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Candi Staton review

Lynda Moyo enjoys song stories from the first lady of Southern soul

Written by . Published on April 21st 2010.

Candi Staton review

She may be most famous for the up-tempo, feel-good dance mix of 'You Got the Love', but Candi Staton is a woman with one hell of a raw tale to tell.

Now in her mid-sixties, she stood strong on stage at the perfect Band on the Wall setting, ready to begin. If it weren't a standing venue I'm pretty sure she would have welcomed us with 'Are you sitting comfortably?' You see, Candi has seen, heard and sung it all.

Like her appearance, her music is still as fresh as the day it was released and this is probably why so many modern artists are keen to cover her classics.

Born and raised in rural Alabama, this Southern belle comes from Gospel roots but made the transition to R&B and later, Southern Soul, in the Sixties and Seventies. Throughout her musical journey she has loved and lost; the stories of her four failed marriages and domestic abuse home truths can be heard in many of her songs.

But for her Manchester concert, it was evident that Candi is now in a much more positive place. Bursting onto the stage with the energy of a woman half her age, she didn't take a breath or break throughout the hour and a half set. Sharing her new found happiness, Candi beamed that she is in fact a newly wed before launching into an upbeat version of 'I'd Rather Be an Old Man's Sweetheart' – a tongue in cheek ode to the toe-tapping mature men in the crowd, who looked on in delight.

Other highlights from her performance included cover versions of Tammy Wynette, the Bee Gees and Elvis, the latter of which the King himself had apparently given the stamp of approval, back in the day. As Candi joked, “If I'd have kept that note I'd could have made a fortune”. Candi's take on 'In the Ghetto' had all the elements of a hit song and the soulfully southern nature of her vocals seemed rather more fitting for the lyrics than Elvis's original. My friend worryingly admitted she still prefers Cartman from South Park's version, but Candi comes in at a close second. Elvis must be turning in his grave.

It wasn't just Candi and the crowd who enjoyed the alternate mixes either; the backing band seemed to genuinely appreciate the gritty music they were creating, unlike some backing bands for manufactured artists, who often look like playing is just a means to an end. At several points musicians were egged on by Candi to do their own solo slots with the trumpet and saxophone player being particularly impressive with their ability to override the rules of nature (i.e. not running out of air).

It was also pleasing to notice a familiar face amongst the backing singers. Suzie Furlonger may not have got through to the live shows on X Factor back in 2008 – no thanks to Dannii Minogue – but it's good to see she hasn't given up on her talent. Her fellow backing singer, a bubbly guy with dreads, had the vocal ability and charisma to have his own show. In his solo set he chanted Ryan Giggs' name, much to the amusement of United fans in the crowd.

Although this was a gig that could have been treasured for hours, we knew it was coming to an end when Candi sang an extended version of 'Young Hearts Run Free' – one of her greatest hits. Not only was it a great rendition of the song, but as the mainly over-25s crowd sang along, it was clear that the lyrics are a life lesson to us all. Then that familiar bass line kicked in as the crowd cheered and sang along to her final song 'You Got the Love'. Candi dedicated the song to the man upstairs whom she attributes to seeing her through the hard times with a musical soundtrack that's led her to the safe and peaceful place she's in now.

Like her appearance, her music is still as fresh as the day it was released and this is probably why so many modern artists are keen to cover her classics. It's safe to say that Candi Staton can and will continue to sing her songs for decades to come in various versions and guises. There's an audience for every interpretation and that's what will always makes her stand out as one of the soul greats.

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