REVIEW: The Real Thing, Alnwick Playhouse - Friday, June 8
The legendary summer of '76 - the heatwave, the endless blue skies, the fashion and, of course, the music - oh, they were heady days.
The tunes were intoxicating, perfectly capturing the mood of a nation - Don't Go Breaking My Heart, by Elton John and Kiki Dee; Dancing Queen, Abba; You Should Be Dancing, Bee Gees; Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel, Tavares.
Two songs, in particular, summed up those memorable months - You To Me Are Everything and Can't Get By Without You - both by a pioneering band from Liverpool called The Real Thing.
And so, I, for one, was immediately transported back to those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer '76 the moment the band struck up with its distinctive soul-funk sound at the Alnwick Playhouse last night (Friday). After an initial 20-minute warm-up by the musicians and an interval, it was the turn of original Real Thing members Chris Amoo and Dave Smith to entertain ... and they ceratinly did, with a capital E.
Their brilliant vocals throughout the hour-and-20-minute set were mesmerising and the audience responded from the outset, dancing, singing along, clapping, cheering and having a nostalgic boogie night.
The band has been through a difficult period, with Chris Amoo's brother Eddy passing away in February, leaving the duo to forge ahead alone. But they coped admirably, producing an authentic performance that was true class, showing why their music has endured since the group was formed in 1970.
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Their singles were dusted down and given a rousing airing - the funky Rainin' Through My Sunshine, the dance number Whenever You Want My Love and the soulful You'll Never Know What You're Missing,
But the party really took off with the hit Can't Get By Without You and a medley of groovy covers - including Ladies Night, Ain't No Stopping Us Now and Celebration - everyone was on their feet by then.
Chris gave a fantastic, heart-wrenching rendition of Children Of The Ghetto, a song formerly sung by his brother Eddy, before a fantastic finale of their biggest hit You To Me Are Everything, which had the temerity to oust The Wurzels’ Combine Harvester from the number one slot in 1976, where it remained for three glorious weeks, making The Real Thing the first all-black British group to top the charts. It was followed by a lot of bouncing to the charismatic anthem Can You Feel The Force?
The answer to that was an emphatic yes as the crowd left still buzzing. There may sadly be just two of the guys left but they still know how to put on a show for was one of the Playhouse's greatest nights.
They're no tribute act, they're the real thing!