Saturday, December 18, 2010

I can't say I am feeling Christmassie (I never know how to spell that) yet but Constant Reader I am on my way musically thanks to three gigs that have left me wreathed in smiles. I have seen all three acts before so I knew I was in for three class acts.

First off the rank: The Human League at the Royal Festival Hall.We saw Phil, Joanne and Susan Ann /Susanne 2 years ago when they headlined the Steel City Tour at Hammersmith and this show was to promote their new single NIGHT PEOPLE (which sadly hasn't bothered the dreary shite in the charts) and of course give us wave after wave of their Electro classics. Well - apart from the ones I wanted to hear...

White stage? Check! White mic stands? Check! Huge video screen? Check! Excitable fans? Check! Cue Mr. Phil Oakey in his big top coat... pacing across the stage like a pacey thing possessed. He does not stop! No wonder he is as thin as a whip. The bugger. After every few numbers another layer would come off until he was a vision in black shirt and black trews.I must say I do prefer Phil's appearance now - but that WAS one fierce 'do.

Needless to say most of the time my gaze (and my gays) were fixed on the gloriousness that is Susan Ann Sulley. Even back in the day she was my favorite Humaness which was ignited by a moment during a performance of DON'T YOU WANT ME on Top Of The Pops. As the camera tracked back at the end, Sooz who was doing her usual shimmy with arms outstretched shot the camera a look of such knowing pleasure, she was having the time of her life and enjoying every second. And time and again on stage all those years on, her attempts at haughty disdain where dispelled by a massive smile - still there, still dancing, still exactly where she wants to be. With her slinky black halterneck, trousers, red shoes and blonde backcomb & plait she looked like a disco Medea and then she changed it up to be a vision in white with sculpted shoulder-pads and a peplumed front and deliciously sequined ankleboots! The encore saw her in black again with a domino mask - she is Unstoppable!

Joanne wasn't too shabby either first in black trousers and waistcoat then a black mini with suspenders, stockings and boots - someone in the front row was no doubt happy - but Susan Ann is just too damn magnetic to ignore for long! Both of them looked a lot more in trim than when we saw them last.Oh and they did songs too! I won't list them, y'all know them, but particular favorites were BEING BOILED, EMPIRE STATE HUMAN, SECONDS, MIRROR MAN, THE SOUND OF THE CROWD, THE LEBANON (they once had shops you know), LOUISE, HEART LIKE A WHEEL, TELL ME WHEN and of course DON'T YOU WANT ME and TOGETHER IN ELECTRIC DREAMS.

But where were HUMAN and LOVE IS ALL THAT MATTERS? What *is* it with them (and even worse that Moyet hag who has stated she will *never* sing INVISIBLE again) who are happy to use the creative input of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Lamont Dozier respectively to get hits then *refuse* to sing them live? It all looks a bit racialist but I suspect it boils down more to not wanting to pay any royalties. It would be great to hear them sometime.

Next up was a schlep to the wastes of Bethnel Green - the things you have to do, as Julie Covington sang in ROCK FOLLIES OF 77. It was worth the tsouris though, as it was the second time seeing the glorious David McAlmont in almost as many weeks.

All year David has been finding new ways of getting his music to the people who want to hear it and with collaborator Guy Davies he has been performing in a variety of locations - both ordinary stage spaces and smaller, more intimate gigs - and this was definitely one of the latter as the People's Show Studios seats 80! In keeping with the intimate feel of the show we were greeted on arrival with a choice of tasty bite-size pies and much-needed mulled fruit drinks - David even worked the room with the pie-trays before the show!

Then it was time for a delightful show - including a singing drag Xmas tree - where David and Guy took a leisurely stroll through his favorite songs - his own and a healthy sprinkling of covers. I was over the moon he included Bessie Smith's KITCHEN MAN and even more so to hear him wax lyrical about Tammi Terrell before singing a lovely version of MY HEART. He did a second Motown song with a heartfelt version of Stevie Wonder's SOMEDAY AT CHRISTMAS.As usual there were tears and smiles along the way - his voice is such a glorious gift. He generously turned the stage over to two other performers, the fractured New Orleans blues of Todd Sharpville and the new singer Jake Emlyn who when he drops the Kate Nash-style Mockney singing should have a bright future.An extra encore involved a solo from Guy which was great and a delicious impromptu version of DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. David has announced a tour at the start of 2011 to promote his Leicester Square Theatre cd/dvd package so do yourself a favour and see this most special of singers - and I'm not just saying that because I got a huge hug from him before the show!

The trio of shows was completed - by a trio! Yes it was time to see again Motown legend Martha Reeves and The Vandellas at the Jazz Cafe.
We first saw Martha and siblings Lois and Delphine there in 2007 (see above) and have managed to see them every year since! We had 2008: Bloomsbury Ballroom; 2009: Wembley Arena (on the night Michael Jackson died) and now back to the Jazz Cafe (still with the same over-priced, under-whelming food).

I have just checked my blog for that first show and not surprisingly there wasn't too much deviation from that set list - we still got COME AND GET THESE MEMORIES, HEAT WAVE, DANCING IN THE STREET, NOWHERE TO RUN, LOVE (MAKES ME DO FOOLISH THINGS), I'M READY FOR LOVE, THIRD FINGER LEFT HAND, JIMMY MACK, ONE WAY OUT, FORGET ME NOT, GOD BLESS THE CHILD, WATCH YOUR BACK and the 1960s MOTOWN/SOUL MEDLEY - and why not? It's one Hell of a musical legacy.

But we also were treated to a lengthy but captivating version of Marvin Gaye's WHAT'S GOING ON? , A LOVE LIKE YOURS (DON'T COME KNOCKING EVERYDAY) and the real Christmas present for me was them singing NO ONE THERE - a song I have truly adored from the first time I heard it on their 1972 album Black Magic.There are songs you just never expect to hear your favorite singers sing in concert - especially when they have such a well-honed Greatest Hits show as Martha - but this was the best Christmas present they could have given me. I told Martha afterwards and she said she was a little worried about singing it as her voice is not what it was. Which is very true - but NO ONE THERE sounded great!

One more thing about Martha, she always names the writers of the songs, fully believing they deserve the credit she can give them. She also namechecks most of the artists who covered DANCING IN THE STREET - she misses out The Kinks! - and always gives pride of place to "My dear friend Dusty Springfield" which always gets the biggest cheer - which always brings a tear to my eye.

Despite their quite lengthy set Martha handled the after-show signing session with great dignity and grace even though she must have been tired, Lois and Delphine looked more than happy to sit it out behind her! They all liked the copy of the photo of me with them from after the 2008 Bloomsbury Ballroom show - oddly enough another pre-Christmas event - and no, I ain't blogging it, some things HAVE to remain private Constant Reader.

But here's me and the magnificent Martha from 2007!So there you go - three great acts - three great gigs.

The live Human League and Martha Reeves shots are by the one and only Owen McConnell and the McAlmont shots were taken by his good friend William Willcox - who I sat behind at the gig and was too shy to thank for the photo he took of me and David at Leicester Square Theatre. I must work on my bashfulness.

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