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Review: Irma Thomas, SummerTyne Americana Festival, The Sage Gateshead

SATURDAY night was requests night at a rare UK concert by the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas.

SATURDAY night was requests night at a rare UK concert by the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas.

She came on stage equipped with her encyclopaedic ‘cheat sheet’ of all the songs she has ever recorded; so many in fact that at the age of 70 and after a 51-year career, she can’t remember some of them.

So after a planned introduction, including the slightly unnecessary opening number Very Superstitious, sung by her drummer (the audience was pretty well warmed up by the Soul Rebels brass band), Irma threw the gig open to the public.

Requests poured in and were carefully noted before Irma launched straight into each song, so the gig was a satisfying mix of eras and genres, with renditions of Midnight Train to Georgia, Summertime, Zero Will Power, Time is on My Side and It’s Raining.

“The slower it is, the better it is,” the diminutive lady with the colossal voice told the crowd and her own composition, Hold Me While I Cry, was particularly memorable.

Even so, there were enough up-tempo numbers to get hips shaking, and she got the whole audience on their feet for her “wiggle-something” finale involving a white hanky send-off to a soul survivor.

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