Dancing on the Street

Northern Soul icon Judy Street
Northern Soul icon Judy Street
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Northern Soul icon Judy Street finally got her chance to sing for Preston soul fans

It may have been a few months later than originally planned, but a Northern Soul icon got to experience Preston’s soulful credentials first-hand at the weekend.

Fresh from her visit to the Skegness Northern Soul Survivors Weekender, Tennessee-based Judy Street took to the 53 Degrees stage, relishing her big moment in front of an adoring in-crowd.

If there were nerves ahead of this one-woman show, Judy used them to positive effect, an infectious smile suggesting she was having the time of her life out there.

It’s been a long time coming, with What, the song that gave her cult Northern Soul status – later covered by Soft Cell – recorded 47 years ago.

Yet the star attraction of Preston’s Got Soul’s penultimate show at this seemingly-doomed uni venue peeled back the decades and gave it her all.

There was a brave choice of set, Judy – turned back by custom officials in May, lacking the necessary work permit – airing tracks from her new Cover Girl CD, including a number of revered dancefloor favourites.

I say brave because I’m aware of the past snobbery that seems to have gone hand in glove with an otherwise friendly scene.

So many belting tunes are off-limits for aficionados. Yet Judy has crafted a collection of respectful nods to such classics, and to good effect.

I would have preferred a full band behind her, but she did commendably in the circumstances, her backing tracks constructed with care.

It wasn’t seamless, and couldn’t be when it involved a tape loop for every song, but Judy’s charm saw her through.

She was a teenager when she recorded for HB Barnum in LA, and clearly the voice has changed over the years.

But if you can imagine a vocal talent like Cher tackling classic ‘60s soul rather than her late ‘80s mainstream soft rock, you’ll not be too far off.

There’s a Dusty Springfield feel on some tracks too, and this is clearly a performer with a deep appreciation of a scene she only truly learned about in later years.

From Tainted Love and Hit and Run to Do I Love You (Indeed I Do), Sunny and Wigan anthem Long After Tonight Is All Over she proved her worth.

And among the hip hits and standards there was even a song penned by Judy’s hubby, What Are You Waiting For serving as a nostalgic tribute to that whole scene.

Judy was clearly at home with the mic and spoke about sightseeing trips to Liverpool and Wigan – the latter getting the biggest cheer, I might add.

And while the Casino is long gone, and many of those who first filled the floor to What after its early ‘70s rediscovery are now a little longer in the tooth, there was plenty of passion from the assembled faithful.

There’s been something of a Northern Soul revival in recent times, stoked by everyone from Duffy to John Newman and a forthcoming, much-anticipated film.

There were enough young dancers at 53 Degrees on Friday to prove Preston has kept the faith and taken it forward too.

DJs Dave Evison and Glenn Walker-Foster ensured the floor remained busy before and after Judy’s two sets.

I gather more tickets sold in May, and there was plenty of room to manoeuvre out there. And the organisers could do with a few more punters for Eddie Holman at December’s 53 Degrees finale.

But those who showed up were rewarded, and Judy – who later signed CDs and merchandise with great charm – justifiably returned home on a high.

Malcolm Wyatt