Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Irma Thomas @ Harbourfront Centre (September 6, 2009)

Irma Thomas @ Harbourfront Centre: photo by Michael Ligon

I had the great pleasure of seeing the "Soul Queen of New Orleans" Irma Thomas down at Harbourfront Centre this past Sunday night. To see her talent on display live, one wonders why she never achieved success in the sixties on par with her contemporaries back then like Aretha Franklin and Etta James. She'd actually covered the song "Time Is On My Side" back in 1964 a month before The Rolling Stones covered it although the Stones achieved much greater success with it, scoring their first top ten hit with it[via Wikipedia]. The crowd at Harbourfront was decidedly mixed with younger music fans with an appreciation for soul and Motown and older fans reliving youthful memories gathered together. I'd made myself to a standing area along the left side of the stage as the band and an unseen vocalist were midway into a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" and then a band member took the mic to introduce Ms. Thomas to the crowd. The set included covers of the aforementioned "Time Is On My Side", a stupendous performance of Etta James "At Last", a scintillating version of George Gershwin standard "Summertime" and a well-intentioned(although misguided) cover of Tina Turner's "Simply The Best" but it was the unfamiliar soul tracks which were the most invigorating to me. So while the covers were for the most part fantastic, "Time Is On My Side" being dynamite, it wasn't an oldies-station-vibe I was seeking that night. The unfamiliar soul tracks [if anyone has a set list, it'd be most appreciated] showed the vitality of a woman who'd been criminially overlooked for much of her career and for some like myself have only just discovered her. I was also quite satisfied to rediscover how vital of a genre that soul music is and realize perhaps that that one Otis Redding CD in my music collection is hardly sufficient. Much props go to her band who were top-notch musicians and to Ms. Thomas herself for not only her fantastic performance but her charming and humourous banter with the crowd. The born-and-raised New Orleans lady mentioned Hurricane Katrina and thanked Toronto for anything, anyone may have done to help out the City of New Orleans during and after the crisis, which segwayed into her cover of Tina Turner's "Simply The Best", which as I previously mentioned was a well-intentioned although ultimately misguided cover, a pockmark on what was otherwise a brilliant performance.

Photos: Irma Thomas @ Harbourfront Centre (September 6, 2009)
YouTube: Irma Thomas - "Time Is On My Side"
YouTube: Irma Thomas - "Wish Someone Would Care"
Just a reminder that my photos from Virgin Festival(August 29-30, 200) are now up if you're interested - Day One, Day Two. Thanks for reading.

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