A Marvel in Manchester

ASBrownOk ok … Let’s do the Melissa Morgan, Whispers and Patti  Labelle gig we agreed over dinner one midweek evening, I will order the tickets now , after all Melissa and Patti were still on our ‘to see ‘ list.We arrived at a very tired Manchester Apollo, attendance was surprisingly light for these  world class artists.

Melissa was first up and gave us a great set of the old favourites . This included a walk out into the audience performing Fools Paradise.It was great to meet her too in the lobby area after the performance, she was fab and very friendly and eager to chat about old times.

Next up were the Whispers…They performed a very polished ‘Vagas’ type set lasting 30 minutes with many of the uptempo favesThe Whispers Orchestra truly awesum, they oozed quality and composure Warm , rich , professional harmonies the hallmark of the group rattled around the old concert venue on Manchester’s south side.

At times we had to pinch ourselves we were in the UK and not some suburban theatre in the United States. Then it was time for Patti……. OMG we were treated to a truly outstanding performance, not only vocally, but a unique display of kicking off shoes! She was every bit the way imagined, a real diva , vocals were to die for, powerful, strong and sweet.

A nice touch during the performance was an obituary of legends who had passed, their names were projected on the screen, inc Bobby Womack, Phyllis Hyman and Nick Ashford brought rounds of applause and a tearful house! Whilst at the same time announcing her band and backing singers … The moment was surreal. As Patti wrapped up we made a sharp exit and grabbed a taxi on a damp cold evening in Lancashire.
We headed back to a city centre hotel for a night cap.

Upon arrival, we settled down in the warmth of the bar, enjoying fine red wine and soaked up the atmosphere.
Shortly after we arrived, Melissa appeared for a drink at the bar, then we got chatting at length to members of The Whispers band, which included Emilio Conesa the guitarist with the group.
We chatted with him about old times, music industry changes and artists we worshipped and those he had worked with.
Collage was his original band, artistes from the soul genre rolled off his tongue like the alphabet… Our heads spun like owls as he unprompted outlined working with Ron Banks and LJ Reynolds and the Volt/Fantasy recording artists.

He smiled with pride as we said…hey we got the Collage albums.
As he wound up and retired …
we were spellbound with tales of the artistes we worshipped, a truly remarkable 2 hour discussion.Then…….

In a mix of fine red wine and Sky news on the TVs she appeared and sat at the bar ordered a large Shiraz and hot nuts, reading the paper and looked relaxed… Soulful.

I spotted her and hesitated, excited, nervy, overwhelmed!I nervously approached….

Rrrrrrrrrr excuse me ma’am. Were you just at the Apollo singing?

Errrrrrm yes she said flicking through the newspaper.

Wellllll, I think I may know you I replied……

She took a sip of wine and looked me in the eye and said ..”really”

Yes, you were a backing singer for Patti Labelle, but I know you from a previous life!
You do? Yes I said….

Is your name Debra Henry from Anglo Saxon Brown/ Silk / Ujima fame?
Why yes honey. we both said…as we tuned into each other soulfully!What a vocalist, what tunes you’ve made, what an honour to meet you.
How long you been singing backing for Patti?
Well years she replied… I never did like that lead singer focus!

She had no idea of the profile of those tunes in the UK

She said, when I return to the USA I will chat this through with the members of Anglo Saxon Brown I still see.
She went on to say, did you like the track Straighten it Out?
Phew… We chatted about the tracks  The Man  I Love and Gonna Make You Mine.she remembered them ..
though not her favourites.

After half an hour of soulful chat I left her to chill……

Upon arriving back at our hotel room, I sat on the bed and reflected. Did that really just happen on a damp Friday night in Manchester.

A very emotional soulful Cityslickermusic moment never to be forgotten!
Soul music has the knack of bringing out the unusual and memorable moments in our lives.
Truly amazing.

Chris Walls