Roy Hemmings: The Sounds of Philadelphia and Motown | The Lowry | Manchester
Ex-Drifter Roy Hemmings has merged three American labels to mix a concert overspilling with a soulful sixties sound. The RnB admirer brings hit records from Motown, The Sounds of Philadelphia and Stax Atlantic’s for audiences to rediscover a catalogue of classics that continue to be sampled, covered and remixed by new artists.
Crafting the show around iconic songs that capture the crowd, Hemmings has positioned himself as an admired resident of the rhythm and blues scene. Since the Drifters originated in 1953, there have been dramatic changes in their line-up, including sixty vocalists that have taken on the turbulent mantle of membership in its original and splinter groups. Having worked for over a decade as the longest-serving member, together with the groups second longest standing member, John Moore, Hemmings’ solo show is a joyous celebration of the genre he loves.
Opening the production with sixties glamour and spirited vocals, the group the Love Supremes kicked things off with a rapid collection of Motown songs to get the crowd in the dancing spirit. After introducing Hemmings, the four performed their own covers of What Becomes of the Broken Hearted and (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher. With the choreography to match, these Supremes offered familiar routines to match Hemmings timeless selection. Synchronising their arm swaying and finger clicking dance moves, the playful touch of sixties nostalgia brought choreography fresh from the legendary Motown training camps.
Despite clearly being at home with his mix of sixties soul classics, Hemmings finds time to offer audiences the Drifters storytelling seventies hit, Like Sister and Brother. Harmonising with his three backing singers, the now solo star brings a polished and warm stage presence to his established performance. Traditional in his take of I’ll Be There and a Drifters tribute to band member Ben E. King, the carefree energy and laid-back atmosphere encourages audience participation that feeds into the feel-good concert.
Radiating from the Lowry stage in his sparkling silver suit, Hemmings features a few of the love songs included in his album Philly vs Detroit. The tracks Me and Mrs Jones and Love Train by Gamble and Huff highlight the enduring songs from the Sounds of Philadelphia writing duo, known for defining the sound of their city. Arranged alongside a live six-piece band and amped by the doo-wop backing singers in matching getup, the show continues to increase in energy. By the second half Hemmings and the Love Supremes have been through three costume changes and a six-piece, all-female string band named the String Infusion has been added to the stage.
Capturing the memorable moments of Motown and showing the crossover appeal of soul music with songs covered by Marvin Gaye and Lionel Richie, Hemmings elates the audience with his nostalgic revivals. The Sounds of Philadelphia and Motown offers tasteful renditions of fan favourites from the seasoned professional. It is a show that finds solace in RnB and reminds its audience why the soulful heavy hitters continue to haunt us decades after their release.
This review was originally written for Frankly My Dear