Sunday, July 22, 2018

Don Bryant's masterclass lights up Porretta

Saturday night is always a full house at Porretta and last night's show was no exception. It was an evening that began brilliantly, stalled in the middle and took off again towards the end. The brilliance came courtesy of Don Bryant, backed by the Bo-Keys, who gave a masterclass in high class soul singing. Don's voice remains in superb condition and it was pure delight listening to numbers such as Nickel and a Nail, Something About You, How Do I Get There and One Ain't Enough and Two's Too Many. Don's was the uncredited voice on Willie Mitchell's Everything's Gonna Be Alright and That Driving Beat and the Bo-keys, led expertly by Scott Bomar, let rip on both. Other excellent numbers included Am I Wasting My Time, I Die A Little Each Day and What Kind Of Love Is This and Don finished with Don't Turn Your Back On Me, from his recent album, and, of course, I Can't Stand The Rain. A great set, very nearly up to the standard of the show at Ronnie Scott's last year.
The Anthony Paule band took the stage for the rest of the show and things started to go flat, although through no fault of their own. Mitch Woods' piano spot, including House Of Blue Lights, didn't quite take off and numbers by Sax Gordon and backing singer Sandy Griffith took up valuable time, good though they were. An unannounced number by guitarist Alvon Johnson (Let's Straighten It Out)', including a tour of the audience, seemed superfluous as well, although he looked the part. Percy Wiggins appeared next, dressed entirely in white, including hat, shoes and, rather bizarrely, gloves. This was his third visit to Porretta and although his voice is good, his stage act is less so. Eight extended numbers, including Look What I've Done To My Baby, Book Of Memories, Never Gonna Find Me A Girl, Bring It On Home To Me and Love And Happiness, was too many. Brother Spencer then came to the stage, accompanied by Wee Willie Walker, and the three of them sang I Need A Lot Of Loving Every Day. Spencer looked decidedly frail but his voice remained pretty strong on Lonely Man, Uptight Good Woman (with the customary five false endings), What Do You Think About My Baby and Double Loving.
Next up was Swamp Dogg and we expected great things but it was not to be. He seemed a little off the pace on his slightly surreal material, including Synthetic World, Total Destruction Of Your Mind, Lover Man and Mama's Baby - Daddy's Maybe. He ended his set with Gotta Get A  Message To You, with much hand shaking in the audience, but seemed surprised when MC Rick Hutton pulled him off. 'Have I Gone Past My Time?' he asked. The answer, it seemed, was yes. The show livened up with the next act, a dynamic young southern soul singer called Lacee from Memphis. Wearing a sparkly cat suit, she came across well on Juke Joint Jump, Dr Feelgood, one of her self composed songs and Try A Little Tenderness. I would like to see her in a down home juke joint in the south some time. The final act of a very long night was Ernie Johnson, another singer in the southern soul mould, who wore an outrageous bright red suit and cap. He was full of life and excellent on numbers such as Bad Case Of Nothing But The Blues, If My Love Can't Make You Stay Move Along, You're Gonna Miss Me, Party Time and finally Otis's Dreams To Remember. Overall, it was an uneven night, made special by  Don Bryant and, to an extent, the final two acts. A night to remember none the less, if only for its post 2.30 finish.


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