Oh what a night! The magnificent seven soul voices of the 1970s,80s and 90s came together in a spectacular concert that transported the audience back to the times of their youth.
This was the first concert or performance that the iconic Liverpool Philharmonic Hall had hosted since the sad death of HRH Queen Elizabeth 11. Therefore there was a respectful one minute silence followed by the playing of a pre-recording of the National Anthem to commemorate their wonderful patron who since 1958 had supported the arts.
Angie Greaves from Smooth FM was replaced by ex footballer now turned concert promoter and agent, Silkie, who adeptly introduced each artist and provided anecdotes from over the years about their friendships and how they met.
This tour could easily have been a bunch of ‘old timers’ trying desperately to recapture their glory years however…it was a collection of seasoned, top flight artists whose voices still soured the dizzy heights of soul.
American, Candace Woodson opened the three hour show. Her impressive accolades of Indie Soul Grammy winner who topped the UK soul chart for seven weeks in 2021; Best International Artist (2019) and Billboard Jazz winner (2019) raised the roof with her opening song Woohoo followed by a cover of Valerie Simpson‘s song Perfect. Her set ended with You Know How To Love Me which she explained was a tribute to Phyllis Hind.
Candace during her chats with the audience prefers to be known as the ‘Queen of Sophisticated Soul’ whose mission is to inspire and encourage others to achieve harmony and a life balance that fulfils dreams through the power of music. Candace, in her opinion, offers this by the right blend of soul and R&B. The audience approved her bio as she left the stage to rapturous applause.
Janet Kay took to the stage next singing three of her international chart toppers. Janet, who is in her 45th year of writing and performing music; during that time she has written, recorded and co-produced seven successful soul albums performed Loving you (2003), I Do Love You (1985) and her hugely popular hit Silly Games. Kay reached and held all the songs’ high notes and proved why she is a worthy international artist and takes her place in the prestigious ‘Magnificent Seven.’
One of the most popular and recognisable performers of soul for a UK audience took to the stage next. Alexander O’Neal sang with his trademark grainy voice and belted out five of his most popular hits. The audience erupted when O’Neal (68 years) opened his set with his No2 chart topper Fake. This was followed by Sunshine from his second album Hearsey (1987) which led into a cover of the Louis Armstrong classic Wonderful Life. He chatted to the audience telling anecdotes of how he has been told that many babies have been conceived to the song he performed next, If you were Here Tonight. O’Neal’s charisma shone through his both audience chats and song performances as he displayed old school charisma. He went on to say that the melocolcoly ballad about a break up was not intended to create a population increase, however he was delighted it had had that effect. O’Neal finished with his chart topper Critizise that left the audience whooping, cheering and baying for more. There was certainly nothing to criticise about his performance.
Gwen Dickey, from Rose Royce fame, was next to come to the stage, she chatted to the audience whilst being lifted from her wheelchair to a more comfortable stool to perform. Her current stature belied the powerfully strong voice that exuded from the diminutive lady sat on the stage. Gwen, a true professional bubbled and brimmed over making the audience feel part of her special party. Her infectious personality glittered like her pink sequinned top. What was even more impressive was that all the other artists who performed, sang with backing singers, yet Gwen carried each and every song on her own. She opened with the soul dance track, Is It Love You’re After which led into Wishing On A Star. Love Don’t Live Here Anymore had the hairs on your neck raised as her melodic voice demonstrated why she had sold over two million copies worldwide and been awarded a Grammy award for Best Score Soundtrack in 1977. Gwen finished her impressive set with an extended version of her 1977 hit Car Wash.
Jaki Graham stepped up next with her 1985 hit Step Right Up. a song she wrote and originally performed with David Grant. Jaki oozed personality throughout her set, she chatted with ease consistently thanking the audience for coming to see her and her long-time friends perform. The national and international hit Round and Around led neatly into Could It Be I’m Falling In Love. The audience chanted back her lyrics whilst enthusiastically dancing to Set Me Free. Jaki chose to end with her version of Chaka Chan’s hit Ain’t Nobody.
Deniece Williams, the four times Grammy Award winner with an impressive additional twelve Grammy nominations, opened her set with her 1976 hit Love Me Baby. Deniece, an ex backing singer for Stevie Wonder, regaled the audience with stories of her tours with Earth, Wind and Fire which included a time where they support artists for The Rolling Stones. In her words, ‘It had been an eye opener for an innocent church going girl to be surrounded by sex, alcohol and substances from early morning to late in the night, however she embraced it and survived!’ Williams was kooky and witty with an eccentric sense of humour who entertained the audience from the start to the finish of her amazing set. Free, her No 1 1976 hit was followed by Songbird which showed off her four octave range,then Baby, Baby my Love Is All For You and ending with, Let’s Hear It For the Boy.
Silkie, the business partner of David Guest, introduced their headline artist, the Nigerian born Tunde Baiyewu. Tunde of Lighthouse Family fame who has spent an impressive 157 weeks in the charts during the 1990s was slick, suited and booted yet, painfully shy by his own admission. Whilst it never showed, he told the audience that he felt uncomfortable performing on stage as a solo artist which possibly explains why he only sang two of his hits on his own before duetting with Deniece Williams.
Lifted, The Lighthouse Family’s 1996 hit, highlighted his deep velvety voice that soulfully crooned through the song. He then went onto perform Billy Taylor’s 1967 hit I Wish with his TLF singing, writing and performing partner as they released the song as a single and it soared to the top of the charts in 2001.
Deneice and Tunde closed the Giants of Soul show with Lean On Me and Too Much, Too Little , Too Late. much to the delight of the full to capacity, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool audience.
The three hour show was a soul lover’s delight. The Tour continues around the UK until October 2022.