Monday 19 July 2010

Martha Reeves & the Vandellas at The Arches, Glasgow

Well last night was a pretty special gig. Motown legend Martha Reeves and her 'modern' Vandellas came to Glasgow to play The Arches and left everyone 'dancing in the streets'.

It had been a while since I had been to The Arches, I think the last time I ventured in for anything other than a beer was to see another 60's legend - Ronnie Spector. The Arches can be a bit hit or miss as a venue for live bands. Hot Chip failed miserably and disappointingly when I saw them there as the crowd was squeezed into the last arch and there was no room to dance and the sound didn't quite work. However Spanky Wilson and Ronnie Spector were fantastic.

As tends to be the case when I am going to see bands or artists from the 60's, I was nervously excited at the prospect of seeing Martha Reeves live. What if she didn't deliver?

Lynn and I arrived at the venue just after half seven for a beer in the cafe bar and we were swiftly joined by my sister Carla and our good friends Reddy and his girlfriend Harri. We also bumped into Carmen and her friend Sally, Craig and Leeanne, Stuart, Mark and his new girlfriends throughout the night. It was a night that many were clearly looking forward to/

The Cafe Bar was busy and at 8pm people started streaming through to the performance area, the second arch after leaving the bar area. The industrial vibe in The Arches, minimalist lighting, and a good old bit of dry ice was probably the perfect setting for Martha, coming from Detroit.

However before the main act we were warmed up by the rather fantastic Private Hammond Orchestra, a local 3-piece band consisting of guitar, drums and hammond. The hammond grooves and the sound generated  by the 3-piece was outstanding and there were several people moving and dancing to their tunes. The 3-piece played instrumental covers and a few of their own tunes and would be perfect for a party.

Martha's backing band took to the stage before a smart suited guy bounded to the mic and introduced Martha who came on looking fab for 69 - and it was her birthday!

The crowd, varying dramatically in age - Motown is timeless, wooped with delight, with a guy behind me who  from conversation and his reaction was clearly a Motown fanatic, scarcely believing their eyes. Martha introduced her sisters as The Vandellas, with the elder of the two getting quite a reaction from the men in the audience!

The beat kicked in and we were off. Right from the start Martha Reeves vocals stood out, clear, effortless and capable of soaring when required.

From memory the band may have kicked off with 'Come Get These Memories' (although that may have been second). The band, dressed in black, were slick and tight. The Vandellas backing vocals were as sweet as sugar, Martha, centre stage basked in the adoration of the crowd.

After two songs out someone shouted out 'happy birthday Martha' and what followed could only happen in Glasgow. The crowd all joined in a chorus of Happy Birthday, moving Martha to tears. It was an incredibly emotional moment as a clearly overwhelmed Martha struggled to speak and had to apologise for 'having a moment' as she composed herself and got her breath back before carrying on.

'Nowhere To Run' got the crowd dancing and singing, the chemistry on stage between Martha and her sisters was electric and the way the lead vocal flowed with the backing vocals was just a joy to hear. 'Nowhere To Run' is right up there in my all-time fave songs list, so it was a special moment to hear it sung. From reading a few Motown books I know that Martha often felt that she was overlooked in favour of the Supremes, led by the ambitious Diana Ross who just happened to bed the songwriters at Motown before moving on to Berry Gordy (the boss) himself. However the Supremes never got a song as powerful as this.

We moved to the back of the hall so we had space to dance as there was no room near the front.

I think anyone who was there last night would confirm that the three vocals - Martha on lead and her two sisters on backing - were just a dream. They carried us on a musical journey through history. 'Jimmy Mack' was soulful pop at its best, while 'Heatwave' was a romp. There was a surprised cover of the Jackson 5's 'I Want You Back' throw in for good measure, while Martha's signature tune 'Dancing In The Streets' was a delight and there was just enough time to romp through a medley of Motown hits that included 'Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)' and 'Knock On Wood'.

Martha alternated between stompers with some ballads or slow groove tunes and the highlight of those from me was the magnificent 'A Love Like Yours (Don't Come Knocking)'.

The gig ended at 10.50pm, just in time for us to say goodbye to everyone and nip to Central Station next door for our last train at 11.05pm.

A great night of Motown magic.

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