Around 11 years, the band’s guitarist Rob Updegraff told marlbank before the gig, and clearly they have built up a following as the Spice was as full as I’ve ever seen it. The club’s promoter Paul Pace introduced the band who began instrumentally before vocalists Tommy Hare and Sumudu joined. Sumudu confined herself to tambourine initially and as the performance continued she and Hare each took songs to feature on while they also with saxophonist Ben Somers added did three-part harmony and that was a significant part of the overall sound.
Standouts were Sumudu’s take on ‘Break a Way’ synonymous with Irma Thomas and also ‘It’s Raining’.
The band kept the perennially popular Earl King tune synonymous with Professor Longhair ‘Big Chief’ towards the end and the two sets were packed with some great choices, mainly with a New Orleans, Dr John, Fats Domino and Allen Toussaint-type core.
The Zigaboo Modeliste-inspired drummer Pat Levett leads the band (taking its name from the Lee Dorsey associated Allen Toussaint song ‘Working in the Coal Mine’) and soloed early on in a chromatic harmonica feature. Pianist Arthur Lea playing an upright with a tiny Yamaha synth for organ effects on top also added some backing vocals and his comping had a bouncy alert quality throughout. Bass guitarist Spencer Brown unspectacular but steady as well as the aforementioned Updegraff completed the line-up, the guitarist delivering some well aimed bluesy bursts.
A fun and enjoyable show, the moustachioed neckerchief-wearing extremely tall Hare who has a grizzly voice that lands between Rod Stewart and Joe Cocker was hilarious at times in his theatricality getting into the crowd later for a bit of a walkabout even. The strikingly diminutive Sumudu by contrast standing next to Hare was tremendous. I’ve seen her at Hideaway in Streatham during a singers night oh nearly a decade ago when she blew everyone else away and in more recent years she has been a backing singer/guitarist along with Dana Masters for Van Morrison although I think she is no longer in the band at least currently. (Check Sumudu and Dana out on the stirring ‘Transformation’.)