Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Candi Staton Bilston The Robin 27th April

Bilston’s Got Soul…and there was certainly a healthier turnout at The Robin than at Candi Staton’s Birmingham show last February. She had an excellent band behind her (bass, drums, sax, trumpet, 2 backing singers and Mick Talbot on keyboards.)

Wearing jeans and silver /grey housecoat affair, she looked genuinely pleased to be there. I don’t think the audience needed that much motivating, but, like the old soul trooper she is, she took no chances. When she wasn’t singing, she was clapping, and every song had a story behind it. So there was plenty to talk about, and she did like to talk. The stories and anecdotes served to remind both herself and us about her place in Soul history (a Grammy nomination here, and a sample there and a career that spanned Southern Soul, Disco and Gospel and 6 decades)

Opening song Nights On Broadway was buoyed by a tremendous horn sound and Prisoner Of Your Good Loving rattled along like the prime piece of Southern Soul tail shaking it is. As the band cut loose, Staton reminded us “This is how we do it in Alabama.”

A big surprise was hearing her first secular single Now You’ve Got The Upper Hand. She asked if there where any Northern Soul Lovers in the audience. The thing is when she recorded the song originally, there was no such thing…. Often labels where just putting out singles with a slow and fast song and pushing the side that found an audience. Now of course she’ll see it as another part of her career. And she seems happy to promote it all, even when it’s a song she wasn’t directly involved in. When she played He Called Me Baby she talked about the sample from it that One EskimO used on their song Kandi. The first she knew of it was when she heard it in a shopping mall in Atlanta Georgia. Even better was the aside that You’ve Got The Love was originally a vocal for a diet advert.

Stand By Your Man had everything you could need. A sparse intro building up to that magical chord change and then the band shifting through the gears and taking a detour through Stand By Me. It’s Vegas, but it’s good Elvis Vegas. To top it all there’s Staton’s observation about her Granddaughter who got to the part about “He’ll have good time’s you’ll have bad times” and retorted that he’d find himself standing on the kerb with his bags”.

She introduced You Bet Your Sweet Sweet Love with the story that she hadn’t felt like singing it for years, but could do it now because she had got married recently.

I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than A Young Man’s Fool) has the archetypal Muscle Shoals sound and excellent use of brackets. Candi somewhat naively asked if there were any mature men in the audience. Indeed there were. Old Soul’s not a young mans game.

More Elvis, with In The Ghetto and a story about how she was sitting in the control room of a studio with the song’s writer Mac Davis and label owner Rick Hall. Clarence Carter (one of her ex husbands, but not at the time) was about to record it as a follow up to Patches. They talked about a having a female singer do it instead. “I stepped up to the mic and changed the key”. It’s a tremendous record and she still does a fine version.

She finished inevitably with Young Hearts Run Free. The horn section had looked like they’d been having a good time all night, with spots of Ready Steady Go swinging dance moves and grinning and nudging each other like distracted schoolboys. Sax player Richard Beesley pulled a really sweet solo out of the bag, and finished with a big smile on his face and immediately his trumpet playing mate leaned over to poke him again. Mick Talbot got some clown time in with his solo spot where he ran his fingers down and beyond the keyboard and twisted his body round as if he had run out of notes, like a piano driven soul plane slithering off the runway.

The band are Rare Groove stalwarts and have been playing under the name of Push for years. I’d seen the guitar, bass and drummer backing Marlena Shaw recently. They didn’t put a foot wrong then, but never seemed to really take off. I enjoyed them much more with Candi Staton and I was in no way influenced by the fact that the female backing singer was wearing hot pants and the bloke had been in Batman.

She encored with the funky gospel of Halleluiah Anyway and You’ve Got The Love. The set was very similar to last years show at the Town Hall and it was the same band. The anecdotes and patter were different though – which is an achievement in itself. Most importantly she’s still got that classic Soul voice, with it’s mixture of sweetness, tension and rasp. The gigs are a celebration of her back catalogue and I’m happy to celebrate that we can still see this stuff live. Even better though, she is still doing interesting new stuff. She’s featured on the Ashley Beedle celebration of Mavis Staples. Her contribution Revolution feels a bit like Freak Power’s Tune In Drop Out with a Staple Singers social commentary. Her voice sits intentionally back in the mix, but it’s still classic Candi


Last years Birmingham show is at http://stealthbuffet.blogspot.com/2009_02_01_archive.html

Nights On Broadway
I’m Just A Prisoner
Now You’ve Got The Upper Hand
Stand By Your Man/Stand By Me
You Bet Your Sweet Sweet Love
Suspicious Minds
He Called Me Baby
I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than A Young Man’s Fool)
In The Ghetto
Young Hearts Run Free

Halleluiah Anyway
You’ve Got The Love

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