Support comes from Kym Mazelle, mid-eighties Soul and House shouter who’s history with the band began at the end of the eighties. She still possesses a fine Gospel-tinged singing voice which is perfect for those uplifting House tempos over she sings over. It’s a good way to warm up the crowd and she’s clearly having a great time on stage.
Jazzie B is the first (and probably the last) sound man to be awarded an OBE for services to music. He’s still running the Soul II Soul collective and playihng the odd DJ-ing gig here and there, but tonight he’s got the band back together for a run through of the classic songs the band relased in the late eighties.
The band consists of drums, bass, lead guitar, three keyboards including long time band member Simon Law, two violinists and three female back up singers. To complete the band line up he also has Shovel on percussion, who played in Mike Pickering’s M People throughout the nineties. It’s a full sound that resonates nicely within the circular shape of the venue, my only gripe being that the microphones could have been a touch louder.
Jazzie B bounds onto the stage and introduces “Fairplay” the very first single they released in 1988 and out comes Rose Windross the original singer to power her way through the vocal. A good way to kick off their set, the song sounds as great as when I first heard it and there’s an immense crowd reaction too.
Soul II Soul were always about featuring the ladies on lead and back up vocals so next he brings out UK soul and reggage singing stalwart Caron Wheeler and the crowd reaction for her is even bigger as she launches into “Keep on moving”.
There’s a also a female reggae MC called Chickaboo to provide a couple of raps and some double time chatting on a couple of songs and she gets down with Jazzie B in good combination style.
To introduce the next song, Jazzie B says that way back in the late eighties the band went to see Kym Mazelle at Dingwalls in Camden and got her into the studio to record that same night. He gives a shout out to an old mate of mine and Soul II Soul stalwart, Dobie – as he was an original member of the crew in their sound system days and would have been there at that studio session as he worked on all that music alongside main man Nellee Hooper. The song they produced was “Missing you” and Ms. Mazelle is happy to belt it out for us again.
In between this parade of female vocalists, Jazzie B comes on and reminisces about the London clubbing scene, thanks the crowd for their continued support of Soul II Soul and runs through an intro of everyone on stage. He’s good natured and chatty, equally happy either on stage or watching from the side while the others perform. They also perform some new songs alongside their latest female vocalist but the newer stuff was never going to be a wild departure from the Soul II Soul template so the blend between old and new material is pretty seamless. Perhaps the only criticism I would make.
They finish (of course) with a rousing version of “Back to life”, number one in the UK and in the US R & B and dance charts back in 1989. A perfect ending to a good set. Their live shows these days are few and far between so catch them if you ever get the chance.