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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
 

STAX - SOULSVILLE USA
The Barbican, London
25th April 2005 - by Nick Morgan

Have you ever thought that there might be just too much love in the house?
  Soulsville
It went like this. First the lady who used to run the tea and biscuit trolley at Stax Records in Memphis – she’s now the curator of the recently opened Stax Museum in a recreation of the demolished studios – loved us, for about ten minutes.  
In fact she loved us so much that she came back after the interval and loved us some more. Then Skip Pitts, front man and guitarist with warm-up act the Bo-keys (who played the wicha wicha wah wah bit at the start of Shaft) loved us, as did drummer Willie Hall (who played the tsshp tsshp hi-hat on the same Issac Hayes mega-hit).
Mable John Mable John   Ben Cauley, trumpeter for Otis Redding, sang for us and loved us too, and Marvell Thomas (son of Rufus, brother of Carla) bowed his head in an almost reverential act of love every time the word was mentioned. Mable John, who was guest vocalist with the Bo-Keys loved us in every key except the one the band were playing in, and performed her hit ‘Your good thing is about to end’, during which she indicated more than once that she had a particular affection – if not love - for the good thangs of the men of old London town.
The solemn and scholarly Booker T Jones (Hammond Organ supremo par excellence), when he finally climbed down from the elevated Altar of Groove that he occupied for most of the evening to speak to us, loved us from the bottom of his heart.  
Booker T and the MGsBooker T and the MGs
Pony tailed Steve Cropper – wonder guitarist, genius songwriter, arranger, engineer and ace producer, loved us for being the people who brought Memphis Rhythm and Blues to the world. Donald Duck Dunn loved us for giving him the opportunity to strut the stage, with awesome Fender bass guitar gently perched on an equally awesome beer-belly. William Bell loved us for making ‘Private Number’ such a huge hit, and Eddie Floyd loved the bald man in the front row so much that he couldn’t stop stroking his head. So much love on one stage going out to a long fully sold out Barbican for the last night of the It Came From Memphis series of concerts.
Booker T Jones Booker T Jones
  Of course the guys had got this love fest the wrong way round. We were there because we loved them, and no disrespect to the Bo-Keys, or Mable John (who did eventually get in tune), or William Bell, or Eddie Floyd, but the ones we loved the most were the quite remarkable Booker T and the MGs. Here were three guys (performing with with drummer Steve Potts in place of original skins-man the late Al Jackson) who simply rewrote the book, and whose influence on soul and rock music was arguably as profound and long-lasting as the mercurial Beatles.
We loved Booker T for his deeply soulful no-nonsense playing – understated in gesture and flourish for a Hammond player – and for the occasional smiles that flashed across his face when Potts, Dunn or Cropper delighted with their playing. We loved Dunn for his jovial presence but simply wicked bass playing – his short improvisations astonishing even his colleagues on stage. And of course we loved Cropper, not just for being one half of the partnerships that produced ‘Knock on wood’, ‘Midnight Hour’ or ‘Dock of the Bay’, but also for his elegant minimalist guitar work, and of course his Peavey ‘Cropper Classic’ guitar, one for everyone’s Christmas wish list. We also discovered that we loved drummer Potts for his rip-roaring power drumming. And we loved the MGs together for ‘Melting Pot’, ‘Summertime’, ‘Soul limbo’ (a notable contribution to English cricket), ‘Hang ‘em high’, ‘Time is tight’ and ‘Green onions’ – all of which featured in their set, which was a timeless, and as fresh, as it was some thirty years ago. And we did love Bell, Floyd and Thomas when they all joined the stage towards the end of the set, arguing between themselves like slightly forgetful old men over who played what on which hit record and why.
Actually forget it – sometimes there is simply never too much love in the house. - Nick Morgan (concert photo by Kate).



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