Bookers reconvened in the comfortable and functional surroundings of the Grosvenor and it was singer Sharon Wallace who kicked things off. A Queen medley was belted out in compelling style by this fine vocalist who doesn’t sing to you, she sings at you. The vocal throttle is loud and ballsy and the style of delivery is totally sincere and full-on.
The first band of the day was a three piece by the name of Funky Stuff. A guitarist and singer, a keyboard player and singer and a top-drawer percussionist brought the whole thing to life and these guys should work and work on this impressive showing.
Five piece country band Knoxville Highway are impressive to say the very least. From the deliverance-style banjo and guitar duel to the quality and warmth of double bass and pedal steel guitar, these country boys gave it to us with both barrels. Suitable for festivals or theatre work, Knoxville Highway are a joy to listen to.
The Soul Amigo’s are a slimmed down band attraction, who exist as a segment of the old cabaret band of yesteryear, Stax of Soul. Their diminutive front-man is another of the sing right at you gang. Probably having learned their craft in an earlier age of cabaret, these smartly turned-out function-style band have lots to offer. It would have been nice to see a live drummer within the line-up however.
Boy/girl duo Pure Class has dubbed their act with a name which is sure to be hard to live up to. A female vocalist and a male keyboard player and vocalist make up the twosome and together they make for very pleasant listening. Suitable for weddings and functions this twosome could also score heavily with audiences in relaxed lounge situations.
Experienced campaigners on the northern duo circuit, Boom Town came next. An accomplished vocal duo, the members of Boom Town have personalities to sell along with the singing voices. The mode of presentation suggests they probably do their best work in front of social club audiences.
Soloist Gary Leighton is best described as a traditional multi-instrumentalist. As traditional and old-school as they come, Leighton plays a mean harmonica (or mouth organ as the great Larry Adler preferred to call his instrument). He will find it reasonably simple to fill the work diary, if pitched correctly fee-wise by the astute Paul Bridson.
Two boy duo New York Minute opened strongly with a well-performed version of the BA Robertson and Mike Rutherford composition, The Living Years. These two mature looking musicians, one bedecked with an odd looking homburg hat, look like music nuts with many miles on the career clock to me. One of the guitars, I was reliably informed by the musician Lorna Bursell, who was seated next to me, was a Paul Reed Smith and was worth many thousands of pounds. I trust this pristine instrument is insured.
Four-piece nostalgia band Groove Connection made a compelling case for acquiring their services to bookers looking for music, which is just for adults of a certain age. Memories of the Searchers and other 60s and 70s favourites were all played and sung with aplomb by this terrific and seasoned-looking band.
Super Session is the collective name of live six piece band, who were fronted by what looked like twin sisters. Super Session look like a recently formed band but the whole set, full of joyous sings, such as a version of Stevie Wonder’s I Wish, all looked a bit of an effort. Despite the tight sound and the excellent musicianship, the band will probably look happier and more relaxed after they loosen up and get some gigs in their diary. The girls at the front will presumably then leave the incongruous looking lyric sheets, placed on music stands, at home too and learn the words properly.
Five piece band Freak Out Disco were dogged with technical problems, from a dodgy microphone lead, to a keyboard players dead microphone and what sounded like a dry joint in a mixing desk slider. Additionally, the overall mix was very shrill and toppy and, with four musicians up there on stage, I couldn’t really see the value of their click-track set-up. No surprise then that in the tense showcase situation, these four male musicians and the female singer out front looked so preoccupied and glum. A succession of 1970s disco hits were played mainly in segue style, but I would like to see this band again when they are more in charge of their collective situation.
The final offering on the afternoon session was a two boy/two girl vocal and dance act called Disco Inferno. This act seemed to consist of dodgy dance moves, four afro wigs and some incongruous tattoos on one of the girls. As ever with acts like these there is always going to be some confusion on how much of the audible vocal is truly live. After comments passed on another four-handed act I reviewed recently, who created equal confusion with the aid of the pre-recorded vocals on their backing tracks, I shall say no more here.
It was then time for a well earned break, before the final evening session of this key event in the showcase calendar.