Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1090

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Kokomo: St. Johns, Farncombe 14/12/2018

Kokomo: Farncombe 18-12-18 @bluesandsoul.com
Kokomo: Farncombe 18-12-18 @bluesandsoul.com Kokomo: Farncombe 18-12-18 @bluesandsoul.com Kokomo: Farncombe 18-12-18 @bluesandsoul.com Kokomo: Farncombe 18-12-18 @bluesandsoul.com Kokomo: Farncombe 18-12-18 @bluesandsoul.com Kokomo: Farncombe 18-12-18 @bluesandsoul.com Kokomo: Farncombe 18-12-18 @bluesandsoul.com Kokomo: Farncombe 18-12-18 @bluesandsoul.com Kokomo: Farncombe 18-12-18 @bluesandsoul.com

UK soul's finest Kokomo made a triumphant return to St John’s Church in Farncombe, this venue was where the band reformed in 2014, after twenty plus years in the musical wilderness.

Playing for over two hours with two sets, Kokomo were tremendous. Alongside fellow funk royals The Average White Band, their erstwhile touring companions, Kokomo displayed their impressive live credentials repeatedly.

Since their reformation, group leader Tony O’Malley has reinvigorated the band with the addition of two superb female vocalists - namely, Helena-May Harrison and then Charlotte Churchman. With the sole original vocalist, the flamboyant Frank Collins, the singers energetically strutted their stuff like there was no tomorrow and were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

The Farncombe show was particularly good as the sound balance was perfect, something that is tricky to achieve with a ten-piece band... Kicking off with “Learning Curve” with Tony O’Malley on keyboards and vocals, the three specialist vocalists, all in ridiculously high heels, joined for the funky “What You Waitin’ For” and “Lonely Town, Lonely Street”. Stevie Wonder’s “So What The Fuss” got the full treatment with Churchman on lead vocals, “Meteorite” went like a bullet train and Harrison produced beautiful vocals on the slower, “Forever”.
“With Everything I Feel In Me” closed the first set, Collins saying “We were gonna take you to church, but we don’t have to as you’re already here.” They would have, with a gospel-heavy stomp and a fantastic solo from guest sax player Jamie Anderson.

The Tony O’Malley signature track “Naked Flame” morphed into “Spirit In The Dark” and almost took the roof off the church, fitting for a gospel track. A recent addition to the repertoire, a cover of Quincy Jones’ “Stuff Like That” emphasised Harrison’s vocal power.

From then to the end the tempo didn’t drop. This was a masterclass of soul and perhaps the standout track of the evening was a cover of Bobby Womack’s “I Can Understand It” into “Harlem Shuffle” which featured a classy extended guitar solo by Jim Mullen, who forges the link between Kokomo and the Average Whites, having supported them at Ronnie Scott’s last summer.

By the encore everyone was on their feet for a raucous “Sweet Home Kokomo” and lively crowd participation in “Third Time Around”. Great fun, great band.
WORDS & PHOTOS: CHAZ BROOKS
Words CHAZ BROOKS

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