Words by Geoff Jenke
The Motown Story, presented by the Motown Collection returns to the Fringe and The Gov after sell-out performances in 2016 and 2017.
Before Disco, Soul, Funk and Modern R&B there was musical movement out of Detroit, “the motor city” called MOTOWN. The Motown record corporation was founded by Berry Gordy Jr in 1959 and between 1959 and 1971 produced over 100 Top Ten Hits.
The Motown Connection consists of an eight-piece band, which includes a FAT 4-piece horn section. Add to that three vocalists, two male and “Latina Turner”, makes it eleven people packed on the small Gov stage. The band remain true to the original songs they are playing and the vocals are faithful reproductions of the original artists, in fact scarily so at times.
The show opened with a short video giving us the history of Motown Records before the band rip into Dancing in the Street (Martha and the Vandellas). This is followed quickly by Marvis Gaye’s Can I Get A Witness. A few brave souls ventured onto the large dance floor before the band invited everyone up to dance. During the next two songs, My Guy (Mary Wells) and My Girl (The Temptations) the floor became a writhing mass of (elderly) people dancing along to the music, and they stayed there all night.
The hits never stopped coming; Heatwave, Baby Love, Baby I Need Your Lovin’, complete with audience sing along. In the Midnight Hour, Keep Me Hanging On and a blistering River Deep Mountain High sung by Latina Turner closed out the first set. Time for a breather and a drink, because as the band said, “the more you drink the better we sound”.
When Motown Connection returned after a short break, they opened with Reach Out (Diana Ross & Supremes) and dance floor filled quickly. By song four, Aretha Franklin’s (You make me feel Like) A Natural Woman the floor was packed and when the opening beat of Marvin Gaye’s Heard it on the Grapevine started up, the floor was jammed.
The second half just picked up from the opening set. More hits, but this time they took on a more funk and soul feel, with songs by Stevie Wonder, more Marvin Gaye and of course The Jackson Five with ABC and I Want You Back. Sadly, these two songs have not aged well compared to the other songs being played tonight, but that didn’t stop the crowd from dancing.
The set ended with an extended Take Me to the River (Al Green) with band introduction. The audience wouldn’t let them finish there, so they retuned with an obscure Stevie Wonder song I Wish.
The band were sweating, the crowd were sweating, it was time for a drink and to go home because it was way past all of our bed times.