Santogold, Liquid Room, Edinburgh
Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Concorde 2. Brighton

Santogold may make perfect tunes for marketing cars and trainers, but she will never wow a crowd like Martha Reeves

Santogold is, like the enigmatic Max Vail in Nik Cohn's 20th Century Dreams, one of those people who just know people, and who gavotte through life's dancefloor via a series of fortuitous acquaintances, propelled by the self-perpetuating force of their own networking skills.

Santi White, as she is also known, a privately-educated thirtysomething from Philly, has been biding her time in little-heard punk bands until recently, when all those hard-won contacts fell into place. Names? How about Mark Ronson (she sang The Jam's "Pretty Green" on Version). Or super-producer Diplo, or, in turn, his star protégé MIA. She's also mates with Bjork, she's guested with GZA, written for Ashlee Simpson and Lily Allen, and snagged the support slot on the Coldplay tour.

Meanwhile, her self-titled debut album has been out since January, and already its songs have been used to sell shampoo, beer and cars, and to soundtrack computer games. For her most lucrative coup – or sellout – of all, she's recorded a song with Pharrell Williams and Julian Casablancas for the once counter-culturally cool, but now Nike-owned, trainer company Converse. Is she sitting on a folder of the juiciest blackmail photos on the planet? Or could it be pure, uncut charisma?

She has plenty of the latter. Flanked by dancers in musketeer frills and perma-shades and backed by a band in blue dickie bows, she bounds on stage in a flat leather cap, gold hoop earrings big enough to have shod a shire pony and a jumpsuit which is, if not a full blown riot of colour, then at least a major civil disobedience, and oozes nonchalance and star quality.

When you have a voice that could effortlessly walk into any Trojan compilation of late '70s lovers' rock and demand top billing, it's hard not to be confident. Indeed, for much of her heavily front-loaded and very curt set (eight songs, one encore, and I overhear the bar manager saying "that was one of the worst nights ever") she's essentially straightforward Jamaican soundsystem MC, and could be taken as some sort of cunning ruse to get white indie kids to listen to reggae music.

Her finest moment so far falls into this category. "Shove It", inexplicably still not a single, is an echo-laden skank which responds to the empty words of government, paying lip-service to ameliorating conditions for the poor, with a slap in the mouth: "We think you're a joke/Shove your 'hope' where it don't shine..." In an odd way it reminds me of "Joyriders", the social worker-taunting song by Pulp: "Hey you, you in the Jesus sandals/Wouldn't you like to come over and watch some vandals/ Smashing up someone's home?"

At the other end of her range, there's the taut, New Wavey "L.E.S. Artistes", which lampoons the pretentiousness of Lower East Side scene. Or "Creator", which, with its rumbling white-horses-in-the-surf drums, sounds like it could be advertising Guinness. Give it six months. Santogold live is, in contrast with her sometimes sombre album, a potent party-startin' turn, the perfect warm-up act.

She'll never know it, but Martha Reeves saved my life. There are some kids who, disenfranchised by the present, abscond in their minds to the past. In my case, inspired by a desire to seek out the source material of my early '80s Soulcialist heroes, my escape route was Tamla Motown. And one song, recorded before I was born, soundtracked my teenage bedroom more than any other, the autochange arm of the inherited Alba stereo set to repeat. "(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave" by Martha & The Vandellas may, when you break it down, be merely an early Holland-Dozier-Holland love song from the Motown conveyor belt, but something in the timbres and resonances of its vinyl grooves expressed an unquenchable yearning, a belief in the possibility of a better place and time.

It's an emotional moment, then, seeing Martha Reeves in the flesh, dressed up in tinsel, a tambourine at her hip, and aided by her sister Lois, a Vandella since '68, and baby sister Delphine who, touchingly, carries a lace hankie and dabs her eyes when it all gets a bit too much. When they sing "Come And Get These Memories", everyone has their own, different to, but not dissimilar from, mine. Alabama-born, Detroit-raised Martha Reeves served her apprenticeship in The Del-Phis, local rivals of The Primettes (the proto-Supremes), before getting herself a job as secretary to A&R man Micky Stevenson in Motown's Hitsville USA headquarters. She bided her time until star singer Mary Wells didn't turn up for a session one day, and Martha and her Vandellas stepped in. The Vandellas rapidly eclipsed the Marvelettes as Motown's foremost girl group, and took off faster than The Supremes, to whose reedy Diana Ross, with whom she frequently feuded, Martha provided a more soulful and gutsy alternative. As 1964 turned to 1965, however, the Supremes pushed ahead, and Martha was left embittered, complaining of her unfair treatment.

By the late 1960s she'd suffered a breakdown, and the glory days were over. She recorded one solo album, Martha Reeves, but was forced to settle into life as a nostalgia act – and, more recently, running successfully for political office – while Ross went on to world superstardom.

But what a nostalgia act. At 67, Reeves has still got the pipes, whether it's belting out hits like "Nowhere To Run" and "Third Finger, Left Hand", the old blues standard "A Love Like Yours Don't Come Knockin' Every Day", or the inevitable climax of "Dancing In The Street". She's a charming and disarming character too, quipping to her drummer "You've got to slow down for me, I'm an old person", joking about the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), and telling tales of touring with Dusty Springfield. But the cover of "What's Going On", in tribute to "my friend Marvin Gaye", isn't gratuitous namedropping: the Vandellas sang uncredited backing vocals on "Stubborn Kind Of Fellow" and "Can I Get A Witness" and, according to Supreme Mary Wilson, Reeves had a major crush on him. Before "Jimmy Mack", Martha jocularly asks us to look out for her vanished man, "still wearing that same old three-piece polyester suit, moccasins, three feathers in his hair, love beads, giving everyone peace signs... He's stuck in the '60s." And so, quite happily, are most of the crowd. Post-show, she's mobbed by middle-aged mods queuing for autographs. (Yes, me too. The Tamla Motown paper sleeve for my copy of "I'm Ready For Love".) Because, for some of us, whether ageing scooterists or former introspective daydreamers, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas ignited a flame that can never be extinguished. Burning, burning.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary