Meltdown: Ready Steady Go! Royal Festival Hall, London
Wednesday 15 June 2011
Ready Steady Go! may be the most fondly remembered 1960s pop TV show. It lasted barely three years, fading out, at the end of 1966, before it could outstay its welcome – like the sharp singles it helped to promote. Ray Davies and the producer Vicki Wickham's one-night-only revival for Meltdown can't resurrect the social club the studio became for the Beatles, Stones and Kinks, or the young dancing Mods who were almost trampled by careening cameras. The minimal set – a couple of period photo-decorated signs – is a letdown. But somehow, the spirit of pop at its most warmly creative catches light again.
Much of the audience remember the show's heyday. They are delighted by the nostalgic nonsense of Manfred Mann's "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy". Dave Berry slinks across the stage on his heels for "The Crying Game", insisting on a mystique that is punctured, winningly, when he chats like a Northern nightclub comic. Sandie Shaw beats that by flashing her still enviable legs while wearing pink Union Jack mini-shorts. Her famously bare feet are stockinged as she sings "(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me". Shaw bounces with such infectious excitement that I'm surprised she doesn't somersault off the stage.
The canny bill is interspersed with newer acts. The bracingly loud, Jam-style rock of the ex-Libertine Carl Barat, in tight black, Gene Vincent rocker gear, and Paloma Faith, beehived and winningly scatty, fit right in. Loick Essien is the only musician with a chart-bound single, "How We Roll", to promote. His honeyed, agile British R&B voice slips between Ronnie Spector's blast through Ronettes classics such as "Be My Baby" and the showstopping Nona Hendryx. Her No 1 hit with Labelle, "Lady Marmalade", is bettered by "I Sweat (Goin' Through the Motions)", in which she schools half a dozen crowd members in the art of ass-shaking. You'd never know she's 66. David McAlmont is then given a deserved standing ovation for a passionately soaring vocal on Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me".
When the whole bill join Davies for "Lola", what would usually be a tacky showbiz moment becomes profoundly moving, as musicians who knew each other as teenagers mingle as pensioners among their star-struck descendents. It's a triumph, for the unsung Wickham especially.
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