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Excitement was overwhelming; Brenda, Cal, Norma, Millie and Bertha on one London stage tonight! Wishes do come true, and tonight this Motown Revue was the place to be. Part of The New Untouchables’ Modstock long weekend events, the ballroom was spacious until crammed with all ages, several wearing the distinguished gear attributed to the mod era – the years fell off me I can tell you! – and all intent on having the best time. After a short while, it was show time and the Motown Sound in all its fabulousness was about to start.

Dressed in a shimmering white outfit, and every inch the star, Brenda Holloway strutted on stage with two support singers in tow, to launch into “Just Look What You’ve Done”. Motown’s beautiful, legendary soul diva with lashings of style and sass looked set to provide a red hot set. She sizzled and sang, with plenty of chat. The unrivalled “When I’m Gone” followed; yup, the set was moving, the heat rising. Brenda Holloway was back in town! The fact that she appeared to glance at the lyrics/running order from a nearby music stand was a smidge disconcerting, but, hey, we’d forgive her anything. A short introduction into her version of the Mary Wells’ “Operator” heralded some vocalising issues. A mishap that would be righted. Although the uptempo “Reconsider” was back on the dance track, the usually uplifting “Every Little Bit Hurts” was bruised as it struggled to hit the right soul register, while the magnificent “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” always guaranteed to stir emotions as the song hits its peak, stumbled in places. I was a bit dismayed that Brenda’s unquestionable talent was a little under par, that the vocal interaction didn’t gell, but she will always be in my top three!

Following a short break, The Velvelettes hit the stage and took over. Wow! Their instant appeal was apparent from the opening notes. The ladies moved, grooved, sang and had fun. And let’s not forget here, they’re of a certain age when most would be lounging in front of the tv of an evening. But, not these gals: they love to party! Plenty of vocal intercourse, choreography and humour, mostly instigated by lead singer Cal. “He Was Really Sayin’ Something” kicked off their act, while “Lonely Lonely Girl Am I” and “A Bird In The Hand (Is Worth Two In The Bush)” kept the lovely, historical Motown momentum alive. Slowing the pace they sat on stools to sing “Twilight Time”, before dedicating “The Boy From Crosstown” to John Lester who has done, and continues to do, so much to promote The Velvelettes in this country. Well earned praise John! “Everybody Needs Love” led into the spontaneous beat from “These Things Will Keep Me Loving You”. Way to go! The surprise addition of “Nowhere To Run” (for their sisters at Motown) was quite brilliant, although, of course, Martha still wears the crown. With the beat still ringing in our ears, the stage was then hushed as Cal began a serious chat about the group’s gospel roots…sombre blah blah… before blasting off with vibrantly exciting “Needle In A Haystack”. Hah, wasn’t expecting that. The far reaching Motown beat is so hard to shake off, and while it buzzed around the ballroom, Brenda and her support singers returned to the stage for the spiritual finale “I’ll Keep On Holding On” - and I left to catch the last train to Polegate! Thank you muchly to Rob Bailey, the New Untouchables gang, and all those associated with this fabulous event. Here’s to next year guys!

About the Writer
Sharon Davis ran the Four Tops fan club before spearheading Motown Ad Astra, catering for all the Motown acts, where she edited the in-house magazine TCB. Was publicist for Fantasy, Stax and Salsoul before joining Motown Records in London. Formed her own press/promotion company Eyes & Ears, worked for Blues & Soul magazine and website, and became a full time author and researcher. To date Sharon has written eleven books (her last A Girl Called Dusty published by Carlton Books) and she’s working on her next - Divas Of Motown. As a researcher, Sharon assisted Diana Ross with her autobiography Secrets Of A Sparrow, and is now in constant demand for her knowledge about Motown and its artists.

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