts and his son Johnny in the audience (pictured below), before 'They Say the Girl's Crazy', co-written by Gary and O'Neil Johnson, once again capably led by Terry who also led the hand-clapping closer 'What's Wrong With Me Baby?' through an extended finish for The Invitations part of the set.
With a quick turnaround during which the excellent backing band, Snake Davis (pictured below) and The Suspicions, entertained us with The Contours' 'Just A Little Misunderstanding' and more,  they re-emerged in new outfits for a Spellbinders set, with Bobby Shivers out  front, sporting a red jacket and launching into 'We're Acting Like Lovers' and 'That's The Way You Make Me Feel', a couple of melodic, mid-tempo steppers out of a half-dozen numbers they would feature, mainly from The Spellbinders' great 1966 Columbia LP, 'The Magic Of... '. With some emotional words from Bobby about former members who had passed recently including Danny Austin (also of The Ad Libs) on February 22nd, Bobby took us into 'Baby, I Miss You' and the stepping 'Chain Reaction'. Telling a story about UK Northern Soul fans he met in the States wondering why they hadn't sung 'A Little On the Blue Side', for the first time ever on stage Bobby led the group into this fine number and - with an 'Are you ready to party?' - on through the stepping 'Help Me (Get Myself Back Together Again)' which brought a tight set to an exciting conclusion. A memorable start to the weekend from a group who looked sharp throughout, not least in terms of choreography, and sounded good, with all four capable and entertaining lead vocalists. They had worked hard rehearsing and putting the set together, they connected with the fans, and they deserved all the plaudits they received. Excellent!
Late on Saturday night I managed to catch part of a PA by Louise Mehan of Newcastle R&B duo SouLutions who had been together about 18 years and came to prominence thanks to their first single 'Listen' being re-mixed by dance music ensemble, Drizabone. Louise seemed at ease on stage and came across well, with good vocals plus some catchy songs, particularly 'Philly Line'.
An hour or so earlier came Mitch Ryder who admitted that, at age 70, since it had taken him 50 years to get here, 'you may never see me again... so let's make the most of it!' - and he did! Decked out in black shirt and jeans, plus cap and dark glasses, he hit us with a rocking opener, 'Little Latin Lupe Lu', and then with a wild rasping roar ('I don't know where that came from!') led into 'Sock It To Me Baby' which was banned from U.S. radio – in addition to which, he told us, his late father-in-law, a preacher, 'used to burn my records'! The set developed into what was virtually straight-ahead rock 'n' roll, and won a great reception from the audience when he sang his first Top Ten hit, 'Jenny Take A Ride', the number which, as he put it, made him 'a rock 'n' roll star'. His voice held out well and though there was no leaping about on stage (Mitch put this down to hip replacement surgery in the past), he did keep the pace up, and kept the fans onside with his humour and between songs chatter. The material was driving up-tempo stuff, including 'Too Many Fish In The Sea' and, after a few words about dance crazes, adding 'this next one was plain filthy', a hectic take on 'Shake A Tail Feather', plus another of his big hits, 'Devil With A Blue Dress On' seguing into 'Good Golly Miss Molly', complete with ear-shredding screams. Having earlier performed one of his Northern Soul hits, the driving 'You Get Your Kicks' with the fans really singing along, and having said this was the first time he'd 'ever performed that song in public', he closed his set with yet another number he'd never sung on stage before, and another stepper, 'Break Out'... for an encore he repeated it so he could say 'at least I sang it twice!' A friend from the U.S. who was also at the show told me that seeing Mitch with Snake Davis's excellent band was much better than seeing him in the States where he tended to work with a four-piece band with heavy rock leanings. I found the set highly enjoyable and entertaining: with the band in top form, a set of punchy numbers, Mitch in good voice and with a good smattering of humour thrown in, it all came together nicely. Maybe we will see him again!
And next year (3rd - 6th March 2016) it'll be The Volcanos ('Storm Warning' on Arctic) and legendary Philly producer Bobby Eli. One for the diary – and another visit to Prestatyn. 
Seamus McGarvey, with thanks to Richard Searling


At 10:54 pm , Blogger john marriott said...

Great review Seamus. It was a fantastic weekend and enjoyed meeting up with you and John as usual. Special mention for the band - lost track on the number of times I've seen Snake Davis over the years - never disappoints.


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