Still young at heart

The Barbican

by Jack Massarik, 2007, Evening Standard
The Soul Britannia Allstars

Life's tough for veteran stars. At the Barbican's Soul Britannia weekend, they had to perform beside gigantic publicity blow-ups dating back to the Seventies, when they were fresh-faced and beautiful.

Carol Grimes, who delivered the evening's most powerful and emotional songs, had been snapped with her baby son. "He's 39 now," she sighed.

A grey-bearded Root Jackson shouted his blues with ex-members of Gonzalez before introducing Hamish Stuart with words about British soul owing something not only to Africa, America and the Caribbean but also Bonnie Scotland. Stuart's overcooked falsetto, though, surely owed most to Marvin Gaye.

Madeline Bell, trim as in her Blue Mink days, bounded on stage in a shiny catsuit to sing two originals that sensibly boosted her performing-rights income.

A popular bill-topper, with her sweet voice and natural charm, was Linda Lewis, assisted by Flo Harrison and Alison Evelyn and a slick band whose soloists, guitarist TJ Johnson, trumpeter Matt Winch and tenorist Tim Herniman, all enhanced the evening's enjoyment.

Seriously detracting from it, though, was bass-guitarist Mister Spy, a power-mad little fellow whose lethal amp set-up, configured to max, drowned everything in a floor-shaking, mind-numbing boom that must have carried halfway back to Jamaica.