Sunday, December 06, 2015

Skegness Northern Soul Survivor weekend

Boston-based Noah Schaffer, a regular visitor to the UK, reports on the most recent Skegness Northern Soul weekender.
In just its third year, the Skegness Butlins Northern Soul event programmed by Russ Winstanley has found a large and enthusiastic audience. While not all of the announced 8,000 attendees may have been soul die-hards, even those who were just at the seaside resort to party got to hear five classic artists all expertly backed by the Diane Shaw band.
Friday night started off with Brenda Holloway delivering a performance that was a lot more successful than her set a week later at the Ponderosa Stomp, where she wasn't on the same page with backing band the Bo-Keys. At Skegness Holloway confidently moved through classics like 'Operator', 'When I'm Gone', 'Every Little Bit Hurts', a Mary Wells medley and the first ever live performance of 'I'll Be Alright' before departing with 'You've Made Me So Very Happy' as she had to return to Los Angeles to accept the HAL award the next night.
Most of the Motown groups still touring feature - at best - one original member. So it is no small feat that there are four originals in the Velvelettes (pictured above). Amazingly they are rarely asked to perform in the US (one notable exception being a Ponderosa Stomp-sponsored event at Lincoln Center in New York in 2010). It was great to see them still thriving with a 9-song set that included hits 'Needle In A Haystack' amd 'He Was Really Sayin' Something,' the Northern Soul anthem 'These Things Will Keep Me Loving You', and lesser-known gems like ''I'm So Glad It's Twilight Time' and 'Your Heart Belongs To me' before finishing with 'Everybody Needs Love'.
Saturday night started with the self-described 'black sheep of Motown' Kim Weston, another artist who is almost never seen on an American stage. She started with 'Dancing In The Street', and less anyone thinks she was simply covering her Motown colleague Martha Reeves she reminded the audience that the song had been written with Weston in mind. Husky but powerful renditions of 'Looking For the Right Guy', 'A Thrill A Moment', her first 45 'Love Me All The Way' and the Northern Soul smash 'Helpless Situation' followed, along with some good-humoured, rascally stage patter from the 75 year old.
Unfortunately the poor ventilation that was the subject of complaints from the previous year was yet again evident, and Weston informed the audience that the combination of sweat and the stage fans was wrecking havoc on her voice. After a brief break she returned with UK singer Paul Stuart Davies who did the Marvin Gaye parts on "It Takes Two." After finishing with "Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)" Weston encored with a moving gospel segment which found her playing piano.
What was originally planned as an all-Motown weekend had to be adjusted when Chris Clark bowed out due to a temporary medical situation. Her replacement, Prince Phillip Mitchell (pictured below), proved to be the most dynamic stage performer of the weekend. Skipping over the hits he wrote for others, Mitchell concentrated on his own output like "I'm Gonna Build California All Over the World," "Something New To Do," "One on One," his early single "Keep on Talking" and an extended "I'm So Happy" before encoring with his take on "At Last."
Like many acts the Contours now exist in two configurations, with the one led by 78-year-old founding member Joe Billingslea on hand as it concluded a brief U.K. tour. They used backing outfit Touch of Soul Band who were competent if not quite as impeccable as the Diane Shaw Band. Classic Motown choreography and the excellent lead voice of Al Chisholm was deployed for "First I Look at the Purse", "Do You Love Me?" and "Just a Little Misunderstanding" along with oldies circuit covers like "You've Lost That Loving Feeling." When rehearsing the tour a band arrangement of "Baby Hit and Run" failed to jell so the group sinmly performed a cappella.
The weekend finished with some live versions of Wigan favorites. Johnny Boy started with "Long After Tonight is All Over." Diane Shaw did "Time Will Pass You By" (co-songwriter John Rhys had been present all weekend), and Paul Stuart Davies, the Contours and Prince Phillip Mitchell returned for an extended "Do I Love You" to close out the weekend.


At 6:14 pm , Blogger Unknown said...

Absolutely awesome weekender enjoyed by all.....


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