R.S.G ran from 1963 to 1966 and was a music TV show that introduced the UK to established acts and new artists / labels like Motown through the enthusiasm of presenter Dusty Springfield. Tonight they’re re-creating the show as part of this years’ Meltdown festival curated by Ray Davies of The Kinks. The event is also tied in with the Festival of Britain which is currently taking place on the Southbank. Vicki Wickham, the original producer of the show has also put this night together. There’s a big house band on stage called Spike’s All Stars who are backing all the artists tonight and they work hard for the whole of the show. A good bunch of musicians who must have had to put some rehearsal time in to learn all the different songs.
Annie Nightingale stands stage left and introduces the artists as well as giving some background information about the show. The decidedly older crowd is made up of people who obviously grew up watching the TV show, but there’s enough younger faces in the audience to make this event a bit more than just an exercise in nostalgia. First up is The Manfreds, most of the original members of the band formerly known as Manfred Mann. It’s a good way to kick off proceedings and the older members of the audience give them a good reception. Next up is Dave Berry, the Sheffield singer famous for the song “The crying game”. The song still sounds great and he’s on fine form too, joking that between the artists on stage tonight they should be able to claim about £850 heating allowance.
The younger acts influenced by R.S.G. are represented by Paloma Faith, Hackney born singer and actor who comes onstage looking the part in beehive hairdo and gold dress. She belts out one of her own numbers and “Ain’t no sunshine” by Bill Withers and gives a great vocal performance. A good addition to the bill, she’s chatty to the audience and obviously loves to sing. Carl Barat, formerly of The Libertines, comes on and plays a rowdy version of “Bang band you’re dead” that also goes down well.
Sandie Shaw bounds on next in shorts, pink Union Jack coat and, of course, bare feet and gets a huge reception. She still looks and sounds great and gives an effortless and enthusiastic performance of some of her popular 60’s hits. Similarly, Nona Hendryx, formerly of Labelle, also gives a fiery performance. Her version of “Lady Marmalade” sounding particularly funky. David McAlmont flounces onstage looking good in his jacket adorned with jewellery and is also in fine voice, but then he’s always been a great singer.
As R.S.G was always about introducing new talent, we also get a couple of songs from Loick (pronounced “Low-eek”) Essien. He’s a Londoner of Nigerian/Ghanaian descent who’s signed to Sony and due to release his debut album this year. He’s got a great voice, showcased by his two song acoustic set and it will be interesting to see how his career develops.
Ronnie Spector gives a great performance of “Baby I love you” and “Be my baby” and her natural charm and charisma get the crowd grooving to her enthusiastic renditions. Next we have a tribute to Dusty Springfield, a great artist in her own right and the woman who introduced a host of Motown artists to the UK via the show. David McAlmont comes back on to give a rousing rendition of “You don’t have to say you love me” that receives a standing ovation and Paloma Faith comes on to sing “Son of a preacher man” that also goes down well.
Finally everybody, including Ray Davies, comes back on stage to sing “Lola” as a finale and it’s a perfect way to end what has been a great show. A good mix of old and new artists, Ray Davies and Vicki Wickham managed to pull off a great recreation and fitting tribute to an influential show. Great stuff.