Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Ultimate Motown - Divas of Motown: HMV Apollo, Hammersmith 13/11/09

Ultimate Motown - Divas Of Motown 13/11/09
Ultimate Motown - Divas Of Motown 13/11/09 Jack Ashford & Mable John: Ultimate Motown - Divas Of Motown 13/11/09 copyright@bluesandsoul Mable John: Ultimate Motown - Divas Of Motown 13/11/09 Brenda Holloway: Ultimate Motown - Divas Of Motown 13/11/09 Brenda Holloway: Ultimate Motown - Divas Of Motown 13/11/09 Chris Clark: Ultimate Motown - Divas Of Motown 13/11/09 The Supremes: Ultimate Motown - Divas Of Motown 13/11/09 The Supremes: Ultimate Motown - Divas Of Motown 13/11/09 Thelma Houston: Ultimate Motown - Divas Of Motown 13/11/09

The Apollo was certainly the place for Motown fans on this Friday 13th and it was great for me to have the chance to chinwag with so many folks – I’ve always said Motown fans are the very best!

So, wearing a sparkling red jacket, Jack Ashford, an original Funk brother, strolled on stage with musicians who’d provide the music throughout the entire performances, Hoping his jacket wouldn’t scare us, Jack introduced his pals, then his singers – Valencia, Larry, Jeanne - who launched into a pitch perfect, heavyweight version of The Temptations’ 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone'. He then welcomed a legendary lady, who was Berry Gordy’s first female signing, to the stage, and the audience rose as one to greet the petite but mighty Mable John. Wearing a white gown, she walked and strutted her way through 'Able Mable', 'Who Wouldn’t Love A Man Like That' and 'Same Time Same Place' in her short, but exciting performance; her first on a British stage. During her act she bantered with Jack about their first meeting, while saucy anecdotes were scattered between songs. What a privilege to see this lady on stage.

As Mable left, Brenda Holloway, alive, vibrant and layered hit the stage. Wow! Another legend! Her voice has been the backdrop to my life; it’s always spine tingling and overpowering as she oozes sensual soul. A surprising 'What You Won’t Do For Love', led into those classics we adore, as she walked the stage, embracing her audience – 'When I’m Gone', 'Every Little Bit Hurts', 'Operator' and, of course, 'You’ve Made Me So Very Happy'.

From Miss Dynamite, to a cautious singer who, since discovering the loyalty of Northern Soul and its followers, has been totally overwhelmed with the love and accolade she’s enjoying now. Yes, Chris Clark, and, what a personal thrill this was too because I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d ever see her on a UK stage. Wearing black, this tall and willowy singer, dipped into her wonderful catalogue to perform 'Love’s Gone Bad', 'Do Right Baby, Do Right', the evergreen monster 'I Want To Go Back There Again' among others. Her voice remains distinctive and powerful, and her stage presence, while initially wary, grew with confidence as she got into her stride. As she left the stage, Jack and his singers paid tribute to Marvin Gaye with 'What’s Going On' before singing 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine', both ala Marvin and Gladys Knight, before hitting 'Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)'.

Scherrie Payne and Lynda Laurence, two of the eight ladies who can rightfully claim to be former ladies of the Supremes, with new member Joyce Vincent from Dawn, kept the momentum going in the second half. With a flick of their wrists, a sassy swing of the hips and a sparkle in their eyes, the ladies, dressed in purple gowns, sang and girated to 'Reflections'. We whirled, sang and danced with the music before they launched into a Supremes’ songbook that included 'Baby Love', 'Stoned Love', 'You Can’t Hurry Love' with Scherrie and Lynda alternating on lead. No wonder Diana Ross chose these two Supremes to join her on the US stage! Their stage presence, their mighty voices, those lovely, pure tight harmonies into which Joyce has slipped so easily, and the warmth that filters from the stage into the audience, proves once more how precious these ladies, and indeed, all the performers are to us.

Then it was time for Thelma Houston. When she strutted on stage, the audience rose to greet her. She has such a loyal fan base over here and they were out in force tonight. First out was 'Baby Mine', her debut solo single, then she treated us to 'Saturday Night, Sunday Morning' before drawing breath to launch into a Motown medley that had us partying with her –'Get Ready', 'Dancing In The Street', 'I Second That Emotion', 'I Can’t Help Myself', oh, it was a mini Motown revue Thelma-style! And just when we’d gathered our thoughts, 'Don’t Leave Me This Way' hit us, and we sang and danced with her all over again! Phew!

As she left the stage, it was a sad audience who realised the evening’s fun was over. But no. Jack Ashford returned to tell us that a Funk Brothers’ party don’t stop. And we were off again! His singers also returned to the stage for a blinding version of another Temptations’ single 'I Know I’m Losing You', before all the divas returned for a bumping and grinding version of 'Dancing In The Street' in a style that was, I imagine, typical of the early Motown Revues. Well, what more can I say? These ladies proved that there was more to Motown than hit records. Motown meant presence, voice and personality. With a sense of style and..........fabulousness!

B&S copy and the photos from this review are strictly Blue and Soul copyright only, duplication of any part of this review and or image/s will result in immediate legal action.

B&S thanks Ivan Constable for 1st class photos of this magical evening... More photos will follow soon...

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