Porretta Soul Festival, part 2
Saturday night is always the busiest one at Porretta and this year was no exception. What's more, the quality continued throughout the show. The house band for the entire evening, the ever excellent Anthony Paule Band, kicked things off with a couple of instrumentals, including a great version of Town Without Pity and Last Night, a tribute to the Memphis Horns, Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love, who played at Porretta in years past. Roaring onto the stage came Vasti Jackson, a blues guitarist with a dynamic act, with hints of Hendrix. Highlight was a slow soul blues number So Glad We're Back Together and he ended with a crowd excursion on Hoochie Coochie Man.
Next up was Frank Bey, who plays with the Paule band regularly. This time his numbers included Where You Been So Long, I'm Leaving You, Kiss Me Like You Mean It and the beautiful You Don't Know Nothing. Other numbers, all performed with real feeling, included the upbeat Don't Mess With The Monkey and Hard Times, during which the drummer D-Mar leapt over his drum set, played on the stage support and a beer glass and generally threw himself about, to the delight of the crowd. Frank's final song was Bobby Bland's Get Your Money Where You Spend Your Time.
After a break, during which David Nathan of Soul City fame, was presented with the annual Porretta award, it was time for the big man, Jerry Jones, who was pretty good on Cry To Me, You Got Me Hummin', Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City, Don't Turn Your Heater Down and Take Me To The River. He was joined on stage by Theo Huff for the regular Sam and Dave tribute, in the form of Hold On I'm Coming and Soul Man, which got the crowd on its feet.
I wasn't sure what to expect of the next act, John Ellison, formerly of the Soul Brothers Six, who appeared on stage wearing a cloak covered with animal prints, described by one person there as being like a set of curtains. He stripped it off to reveal a jump suit made of the same material. He proved to have a dynamic act, beginning with Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself, the SBS's I Want To Thank You Baby, the repetitive Where Do I Go From Here?, a sweet rendition of Ooh Baby Baby and a great version of the classic Some Kind Of Wonderful. From there he went into a frantic version of Shout, during which he stripped to the waist and rolled around on the floor. Good fun though. What a showman!
Next on stage was the Queen of Porretta, Toni Green, looking magnificent as ever in a white and tight lacy translucent trouser suit. She began with Otis's I Can't Turn You Loose followed by What Kind Of Man Are You. Things went downhill somewhat when she invited five men to dance on stage, but got back on track with a simmering duet with Theo Huff on If Loving You Is Wrong. She finished strongly with the excellent and soulful Things Ain't Working Out. Toni always gives her all and this was no exception. As ever she looked very glamorous and her act was highly watchable.
The star of this, and any show he's on, was next, the inimitable Bobby Rush, who at the age of 82 was as full of life and as much fun as ever. Now with just one dancing girl, Mizz Lowe, and Vasti Jackson on guitar, his act is pure theatre and always enjoyable. His songs included old favourites such as Garbage Man, You're So Fine, She's 19 Years Old and Night Fishing. He included his Michael Jackson and Elvis costumes, but this was a slightly toned down Bobby with no giant knickers and little in the way of twerking. Great as ever though, and next morning he launched his new Scott Billington produced CD Porcupine Meat ('too fat to eat, too lean to throw away'). During the show he repeated several times 'This could be the last time you see me.' I sure hope not.