Preston 53 Degrees
Motown legend Martha Reeves rolled back the years to prove Preston’s Got Soul with a blistering late-night set at 53 Degrees.
The veteran Detroit soul chanteuse went down a storm with a hip audience at the UCLan venue, the icing on the Christmas cake at a festive party with a difference.
Martha proved a hit for ’60s soul lovers of all ages, taking to the stage at 11am for a belting 90-minute set of classic hits, cult near-misses – and even two carols.
Any doubts about the 72–year-old still being on her game were soon dispelled, the main draw grooving with the best of them, hitting all those high notes, her voice powerful yet tempered perfectly.
This was no through-the-motions live public appearance, Martha’s delivery never less than heartfelt, with perfect backing from esteemed New York drummer Larry Crockett and the rest of an eight-piece band.
There were no Vandellas but her band was built in the tradition of those great Motown and Stax revues that took Britain by storm in the ’60s – not least a youthful four-piece Glaswegian brass section.
From 1966 opener I’m Ready For Love to Northern Soul rave One Way Out and 1963 breakthrough Come And Get These Memories onwards, this was an impassioned set.
If those songs announced her arrival, the next set the house ablaze, 1965 classic Nowhere to Run inspirational, Martha and co. lapping up the audience reaction, raising their game.
The latest prestigious headline for Preston’s Got Soul, following Dean Parrish’s recent visit, then tried 1965 b-side Love (Makes Me Do Foolish Things) and her Michael Jackson tribute, The Jackson Five’s I Want You Back.
And 1967’s Jimmy Mack threatened to raise the roof again, Martha joking that she’d sung that song for 50 years and it still didn’t have a happy ending – she was still waiting for that ‘old man’ to show. The 60s soul aficionados in the house delighted as she flipped that 45 to give us Third Finger Left Hand, while memories of a Christmas 1964 UK visit were rekindled with a stirring Oh Holy Night.
Martha turned the screw again with the sublime (Love Is Like A) Heatwave, a sing-and-respond section including questions as to whether her devotees’ love lives were ‘hot, hot, hot.’
More recent blues tribute Watch Your Back, dedicated to her parents, followed, before 1964’s searing In My Lonely Room and later single No One There, all lapped up by an appreciative Preston in-crowd.
The set headed for its climax, Martha building anticipation with a rundown of several acts that covered Dancing in the Street, before re-staking her own rightful claim on a historic floor-filler.
The compere briefly returned to lead the ovation, Martha giving us a poignant Silent Night before returning to fever pitch for a classic medley to close, featuring The Four Tops’ I Can’t Help Myself, Stevie Wonder’s Signed Sealed Delivered I’m Yours, and Eddie Floyd’s Knock on Wood.
This great iconic soul survivor was not done yet, promising a fans’ ‘meet-and-greet’ while the DJs returned to their decks, on a sizzling December night to remember.