P.P. Arnold – The Gov Thursday 13 December 2018.
Words Geoff Jenke
P.P. Arnold was a Los Angeles teenager who became London’s First Lady of Soul after hitting town in 1966 with Ike & Tina Turner and coming to the attention of Mick Jagger. She’s best known for her beautiful and classic mid-to-late ‘60s hits including “The First Cut Is the Deepest”, “(If You Think You’re) Groovy” and “Angel of the Morning”, as well as the powerful chorus of the Small Faces’ iconic hit “Tin Soldier”. Although the hits may have dried up, Ms. Arnold has been kept busy singing on albums by artists like Rod Stewart, Barry Gibb, Eric Clapton, Rogers Waters, Primal Scream, Oasis just to name a few. She has also toured with many of these people over the years.
This night P.P. Arnold’s backing band consisted of Tim Rogers, Andy Kent and Russell Hopkinson of You Am I, Talei & Eliza Wolfgramm and James Black. It was interesting watching the boys from You Am I taking a “back seat” for a change, Tim in particular, who was very restrained, just playing guitar and adding the odd backing vocal.
Dressed as dapper as ever, Tim Rogers stepped up to the microphone to introduce P.P. Arnold. The band launched into Born from “The Turning Tide”, an album of unreleased recordings she made with Barry Gibb and Eric Clapton in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and has taken nearly 50 years to get released. The first thing that struck the audience was her powerful vocals. Wow, at 72 years of age Ms Arnold still “had it”.
P.P. worked quite a lot with The Small Faces in the 60’s and next up played Whatcha Gonna Do, the debut single from the band and also an early song Ike & Tina Turner use to do live. Then we got the story about how Patricia Ann Cole became an Ikette with Tina Turner and ended up in England in the mid 60’s touring as support to the Rolling Stones. She nailed River Deep Mountain High before giving us her debut solo single Everything’s Gonna Be Alright, a song that failed to chart at the time but has “stood the test of time” since.
Her hit Angel of the Morning, came out early which was a surprise as was her vocal range during the song, building to a magnificent crescendo. Ms Arnold was a warm wonderful host, regaling us with stories from the 60’s, people she worked with (it seemed like everyone who was who in England in the 60’s) and presenting a range of songs from her career.
The Bee Gee’s, To Love Somebody proved to be a highlight of the evening with her voice soaring to a new high. Apparently, the Barry Gibb loved her version so much he claimed it was better than their version. (If You Think You’re) Groovy was a lot of fun, especially for those of us there who remember “groovy”, which was nearly the whole audience.
Ms Arnold has a new album coming out in 2019, The Further Adventures of PP Arnold, so she proudly showcased Different Drum from the album. Yes, it is the old Mike Nesmith song made famous by The Stone Poneys. What came next had the audience gasping with joy. She sang a series of Aretha Franklin songs and started off by singing completely alone, sans musical backing. If anyone had any concerns about her voice, they were laid to rest here. We then got Respect, Chain of Fools and Natural Woman, all majestically soulful.
P.P. Arnold had recorded The Small Faces song, Understand, in the 1990’s with Primal Scream and tonight with You Am I it sounded as raw and powerful as would have with Primal Scream.
The First Cut is the Deepest received an arousing ovation as P.P. laughingly let us know it was a hit for her 10 years before Rod had his hit with it and that Sheryl Crowe “wasn’t even born yet when this was a hit”.
The encore had Tim Rogers singing Tin Soldier with P.P. Arnold supporting him on vocal. It was Tim’s 15 seconds of fame for the evening and he made the most of it, as only Tim could. In a brave move, Ms. Arnold finished the evening with a completely new song, written by P.P. and her son, I Believe. What artist is going to finish the night with something new? Normally it would kill the set, but not this night. The song was the most powerful of the evening, leaving the audience stunned. Listening to the audience at the end, everyone was talking about “that” final song.
Although P.P. Arnold had an amazing backing band, which could have quite easily “overpowered” the singer, Ms. Arnold owned the stage and all eyes were on her all night. The Wolfgramm Sisters were brilliant in their support and one got the impression they were proud to be there. As stated, the You Am I boys were quite sedate in their performance while at the same time giving their all. They knew the night was not about them for once. Even James Black was “quiet” at the back, but at the same time brilliant on the keys.
Here’s hoping P.P. Arnold will be back in Australia next year in support of her new album. But will she come to Adelaide? Once again Adelaide has not supported great live music and the crowd disappointingly low. You Am I would almost fill the Gov on their own, but put a legend like P.P. Arnold on vocals with the band and no one comes. Why is it so?