Sisters of Soul Come To Southend

Sisters of Soul at the Cliffs Pavilion!

Sunday 27th August myself and the good lady took ourselves off down to the Cliffs Pavilion (Southend on Sea) to see three female singing icons of the soul and dance music scene that I grew up with, Jackie Graham, Gwen Dickie (the voice of Rose Royce) and the powerhouse that is Jocelyn Brown. It was all a bit of a last minute decision really but, with Ian Reading and Merv Griffiths from Zero Radio hosting the event we decided to get ourselves down there for the evening.

 

Anyone that goes regularly to sold out events at the Cliffs Pavilion will know only too well what a nightmare it can be to find somewhere to park within walking distance of the venue, especially if like us, you get there 25 minutes after curtain up. I decided I’d be the consummate gentleman and drop the others (there was four of us) off outside and I’d then go look for somewhere to park the car and come back and meet them at whatever time that happened to be. Well, as I drove up towards the entrance to drop my companions off you can imagine my astonishment and bewilderment as not ten feet in front of me a car pulls out of a parking bay and drives off into the distance. I was speechless. Things like this don’t happen to me. Luck doesn’t come into it. This was divine intervention I thought as we pulled into the parking bay, got out and strolled off towards the entrance as I locked the car with a happy and smug grin on my face.

 

As it turns out we weren’t as late as we thought we were as Ian and Merv were only about two thirds of the way through their warm up DJ set as we took our seats in the centre of the auditorium with our extortionately priced drinks and sweets in hand. Thankfully we only had to wait about ten minutes before Jackie Graham was introduced on stage to a rapturous applause from the expectant audience and right from the off she didn’t disappoint, going straight into a trio of her more well known hits of ‘Ain’t Nobody’ ‘Round & Round’ and ‘Could It Be I’m Falling In Love’. It’s quite remarkable how much energy this lady has on stage. Throughout the whole set she just didn’t slow down and I remember remarking at the time that her stage presence reminded a lot of Tina Turner in so much as she knows how to keep her audience engaged. The lady has quite clearly still got it and didn’t disappoint one bit.

 

For as long as I can remember I’ve always been a great fan of everything Rose Royce have done and I was especially looking forward to seeing and hearing Gwen Dickie live so I had a decision to make during the short interval as I’d just been given the chance to pop back stage to meet and chat to Jackie Graham herself and even possibly Jocelyn Brown as well. Well, what do you do? Of course, you pop back stage of course. And so it was that just as Gwen was about half way through ‘Wishing on a Star’ that myself and fellow Zero Radio presenter Darren Bull took the opportunity to sneak backstage and make our way through the corridors to the dressing rooms. Darren and I got to spend about 15 minutes chatting with Jackie Graham and her manager and I’ve got to say her personality is just as lively and infectious off stage as it is on it. She laughed and joked with us (she’s quite a comedienne is Jackie) chatted about her career past and future and generally and quite honestly came across as a genuinely lovely person.

As we said goodbye to Jackie and made our way back to the auditorium I could hear through the halls and stairways that I needed to hurry. Gwen Dickie was in full voice and belting out ‘Car Wash’ and it was quite clear the audience was absolutely loving it. This I didn’t want to miss and although I did miss a fair chunk of Gwen’s set I did get to hear and see her perform what is quite rightly regarded as THE Rose Royce track. I was happy with that.

Lastly and by no means least it was Jocelyn Brown up on stage next. Now I’ve got to be honest here and state from the off that although the last time I saw Jocelyn live was three years ago at the Jazz café in London and she was absolutely superb, since then I’d heard rumours and stories about her most recent performances that meant I was sitting there with a certain amount of trepidation and uncertainty as to what was to follow.

Things didn’t bode well right from the off that so soon after the audience were up out of their seats and on their feet dancing to Gwen Dickie and ‘Car Wash’ they were all sat back down again as Ms Brown kicked off her set with three new mid tempo tracks that no one had heard of before. The atmosphere inside the auditorium had changed dramatically and it soon became apparent that what I’d heard previously about her shows now wasn’t just rumours or a case of Chinese whispers. I really don’t want to be too critical of the great lady because I admire her immensely but it was clear that she was at times losing her way. There were constant looks to the song play list she had on the floor, even to the point of breaking song mid note to have a look! And there were also the number of times she looked to her backing singers for guidance towards the end of the songs. Also missing at times was her ability to hold that oh so famous trademark note she is renowned for for longer than a couple of seconds at most. Sadly, for me at least, this wasn’t the Jocelyn Brown I remember seeing three years previously at the Jazz Café. The old Jocelyn Brown was there somewhere but I suspect there were a few, like me, who left that night slightly underwhelmed by her performance.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and I look forward to seeing and hearing Jackie & Gwen again in December when they (and Zero Radio) are due to appear at the Indigo 02 in London singing along side The Three Degrees.

Phil