Review of 31st May 2004
This event was going to be professional right from the word go. Carl Edwardes cut his teeth with the Trojan Roadshow back in the mid-sixties and then moved on to help Mrs Green sort out the California Ballroom. Now in the business for 40 years, Carl knows how to put on a show.
The line-up for the event was packed with DJs who wanted to take part Paul Gray who was resident at the California from 1971 to 1978, Paddy Grady from Northern Soul Radio and Blues and Soul Magazine, Roger Twiggy Day from Radio Caroline, and DJs from various other venues around the country including Duncan, Rob James, Tezz and Alan. Messages were read from ex-Cali jocks who were unable to be there in particular Robbie St James who is recovering from a heart operation in the US, and Louie Martin who was prevented from attending due to other commitments.
The music was Motown and Soul with those from the North being well catered for. The Northern Soul dancers may be advancing in years but they can still cut their stuff on the floor. The more energetic routines were however not on display due to an oversight on the talcum powder front. One resourceful individual had brought his own pack so a small area was jumped on by all who noticed it.
Ann Shirley as Diana Ross was sublime. I stood 2 feet in front of her and I couldn't have told the difference. She looks just like her and when she got on stage, she sounds just like her as well.
She did two sets, The first with her 'Supremes' where they rolled out all the old favourites - Baby Love, You can't hurry love, Where did our love go and more. The two girls with her are new and, Ann told me, were being tried out with one of them being on stage for the first time. You wouldn't have known. The moves looked a bit dodgy at the sound check but by the time they came on for the show, they had it down pat.
After a short break, Ann reappeared, minus the bob wig and wearing a stunning black gown. She did a long set using a backing track and due to the restricted space on the stage, came down onto the floor amongst the people. Her rendition of 'When you tell me that you love me' was unrecognisable from the original.
She did cover one Supremes song, however her backing singers were now seated at one of tables so she dragged three willing males up to sing with her. These things are always a delight for the crowd and a huge embarrassment for the participants but the guys joined in with all the moves to 'Stop in the name of Love' and even sang a verse each. This lady is worth going to see if you have the chance. Believe me, she's stunning.
Just before midnight the stage was invaded. The Team had arrived.
There were ten of them plus Roy Hemmings which is why the stage was full of equipment. Whilst everyone had sat and listened intently to Ann Shirley, as the strains of 'Time' rang out, people got to their feet and danced. This is Edwin Starr's band and they are probably the best soul outfit in this country.
These guys were grinning from ear to ear from the moment they got on stage, they love playing together and playing this music and it shows. The energy that goes into it is amazing. They covered a number of Edwin's classics and then moved on to other soul hits. Roy Hemmings, who used to sing with the Drifters and trod the boards with them at the California, admits that he doesn't have Edwin's high range so they brought in a new singer who regularly covers the soul gigs at the Butlins camps. He was superb. He has the voice and the pitch to cover songs like H.A.P.P.Y Radio and cover them well.
Roy is a delight. A nice guy and a fantastic singer, he covered some of the classics by Otis Redding and the Drifters taking the lead in a wonderful duet. I noticed however that he didn't sing the immortal words that were coined at the California - Saturday Night at the Chip Shop. I did manage to get a private rendition later.
It has to be said that the crowd at this event was light. Despite a large number of tickets going out, the attendance was poor which was a shame as those who paid good money missed a fantastic show. Having contacted some of the people who bought tickets, it appears that there was a rumour going round that the show had been cancelled. Where this came from we're not yet sure but I would recommend to all those people that in future they check with the venue. Webmaster review