Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Time to clamber aboard the Meltdown Time Machine at the Royal Festival Hall... this time it was to celebrate READY STEADY GO! with past alumni and sympathisers.It was a really buzzy, happy audience - and we were star-studded, people... the star was Glen Matlock - sat behind us yet - and the stud was Cheryl Baker.

I was never aware of READY STEADY GO while growing up although I was certainly aware of Cathy McGowan as a media 'face'. I caught up with the shows when they repeated heavily-edited editions in the late 1980s on Channel Four - they had fallen into the hands of Dave Clark so instead of ad breaks there were interspersed clips of the Dave Clark Five with obviously-edited-in footage of screaming crowds.

However what I saw I loved... acres of Dusty footage of her being fabulous - my favorite was a clip of her singing EVERY DAY I HAVE TO CRY where she had an obvious fit of the church giggles after bumping into a frugging member of the audience while miming. It also was the first time I saw Motown diva Kim Weston when she was introduced by The Beatles no less singing the glorious A LITTLE MORE LOVE.

Sadly no Kim tonight - in fact there were no Motown acts which surprised as RSG was the acknowledged launchpad for Motown in this country - and of course there was no Dusty but there was a tribute, more of which later. What there was however was the chance to see three singers I have great affection for.First up was The Manfreds fronted by himself, Paul Jones - I have history with him on the South Bank. He took over from my beloved Ian Charleson in the NT's GUYS AND DOLLS in September '82 and every time PJ would come on for the first mission scene and the song I'LL KNOW - I fell asleep. Every time. In the front row. Oddly enough I stayed awake for him in THE BEGGAR'S OPERA which was on at the same time! Anyways they kicked the show off with the show's theme song 5-4-3-2-1 which was as good a way to start and PJ's showboating kicked in during an extended version of DOO WA DIDDY DIDDY.

After an amusing turn by Dave Berry - in full panto mode - and an endless set of only 2 songs from the stage school diva-stylings of Paloma Faith - the evening kicked it up a notch with the appearance of Carl Barát who brought a bit of good old fashioned star quality and some raucous rock n roll glamour to the proceedings. Then it was time for the actual reason for going... ladies and gentlemen, Miss Sandie Shaw.

SCREAAAAAAAAAM! I have always wanted to see Sandie Shaw on stage and assumed it was never going to happen but there she was RESPLENDENT in a fringed pink coat, lacy pink top and pink shorts.. and barefoot. Sadly she only did THERE'S ALWAYS SOMETHING THERE TO REMIND ME and GIRL DON'T COME (sat on the stage waggling her feet over the apron) but there she was - grinning from ear to ear, bouncing over the stage and looking so damn HAPPY to be there, she was utterly winning.

As if my heart couldn't take any more, on sauntered my very dear close personal friend David McAlmont and launched into a wondrous version of the anthemic McAlmont & Butler YES - damn it was good to hear it in this widescreen version - the last two gigs I have seen David do have been at most with piano, drums and bass - YES is a song that demands HUGE sound, HUGE strings, HUGE everything... and it was a joy to hear it done so loud.
Next cab of the rank was Nona Hendryx who had the longest time on stage... now it was great to see her so ultra-professional stage persona and magnificent arse encased in skintight leggings and of course, hear an original LaBelle sista WORK "LADY MARMALADE" but you can have too much of a good thing and as her anti-apartheid song WINDS OF CHANGE clocked onto it's 11th hour it smacked of favoritism - she is the girlfriend of Vickie Wickham who produced the show as she did the original READY STEADY GO. She followed this up with another marathon funk-workout called SWEAT - if she had done BABY A GO GO which Prince wrote for her it would have cheered me immeasurably. I was sweating for her to get off.

I should have mentioned that the show was - ahem - compered by Annie Nightingale - um, I know she is rock royalty and all that but damn she was like the walking dead, hair by Phyllis Diller, legs by Twiglet and wearing a purple sack dress that just hung on her like a shiny potato sack. It was embarrassing to see, especially compared to the soignée figure of Biba herself, Barbara Hulanicki who popped up to be interviewed onstage.After a short 2 song - 2 songs, Nona!! - set by young r&b/grime singer Loick Essien which was easy on the ear it was time for another visit from Planet Diva... the majestic Ronnie Spector. Honey she worked those heels... all 4' of her made large by teetering stilettos and a lioness mane of back-combed and messed-up hair, she wiggled and teased as she has been doing since the early 1960s and you knew why she is the old rocker's pin-up of choice...with boobs as big as her voice she turned in faultless versions of BE MY BABY, BABY I LOVE YOU and WALKING IN THE RAIN - I had tears of joy in my eyes!After Ronnie lifted the edge of her shirt one last time as she sauntered off it was time for a little tribute to our fallen Queen Dusty. After a ropey version of I ONLY WANNA BE WITH YOU from Nona Hendryx - who REALLY should have known better - it was time for an enjoyable evening to reach it's climax.

David McAlmont came on again and told a nice anecdote of how when he and Bernard Butler appeared on the 1995 episode of LATER... with Dusty, Sinéad O'Connor and Alison Moyet and was told by mistake that he would be singing back-up for her - it turned out it was just going to be the women. Crestfallen, he was visited the next night at his dressing room by Dusty and she presented him with a small bouquet of Freesias that he still has pressed in a book. Awww....

He then launched into a stunning version of YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME that just built and built and climaxed with David, arms outstretched, palms aloft and his voice effortlessly riding the music for the final "Belieeeeeeeve meeeeee" - I was on my feet as he ended the final note. Apart from the singalong ending his was the only standing ovation of the night.

It took a while after this glimpse of musical heaven to notice that Paloma Faith was on stage again with a karaoke SON OF A PREACHER MAN then did the best thing she did all night - introduced Ray Davies to duet on LOLA, joined by most of the performers. For the second night in a row, the Festival Roof was lifted to the mass singing in praise of a Soho transvestite. The hilarity was the song ended and while they were all milling about on stage, Sandie Shaw leaned into the nearest mike and started singing "Lola, lo-lo-lo-lo Lolaaaa" and started it all off again!!!

And another fabulous Meltdown omnibus show trundled off to live in memory.

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