Belfast Telegraph

Legend Martha Reeves has them dancing in the streets

By Michael Conaghan

With the town decked out in shocking pink, Belfast looked ready to party, or at least flounce prettily.

And who better to help it freewheel down party hill than Martha Reeves and the Vandellas?

Responsible for some of Motown and therefore pop's best dance pop belters, their thunder was stolen somewhat by the more insipid Supremes, despite being championed by the likes of Dusty Springfield.

But showbiz loves a survivor, and with a little leg-up via films like the Commitments, Martha is now receiving her due.

She took to the stage to be greeted by a tent packed with post-Giro d'Italia revellers, opening with a slightly croaky Ready For Love.

The good news was that the Vandellas were anything but, and that magical Motown sound rolled down from the stage intact.

Nowhere To Run is simply one of the most exciting records ever made, and when Martha lets rip the results are operatic.

"Can you make the lights sexy?" urged Martha at one point, peppering the set with ballads in that classic Motown people-pleasing way, including a wonderfully soulful version of the Beatles' Something.

But it was the upbeat numbers where they really shone.

They threw a curve ball by playing a brief version of label-mates The Jackson 5's I Want You Back, and of course, stealing back Dancing in the Street from the atrocity that was David Bowie and Mick Jagger's version.

Though Motown was slick and urban, when playing live Martha is not afraid to mine her swampy blues heritage, a trait which may have made her too edgy to compete with the Supremes, but ironically in the era of Jools Holland's Later-style authenticity, this beacon from the 60s might just have the last word.

Three stars

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