Monday, 28 July 2014

Booker T. Jones and Bettye Lavette at The Sage, Gateshead - review by Sir Terrence Kelly, OBE

SOUL GREATS ... Booker T. Jones, above, and Bettye Lavette, below, shared the bill at The Sage.
Live review: Booker T. Jones and Bettye Lavette
Terry Kelly
22July 2014

A DOUBLE soul treat was served up as part of the SummerTyne Americana Festival 2014 at The Sage.

Bettye Lavette wears her heartache on her sleeve, in a voice bearing the scars of a musical career which this year reached its half-century.

Pencil-thin, dressed in black and wearing heels, she strutted around the stage as she gave life to songs old and new, all delivered in her trademark torch singer style.

Dylan’s Everything Is Broken was given a soulful makeover early on, before Lavette thanked her English fans for buying her music and sparking a late-career revival.

The popular Let Me Down Easy went down a treat, and her interpretation of Joy, by Lucinda Williams, was a highlight.

After slowing down The Beatles’ Blackbird, Lavette invited a 40-strong local choir on stage for a couple of numbers, which drew a standing ovation from the audience.

Booker T. Jones’ musical pedigree speaks for itself, from his days with the famous Stax studio, a string of hits with Booker T. & the MGs and on to a career as one of the world’s top producers and arrangers.

The 69-year-old soul great cherry-picked his way through his illustrious back catalogue, backed by a superlative, three-piece band, spicing up the numbers with his trademark organ sound.

The hits Green Onions, Soul Limbo and Time Is Tight from his days with the MGs were all present and correct, plus great versions of his co-written classics Born Under A Bad Sign - famously covered by both blues great Albert King and Cream - and the Al Green hit Take Me To The River.

Immaculately dressed - including his familiar trilby - Booker T. looked supremely at ease with his amazing musical legacy, but also exuded great humility in his simple, down-to-earth introductions.

For a man who enjoyed his first hits as a teenager in the early 1960s, Booker T. is clearly still in love with music.

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