Music review: Martha Reeves & the London Gospel Choir, Paisley Town Hall

Martha Reeves PIC: Ari Perilstein/Getty Images
Martha Reeves PIC: Ari Perilstein/Getty Images
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Motown legend Martha Reeves is so beloved, she can even get away with referring to Paisley as Glasgow without being jeered. As evinced by this upbeat performance – part of Paisley’s annual music and arts festival, the Spree – she’s a bullet-proof crowd-pleaser.

Martha Reeves & the London Gospel Choir, Paisley Town Hall ****

Now 77, her voice, understandably, isn’t quite what it once was, but she can still sing with tactile gospel fervour at times. One of the original lynchpins of Motown’s “Sound of Young America”, Reeves and the Vandellas were always tougher – more “street” – than their chief label rivals the Supremes.

While no one could mistake this slick oldies show – a sweaty piece of elevated cabaret, essentially – as an untrammelled blast of raw soul, it was still electrifying whenever Reeves powered into indomitable standards such as Heat Wave, Jimmy Mack, Nowhere to Run (one of the most thrillingly intense pop songs ever) and her egalitarian calling card, Dancing in the Street.

Her performance with support act the London African Gospel Choir on Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers to Cross was another joyous highlight.

Flanked by sisters Lois and Delphine and a tight eight-piece band replete with horn section, the literally sparkling Reeves was full of energy and stage presence. By her own admission, she occasionally had to pause to catch her breath, but there’s no shame in that: I can’t think of many septuagenarians capable of performing a virtually non-stop, hit-packed set in front of a fun-hungry sold-out crowd. She delivered the goods with dignity. - Paul Whitelaw