Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Craig Charles, Ria Currie, The King Rooster + Urban Allstars: Boatyard, Leigh-On-Sea, Essex 29/10/21

Cc2 Craig Charles: The Boatyard, Leigh-On-Sea, Essex 29/10/21 REVIEW Cc4 Cc5

A funk and soul extravaganza was the order of the day and presented in style by Tongue & Groove Promotions, who seem to be going from strength to strength judging by the vast hordes of people who piled into The Boatyard. A fantastic venue known for its seafood and preference for quality live music. Expectations were high and the night did not disappoint.

Local DJs Urban Allstars set the scene with some great moves of their own, they had their wiggle on too, playing some great sounds giving way to some live music in the shape of deep funk specialists, The King Rooster. "Cooking The Books" kicked off proceedings in sharp effect with a tough groove from drummer Mark Claydon and a pumping rounded, sounding bass courtesy of Ian Stevens. Topped with crisp clean guitar and a punchy organ exemplifying the band's writing in glorious evidence and live prowess.

A great start which burst into life with the celebratory sounding "Fat Chance", an organ-led workout reminiscent of Alan Hawkshaw's style, led by the nifty fingered Sam Montero that just plain cut the mustard. These guys were warming up the crowd and ramping up the excitement. The hustle was firmly on!

"Back Chattin" (a Dinked 45 evergreen) saw further explorations come into the fray and develop. This time it was left hooker guitarist James Forster's turn in the spotlight and managing to get the slinkiest sounds out of his gleaming white Stratocaster to devastating effect. The King Rooster are a well-drilled, well-honed and regimented outfit. They must have all completed National Service in funk school with their undoubted versatility shining through, as did their sterling musicianship. Topping off a great set was the introduction of the hostess of the night, Ms Ria Currie, who added a touch of glamour to the evening and was in fine form. Her vocal delivery on the band's take of Beyonce's "Sugar Mama" was sensational. The path had been well and truly set for the main man Craig Charles, Funk Soul Brother No1 to take the stage and do his majestic thing. The groove is the primal pulse we all respond too and he bombarded the crowd's senses with visceral intensity. 20 mins in and 12-inch extended mixes had already set the scene.

Yes, the man who is all over BBC6Music at the moment was in fine fettle. A hard-working man is a happy man and there were smiles all around as Charles dipped into his vast Trunk of Funk (which, by now, must be the size of Noah's Ark) and drove the crowd mental, as is his want. This man deals in tuneage, not scrap! Some peach tunes were played out and the feel-good/soul factor went up a notch with a classic old sixties stylised penny banger, Shirley Ellis's "The Clapping Song' and some choice Motown cuts such as "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" hit the sweet spot. Bringing on Ria Currie to sing along with Speedometer's "Am I Your Woman" was a nice touch and naturally brought the house down.

Finally, the great thing about Charles is that he presides over a genuine shared experience and he knows instinctively how to read a room. He can judge the crowd's energy and reach into his trunk of funk and pick the precise record to elevate their mood. He feels the moment just as the crowd does because he's right there living through that moment along with them. He doesn't operate according to a plan drawn up a week or a day earlier, it's more or less all intuitive judgement and there are no algorithms that can match this approach. Tonight he fulfilled his side of the alchemical bargain, he's a DJ who will pick a track, look you straight in the eye and think to himself "I think you are going to like this". That's as real as deejaying gets...

The healing force of funk had firmly landed in Leigh-On-Sea and was much needed and helpful in a small seaside town that was still reeling from the tragic loss of their much-loved MP. Positive vibrations had been spread and it was so great to see happy smiling people enjoying top sounds and live music again.
Words Emrys Baird

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