Saturday, July 21, 2018

Wonderful soul night at Porretta

Porretta Soul Festival's reputation as the world's best of its kind was borne out by a wonderful night of great music on Friday. Things got off to a slow start with a blues set by guitarist Chris Cain and the Luca Giordano Band plus Sax Gordon. Chris was fine on numbers such as Movin' Back To Memphis and B B King's Sweet 16, but it wasn't soul and that's what we had come to hear.
When the Anthony Paule Band took to the stage things moved to a higher level. Soul Finger was followed by a good vocal number by Sax Gordon and two by backing singer Larry Batiste, a big man in a hat, including Al Green's Let's Stay Together. Then the first of five excellent soul acts took to the stage, Detroit based Booker Brown. Despite his origins he is very much a southern soul guy, with a voice reminiscent of Bobby Womack and an excellent stage act. Wearing a naval cap, his wardrobe began with a white jacket, reducing to a black and gold waistcoat before stripping to his shirt. Numbers included Love Is Blind But The Neighbors Aren't, Bobby Bland's I Take Good Care Of You, Never Too Much and the up tempo Stirr It Up. Next up was Missy Andersen, a slim young lady in a leopard print dress, who began a little uncertainly with O V Wright's Ace Of Spades. She grew in confidence with Stand By Me, Tell Mama, a good version of It's Alright, What Kind Of Man, and If You Loved Me Like You Said before finishing with Higher And Higher.
After a break the music went up a further gear with the superlative Wee Willie Walker, a diminutive deep soul man who first recorded for Goldwax in the sixties. He held the audience spellbound with I Ain't Gonna Cheat On You No More, Second Chance, the Goldwax track There Goes My Used To Be and Hate Take A Holiday. After A While and If Only, from his latest album, were intense and beautiful, as was Mable John's Your GoodThing Is About To End and Look What You've Done To Me. A great act, which was followed by the now familiar acrobatics of drummer D'Mar (Derrick Martin), who leaped over his drum kit and rampaged around the audience playing anything he could lay his drum sticks on.
The mood changed instantly with the arrival on stage of Oakland based Terrie Odabi, who sang Wade In The Water very quietly at first, before building to a dramatic climax. Terrie was one of the hits of last year's festival despite not being listed to appear, and this time she showed just how good she really is. Her set ranged from the jazzy Live My Life to Denise Lasalle's raunchy Man Sized Job, a brilliant and dramatic version of You're Gonna Make Me Cry, the social comment of Gentrification Blues and Ben E King's Don't Play That Song. This was a super set, confirming Terrie as a great soul singer. The final act of the evening was John Ellison, formerly of the Soul Brothers Six. I thought he might have peaked too soon by opening with his two biggest hits, Some Kind Of Wonderful and I Want To Thank You Baby, but I was wrong as the rest of his set was excellent and varied. He is a tall man with a high voice who strides across the stage, initially wearing a cloak, dark glasses and a black head band, and he certainly pleased the audience with I'll Be Loving You, the dramatic What Can You Do When You Ain't Got Nobody, the disco flavoured Love Line (involving audience members forming lines on stage), the love song Simply I Love You, It's Your Lips and finally If I Had Just One Wish. A great end to a wonderful evening and there's still more great artists to come.


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