Review: Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - The Arches, Glasgow

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WHEN Martha Reeves asks you about your love life, you had better respond – even though she already knows that, whether it’s sizzling or otherwise, everyone in the room can identify with the rapturous spirit of Heatwave.

Such was the commanding stage presence of this Motown legend that she easily overcame the unforgiving sightlines of the venue, reaching to the back of the room with her personality. On this Celtic Connections outing, she was charming, generous, inclusive and even a bit flirty – qualities which kept her going through the rockier patches of the show.

It is sad to report that these days Reeves’ voice is all but shot to pieces, reduced to a sometimes painful quavery croak, and that even a modest shimmy leaves her out of breath. Although backed adequately by her band and sensitively by her current Vandellas, those Motown standards are so stylised that she was left with little room for manoeuvre.

Beyond the required though hardly stellar delivery of the enduring hits Jimmy Mack, Nowhere To Run and the closing Dancing In The Street, she was able to fall back on a number of rhythm’n’blues ballads and blues jams, where she could just about sustain her falsetto range.

There was also time for a quick Highland fling with an old friend and a rote Motown medley to finish. But however disappointing the overall execution, her timeless pop songs still have the capacity to cheer and in the end that counted for more down among the crowd than the level of performing proficiency.