Sunday, November 26, 2017

Spencer and Percy Wiggins at the 100 Club

Anyone who loves deep soul will have been spellbound by the Wiggins brothers - Spencer and Percy - at the 100 Club last night. It was a great night, featuring Spencer's moody and hypnotic singing and Percy's lighter, almost pop, vocal style, well supported by a seven piece band. The brothers were brought up in Memphis and began their long careers in gospel, something which was very evident, particularly in Spencer's performance. Now in their mid seventies (Spencer is 75, while Percy is 74) they showed that a dynamic stage act is not the only way to hold an audience's attention. Vocal purity is just as effective, perhaps even more so.
First up was Percy Wiggins, dressed in a bright red jacket and matching shoes, looking all the world like a retired bank manager on his day off. He began with the funky Can't Find Nobody (To Take Your Place), the B side of his only original UK release on Atlantic in 1967, and followed up with the deep soul of Look What I've Done from 1969. Next up was the Northern soul favourite It Didn't Take Much (For Me To Fall In Love), which was beautifully sung, and the A side of his Atco single Book Of Memories, another beauty. That was it in terms of original numbers, but he made an excellent job of Eddie Floyd's Never Found Me A Girl, which merged into Groovin' and brought about some audience participation. Sam Cooke's Bring It On Home To Me followed, and Percy finished with Al Green's Love and Happiness. 
After a break it was the turn of older brother Spencer Wiggins to take the stage. Wearing a broad check suit and looking well,  his face was sombre and unsmiling - not once did he even hint at a grin. His voice, though, was magical as he tackled some of his wonderful Goldwax sides recorded under the guidance of Quinton Claunch. The enigmatic Lonely Man was followed by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham's Up Tight Good Woman. At Porretta, where Spencer has performed on a couple of occasions, along with his brother, he has been known to climax the song with up to ten false endings - 'Downright, Uptight Good Woman'. This time he contented himself with just five, but the effect was still sensational. Next up was the B side of his first recording, the upbeat What Do You Think About My Baby, which he followed with one of his most intense and powerful soul ballads, Old Friend. The serious face and the concentration he focused on the song reminded me of the performance by his label mate James Carr  at Blackheath back in the nineties. Just mesmerising. He followed with another song about age - He's Too Old, but upped the tempo with his next song, The Kind Of Woman's Who's Got No Heart. Spencer finished off his solo set with B B King's Sweet Sixteen and an excellent version of The Breaking Point, a Tyrone Davis influenced song he recorded for Fame. 
Spencer was then joined on stage by brother Percy as the band left them to sing James Carr's Dark End Of The Street to a backing track. Another spine tingling moment I thought as their voices harmonised perfectly. Percy said he was glad to be here in the UK for a fourth time (having appeared at Northern soul festivals in the past). Spencer said that he was just glad to be here at all. Finally, the band returned to the stage and the pair sang Double Loving, a song which Spencer recorded for Fame in 1970 and which was used in a Citi Bank TV commercial.
That was it, but it was a fine end to a double set which reached the heights at times and which was much appreciated by the fair sized audience. Apparently Graziano is hoping to include the brothers in next year's Porretta Soul Festival line up. I look forward to it as they are very much the real deal when it comes to Memphis soul.


At 11:30 am , Blogger branwell said...

Thanks for this Nick but I couldn't agree less ...Spencer especially I thought had aged seriously since Porretta and struggled, at times, to impose himself on the song -and as for backing tracks!


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