Reviewed by Kathryn Carr
On Tuesday, I went out. On a school night! Along with the other half, I ventured to Salford Quays’ Lowry Theatre to join funk and soul DJ Craig Charles to ‘Funk Up Christmas’. I must admit, the name of the gig initially led me to believe that I was in for a more festive treat but the reference to Christmas it seems, is a nod to the time of year rather than the content. Nevertheless, what tunes!
The event, hosted by DJ, actor and broadcaster Craig Charles, whom I’ve been a fan of since his Red Dwarf days, was an exclusive experience featuring Craig’s own funk and soul DJ set and a number of famous guest performers from the same genre.
Being a Wigan girl (born several musical decades late), I was intrigued to see original Northern Soul singer Lorraine Silver, who shot to fame performing in the iconic Wigan Casino. Lorraine opened the show and although it was a little like cheering your elderly Auntie on, on karaoke, I must say ‘fair play’ to the 67-year-old. In a knee-skimming sparkly sequin number, she took the audience back to the sixties with a rendition of her record ‘Lost Summer Love’, now regarded a Northern Soul classic.
The highlight of the night for me was the Craig Charles’ Fantasy Funk Band – a line-up of fantastic musicians put together by Craig after he asked listeners of his BBC Radio 6 show to vote for their favourite funk artists. A fine collection of funk and soul heroes on horns, keys, percussion, guitar and bass and featuring Angelo Starr (brother of Edwin) on vocals, made for an enthusiastic and energetic live performance that had the whole theatre up on their feet.
The Lyric Theatre at The Lowry seemed an unusual choice of venue to showcase a music and dance movement whose heavy beats and fast tempos naturally pull people up onto a dance floor. And true to form, despite everyone having a seat, these were mostly left redundant and the aisles instead filled with hand-clapping, toe-tapping, funky chicken twisting bodies. It did illustrate the perhaps under-estimated versatility of the venue and demonstrate how wide a range of productions you can see at The Lowry, however, I almost wanted to be in a club. More freedom to move and a heightened feeling of being a participant rather than a viewer/listener would have complemented the music style and topped the gig right off. But for a Tuesday night of entertainment, all is forgiven.
I was excited to see special guests ‘Odyssey’, direct from the USA. They certainly helped funk things up with their top-notch vocals in a hit-filled set including ‘Use it up and wear it out’, ‘Native New Yorker’, ‘Inside Out’ and the iconic disco anthem, ‘Going back to my roots’. The performance did lack the presence of a live band. Singing to a backing track just didn’t do their pretty amazing voices justice or create the same electric atmosphere achieved by the Fantasy Funk Band.
Next up, were soul legends ‘The Real Thing’ who performed their multi-million selling number one singles ‘You to me are everything’, ‘Can’t get by without you’, and ‘Feel the force’. They did have that all important live band element though their set was short and left me wanting for more.
It was Craig Charles himself who closed the evening with his DJ set. The music was undoubtedly funky with the audience singing and dancing along, though, how much actual live DJ-ing was going on is debatable. Craig’s cheeky antics, obvious enjoyment of being on stage and appreciation of the music and a shared taste in my kind of tune, was however, more than enough for me. Fans of Craig’s Funk and Soul BBC radio show wouldn’t have been disappointed, and neither would anyone who’s happy to enjoy a listen to this genre’s sounds, from the roots of black music to the latest club tracks.
To find out more about Craig Charles’ Funk and Soul events, tour dates and to book tickets, visit www.craigcharles.net.
For other shows The Lowry in Manchester visit www.thelowry.com or call the box office on 0843 208 6000.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000