January 1, 2018
Newcastle on a New Year’s Eve is cold and dank with temperatures hovering at around 5°C. However the hardy natives brought in the New Year with a septuagenarian sensation from America’s Deep South, Candi Staton, at the Sage Theatre in Gateshead (a bridge walk from Newcastle). She ran through her catalogue of Southern Soul and classic 1970’s disco. The audience, several possibly only a couple of decades behind Candi, were resplendent in their party outfits and danced in the aisles and lapped up this night of glitter ball action. The revellers had come down from Scotland and further south in England: such was the draw.
Twelve songs over 80 minutes showcased her long recording career from “I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart”, released in 1969, through to 2014’s knock out “I Ain’t Easy To Love” from the Life Happens album. Both songs she explained had come from her collaboration with Muscle Shoals, legend, Rick Hall. (I, for one, genuflected at this point. For diligent readers then you’ll recollect that I rode a bike from Toronto to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to stand in the immortal Fame Studios). Her career has had gaps and it is a wonderful that she is now back regularly releasing albums and appearing on stage, notably in Europe. A six-piece band included her son, Marcus Williams, on drums, and former Style Council founder, Mick Talbot, on keyboards knew their stuff and immediately hit a funky groove. There was no loitering here! The crowd were soon in motion.
Much of her earlier chart success came with disco covers and we were treated to “Stand By Your Man”, “In The Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds”. Most of the audience could sing along even if they knew the songs as originals by Tammy and The King. With the audience now well into their stride throwing shapes she lit the afterburners and the opening chords of “Young Hearts, Run Free” brought the expected loud cheers and a surge of energy. “You’ve Got The Love” kept the fans up and moving before an encore of “Hallelujah Anyway”. Then she waved goodbye and was gone.
Aside from the music Candi recounted stories of the Chitlin’ Circuit (a circuit of live music venues in the South of the USA notorious for being less than salubrious) and ensuring payment by the brandishing of a small pistol. However, for all the bravado, this is a God fearing woman. She told us she was blessed to sail into 2018 after the losses of Billy Paul and Percy Sledge in recent years. In fact her explanation for her continuing to perform was that “God has a purpose for me… and my work ain’t done yet”. When she said this then I wondered where I stood on Divine Intervention and a Mark Cohn line from “Walking In Memphis” came to mind – “She said, ‘Tell me are you a Christian, child?’ And I said, ‘Ma’am, I am tonight!’”
I think we can all agree we were blessed. A completely wonderful evening.