Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Spine tingling moments - part four

Following on from my last post, here is the fourth instalment of my series of 'Spine Tingling Moments' - music gigs that were great at the time and which have stayed in the memory. 31. Bobby Womack - Jazz Cafe, 2011. I've seen Bobby on quite a few occasions dating back to the late eighties but this show was especially poignant as he was clearly unwell (he died three years later) although his voice was still in good shape. He had recently recorded with the Gorillaz - material that to my ears didn't suit him particularly well - but most of his set comprised the sort of material that made him so beloved of soul fans. I've always had slightly ambiguous feelings towards Bobby given his relationship with Sam Cooke's widow, but there was no doubt that he was one of the last great soul men.
32. Otis Clay, Ponderosa Stomp, 2011. Here's another of the great soul men and a man who I saw on numerous occasions. He never failed to put on a great show and this one, late in the evening at the 2011 Ponderosa Stomp was one of his finest (equal perhaps with his performance at Porretta the following year). I was devastated when he died in 2016 - yet another brilliant soul man who is no longer with us.
33. Bobby Rush - King Biscuit festival, 2013. Here is a soul/blues man who is thankfully still with us and who never fails to put on a great show. He is a throwback to the great R and B artists who played the chitlin' circuit back in the day, with his wonderful girl dancers, his lewd humour and his brilliant showmanship. I first saw Bobby at the New Daisy Theatre in Memphis in the nineties and vividly remember the impact he had. He was never more appreciated - or more over the top - than when performing to a predominately black audience as was the case at the King Biscuit Festival. I can't wait to see him again.
34. Dorothy Moore - Hal and Mal's, Jackson, MS, 2013. We struck lucky when we first visited Hal and Mal's for their regular 'Blue Monday' jam session in 2013. Dorothy Moore was about to go on a tour of South Africa and performed her full set as something of a rehearsal. We returned there several times on later trips as we were passing through Jackson and there was always great music from the likes of Pat Brown and JJ Thames. Dorothy sang one song on one of our later trips, but our first visit in 2013 was rather special.
35. Denise Lasalle - Porretta Soul Festival, 2014. Another great soul/blues star Denise Lasalle lit up Porretta in 2014. I first saw her on a Malaco show with Latimore and Little Milton in 1993 and her brilliantly earthy performances made her a must watch artist at various festivals in the south. Sadly Denise passed away in 2018.
36. Jerry Lee Lewis - London Palladium, 2015. This was Jerry Lee's 80th birthday tour and was billed as his farewell to London. When I first saw him - at Croydon's Fairfield Hall in 1963 along with Gene Vincent and Heinz (who was booed) - he was the most exciting performer I had ever seen with the exception of Little Richard. He didn't always live up to that billing, but on his day he could create genuine excitement. Now it's just a pleasure to see that he's survived and is still doing his thing and the Palladium show was highly enjoyable.
37. Santiago Jimenez - Carnitaz Uruapan, San Antonio, 2016. This was possibly the most unusual gig I've ever been to. Santiago, brother of Flaco, played regularly at this pork food place on a Sunday morning to an exclusively Mexican American audience. Four white guys from England were made more than welcome as we tucked into our roast pork and enjoyed Santiago's conjunto music. Truly a morning to remember.
38. Don Bryant - Ronnie Scott's 2017. Don Bryant and his wife Ann Peebles made some excellent records for Hi in the great Willie Mitchell days but it wasn't until his 'Don't Give Up On Love' album that he really came into his own as a solo performer. His show at Ronnie Scott's was a masterclass in soul music and other shows, such as at Porretta and the New Orleans Blues and Barbecue festival, showed what a sublime soul man he continues to be.
39. Big Jay McNeely - Joe's American Bar & Grill, Burbank, CA 2018. I was lucky enough to meet Big Jay at his LA home, along with Gordon Fleming and Paul Waring, in 2014 and enjoy his company at the local IHOP. Four years later John Howard and I saw what proved to be his last performance on the occasion of his 91st birthday. Despite having to be lifted on to the stage due to his infirmity, his sax playing and vocals were still top notch. Sadly he died four months later.
40. The Velvelettes - Detroit A Go Go, Detroit 2019. In 2019, the last year before COVID, I managed to make three US trips and enjoyed an enormous amount of great music. Add to those the Rockin' Race in Spain, the Blackpool Soul Festival and Porretta and it was quite a vintage year, despite the dwindling number of original performers still around. I'm choosing the Velvelettes as my spine tingling moment as, alone among former Motown acts, they comprise all the original members. There was a moment of drama when one of them, Mildred, slipped and fell backwards. Fortunately she was able to continue and 'Needle In A Haystack' sounded as fresh as ever.

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