There’s always an air of anticipation on entering a Northern Soul night. What will the dancefloor be like, what will the dancers be like and, most importantly, what will the music be like?
With the legendary Russ Winstanley at the helm the music was in safe hands and he started with arguably the rarest and greatest of all the genre’s records: Frank Wilson’s ‘Do I Love You’, a song he first broke at his now mythical all-nighters at Wigan Casino. He continued his set with the cream of his collection, featuring many other records first played at the Casino. As is the tradition, favourite records were applauded as they were faded out.
By 9pm there were patches of talcum powder around the floor and the more intrepid were spinning and dropping, some dressed in full 70s attire: Fred Perry shirts and baggy trousers for the gents and flared skirts for the ladies. An eclectic crowd of Mods, skinheads, casuals and soul fans of all ages contained several truly outstanding dancers putting on gymnastic displays alongside the enthusiastic amateurs compelled to dance to the beating rhythms.
With the sad news that headliner Dean Parrish would not be able to appear following an operation there was still plenty on offer with a still-strong line-up of Northern Soul big hitters.
Edwin Starr’s former backing band The Machine continue to play up and down the country with his younger brother Angelo taking over vocal duties. Edwin’s powerful voice and classic repertoire were a much-loved staple of the British soul and scootering scenes up until his untimely death in 2003. Thankfully the younger Starr is a great singer in his own right and performed well on monster stompers including ’25 Miles’, ‘Stop Her On Sight’ and ‘Time’, a song featured in the well-received Northern Soul film from a couple of years ago. The band were tight with keyboards, wah wah guitar and percussion providing a great backbeat for the greatest hits set that was unnecessarily padded out with versions of ‘Superstition’ and ‘Valerie’ but thankfully included Starr’s disco hits ‘Contact’ and ‘Happy Radio’.
Fellow vocalist Lorraine Silver is best known for ‘Lost Summer Love’, a rare British foray into the genre that she recorded for Pye when only 13 years old. A strong set included covers of ‘Landslide’ and ‘Long After Tonight Is All Over’ plus the self-penned Big Beat stomper ‘The Happy Faces’. Special mention should go to Ingrid who provided soulful backing vocals throughout both sets.
Russ’s second set began with another floor-filler, Frankie Valli’s epic ‘Beggin’. By now the dancers were almost bouncing into each other but there was a friendly atmosphere and a feeling of camaraderie all night as more and more classics were spun.
A survivor of the Doo-Wop era as a former member of sweet, snappy vocal group The Flamingos, Tommy Hunt is a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who looked great at 83 years old. With a snappy suit and a look of Sammy Davis Jnr, he performed over backing tapes which unfortunately suffered a few technical hitches. He deserved better than this but was nonetheless thankful for the support he received and was extremely gracious. Thankfully his pipes were in great shape as he belted out ‘Cry To Me’, ‘Loving On The Losing Side’ and ‘The Snake’ and spoke of meeting and performing with Elvis Presley before knocking out a gospel version of ‘American Trilogy’. He finished strongly with the R ‘n’ B belter ‘You Got It’.
The DJs continued playing into the small hours and we left sweaty and very happy.
Concorde 2, Friday 26th August 2016
Words and photos by Steve Clements