Martha Reeves and the Vandellas

Martha Reeves is spellbinding. Her presence, personality and vocal range are astounding, and her show was a powerhouse of hits and dance numbers, oozing with infectious energy.

With a whole new band comprising the ‘Vandellas’, 72-year-old Reeves dominated the stage. Despite there being some highly talented musicians in the band (the tenor sax delivered a particularly powerful solo at the end), it was impossible to watch anyone other than the mesmerising frontwoman. Despite tripping on her way onto the stage and having a dress that kept falling down, Reeves approached the whole night with good humour and took everything in her stride. She was constantly interacting with the audience, making jokes and boogieing away, as well as paying lip service to numerous other Motown legends. Her playful anecdotes showed that she is still sassy as ever, announcing that despite the many covers (she reeled off the extensive list), ‘Dancing In The Street’ was written for her, so it is officially her song. Boy does she make that clear in her triumphant finale.

Reeve’s range is impressive, with an effortless ability to switch between registers instantly. Some of her best vocals were in her slower songs, showing restraint, clarity and emotion - for example the beautiful ‘Love (Makes Me Do Foolish Things)’. However, without a doubt, the highlights were her funky soul numbers - the aforementioned ‘Dancing in the Streets’, ‘Jimmy Mack’, ‘Heatwave’ and ‘Forget Me Not’. She was always getting the crowd going, encouraging them to dance the funky chicken, do the ‘Temptations walk’, and even Tina Turner impressions - which she pulled off fantastically.

Her encore, a reprise of ‘Dancing in the Streets’, was inspirational. Seeing Reeves dancing with audience members onstage as she paid tribute to the likes of Stevie Wonder and Eddie Floyd, showed how much the audience and Reeves herself loves this music. As she carried on singing and dancing away whilst being ushered off stage by security, the message was clear: Martha Reeves is still a force to be reckoned with.

Reviews by Carys Evans

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The Blurb

The definitive Motown legends, famous internationally for hits Dancing in the Street, Nowhere to Run, Heat Wave and Jimmy Mack perform a blistering set of soul classics on their first festival appearance. ***** (Scotsman). **** (Herald).