Sir Joe has been described as “an unfairly overlooked funk and soul singer, influenced by — but not imitative of — James Brown”.
Admittedly, this left me somewhat sceptical in my preparations for the final performance of Sir Joes’ European tour. There’s an endless queue of Godfather wannabe’s and 70’s throwbacks, many of which are still desperately strutting their stuff and clawing on to that elusive and fading spotlight in their latter years. Across all genre’s, the “comeback tour” is often dangerous territory, with many artists ailing for recognition and retirement funding. Putting fear of the potentially tragic aside, myself and photographer Ed put our faith in the Funk and make our way to Band on the Wall.
The venue has built up a renowned niche for Funk and Soul gigs since it’s refurb many years ago now. It’s brand spanking top of the range social club feel compliments a stunning sound system. This was instantly at the fore with an opening set from the Different Strokes DJ’s. Knocking out soul rarities with moves to match, the tone was set and the anticipation bubbled.
Replacing The Free Soul Band of the seventies, the live support came from Sir Joe’s backing band for tonight, The Jezebel Sextet. Warming themselves and the crowd up with water tight instrumentals, you can’t help but liken them to the Irish Soul “Commitments” band from Alan Parkers 1991 film of the same name. The crowd, a cross-section of all ages, creep closer and closer towards the stage. Feet begin to tap. First dance moves are made. And attention is stolen by a determined artist who stands directly in front of the band and begins to sketch vigorously…
The Jezebel sextet plough gloriously through soul standards and instrumentals of their own, giving plenty of scope for a glance of admiration towards each of these six masterful musicians. Sliding effortlessly in to a break down, the trumpet player and designated spokesman for The Jezebel Sextet steps up to the mic…
“Ladies and gentleman…Please welcome to the stage…Sir Joe…Quarterman!”
Straight in to action, Sir Joes’ accomplished vocals and stage prowess instantly win us over. Lifting your soul off to a bygone era of genuine performance. An era when a band and a frontman gave you everything on stage, and loved every minute of it. From his own array of hits, including “I’m Gonna get you”, “I’m a young man” and “How High”, to an unexpected cover version of “Respect”, the word flawless consistently springs to mind. His command of the band and the audience is a rarely seen testament to an experienced journey-man’s long career. The earlier description of “unfairly overlooked” is none more apparent, as hit after hit leaves you on a funkified high.
A gig like this is awash with nostalgia. Fans of old fire back lyrics of their favourites. Northern Soul enthusiasts enjoy a live act they can spin drop and shake to. And Funk DJ’s in flat caps and harringtons smile in a bubble of vinyl-collecting-vindication. Seeing a performer with such energy and effort backed by an accomplished band is also a novel affair. You can’t help but question why this version of live performance has sadly become a distant memory. A forgotten form of entertainment. With Sir Joe Quarterman, you pay your money because you believe in the artist and their music. In return, you get an all singing, all-dancing entertainer who allows you to escape the hum-drum of life. Busting moves, cheekily chatting to all corners of the crowd and smiling gloriously, this is a man who has been there and done it, and still loves doing it. There’s no time for chin stroking contemplation of composition, bar prices, set choices, et al, as you’re sucked in to a vacuum of genuinely delightful sound and vision.
You know you’ve been converted when a man in an open white pirate shirt with gold medallion and trousers up to his nipples sings “If you ain’t done it with me, you ain’t done it yet”… and you cordially agree. Both myself and photographer Ed remaining thankful that our other halves were unable to attend, for fear of Sir Joe’s “still-got-it”sex appeal.
Before a crowd demanded encore, the set closes with the big hit of Sir Joe’s career, “(I got) So much trouble in my mind”. The ten minute version that is, with a much welcomed round robin of solo’s from the unfathomable Jezebel Sextet backing band. Having danced, sang, shaked and hollered, both Sir Joe and his audience leave Band on the Wall with cheshire cat grins and funky struts. Unfairly overlooked is an overstatement. Tonight was a lesson in live performance. What a pleasure it was to see a genuine funk icon at his best.
Photography by Eddy “Cakes” Furniss.