Featured image by Gail Foster
You’d be forgiven for assuming I’m reviewing a greyhound race with this introduction, for akin to snapping open the starting traps, it was a fraction of second after Motown Gold played the inaugural bar of The Temptations’ My Girl at the Devizes Corn Exchange Friday evening, that the first punter broke the dancefloor barrier, and a surfeit of dancers followed his lead.
Usually a summer occasion, Devizes Arts Festival succeeded lockdown’s gap year with this arts festival “lite,” consisting of three main events and a sprinkling of free fringe ones across the town; we’ve never had a November this good. The interim mini-festival came to a soulful finale with six-piece function band Motown Gold, who professionally and passionately delivered some classic soul covers.
Since day dot Devizes Arts Festival have inundated us with quality original acts, from music, dance, comedy, talks and so much more. To stage a covers function band might well be faced with some reproach, from those who didn’t attend and see the speed the mature audience jumped the dancefloor; call Norris McWhirter, I think we’ve a world record on our hands!
Ha, it’s as if many haven’t had the opportunity to shake their tailfeathers for a year or more, which they haven’t, ergo Devizes Arts Festival in all actual fact, perfectly picked their grand finale, because despite the creativity of originally crafted music, sometimes we all need to throw caution to the wind and dance our cares away to classics we know and cherish.
The standard model of bassist and lead guitar, drums, keys and one saxophonist, with a female and male singer accepted, because they delivered the songs with wow-factor, onus largely on the magnificent vocal range of both, but in turn the glitzy professionalism and tightness of the band’s bonding. To book Motown Gold for your wedding would end in one heck of a memorable occasion, being a cut sky-high above the average.
That said, for authenticity of the Motown sound, it was absent of various elements. Backing singers would’ve done wonders, an upfront brass section too, for the saxophonist sounded a smidgen lost without the celebrated trumpeters of Motown’s in-house band, The Funk Brothers. And if it failed to fulfil my “brass-is-class” precept, the one missing component most important is the tambourine of Jack Ashford. Forget modern metronome methods, the tambourine man was the time-keeper in this era of yore, so if you crave authenticity, the tambourine is crucial within a classic soul tribute.
Entering trainspotting mode, I’d also noted not every song was Motown, rather the band selected a wide-ranging repertoire from Stax to eighties RnB, such as Rufus & Chaka Khan, Sister Sledge, et all. But each one a danceable favourite, and executed with faultless precision, it really didn’t matter one, or even half an iota. So much so, my carping is trivial, I’ll put my handbag away.
The essence is the pleasing performance, the joyful spirit of the crowd, the lights and eras-spanning retrospection, and it undoubtedly set the Corn Exchange alight with an unforgettable ambience, resulting in a brilliant finale to Devizes Arts Festival’s interim mini-festival, and leaves our jawbone firmly on the floor in anticipation for what they have in store for summer 2022. Though I hinted, they were giving away no secrets yet!
If there’s one thing, we all need right now, it’s a good ol’ carefree, soul shakedown party. The proof was in the pudding, a grand night was had, the perfect end to what has been a gratefully welcomed Arts Festival for the town. One which Devizine needs to wrap up with a concluding article encompassing all the events into one feature, but right now, I’m still imagining myself doing watusi like my little Lucy, with the memory of a great night out-out!