Dancing on the Street

Northern Soul icon Judy Street
Northern Soul icon Judy Street

Northern Soul icon Judy Street finally got her chance to sing for Preston soul fans

It may have been a few months later than originally planned, but a Northern Soul icon got to experience Preston’s soulful credentials first-hand at the weekend.

Fresh from her visit to the Skegness Northern Soul Survivors Weekender, Tennessee-based Judy Street took to the 53 Degrees stage, relishing her big moment in front of an adoring in-crowd.

If there were nerves ahead of this one-woman show, Judy used them to positive effect, an infectious smile suggesting she was having the time of her life out there.

It’s been a long time coming, with What, the song that gave her cult Northern Soul status – later covered by Soft Cell – recorded 47 years ago.

Yet the star attraction of Preston’s Got Soul’s penultimate show at this seemingly-doomed uni venue peeled back the decades and gave it her all.

There was a brave choice of set, Judy – turned back by custom officials in May, lacking the necessary work permit – airing tracks from her new Cover Girl CD, including a number of revered dancefloor favourites.

I say brave because I’m aware of the past snobbery that seems to have gone hand in glove with an otherwise friendly scene.

So many belting tunes are off-limits for aficionados. Yet Judy has crafted a collection of respectful nods to such classics, and to good effect.

I would have preferred a full band behind her, but she did commendably in the circumstances, her backing tracks constructed with care.

It wasn’t seamless, and couldn’t be when it involved a tape loop for every song, but Judy’s charm saw her through.

She was a teenager when she recorded for HB Barnum in LA, and clearly the voice has changed over the years.

But if you can imagine a vocal talent like Cher tackling classic ‘60s soul rather than her late ‘80s mainstream soft rock, you’ll not be too far off.

There’s a Dusty Springfield feel on some tracks too, and this is clearly a performer with a deep appreciation of a scene she only truly learned about in later years.

From Tainted Love and Hit and Run to Do I Love You (Indeed I Do), Sunny and Wigan anthem Long After Tonight Is All Over she proved her worth.

And among the hip hits and standards there was even a song penned by Judy’s hubby, What Are You Waiting For serving as a nostalgic tribute to that whole scene.

Judy was clearly at home with the mic and spoke about sightseeing trips to Liverpool and Wigan – the latter getting the biggest cheer, I might add.

And while the Casino is long gone, and many of those who first filled the floor to What after its early ‘70s rediscovery are now a little longer in the tooth, there was plenty of passion from the assembled faithful.

There’s been something of a Northern Soul revival in recent times, stoked by everyone from Duffy to John Newman and a forthcoming, much-anticipated film.

There were enough young dancers at 53 Degrees on Friday to prove Preston has kept the faith and taken it forward too.

DJs Dave Evison and Glenn Walker-Foster ensured the floor remained busy before and after Judy’s two sets.

I gather more tickets sold in May, and there was plenty of room to manoeuvre out there. And the organisers could do with a few more punters for Eddie Holman at December’s 53 Degrees finale.

But those who showed up were rewarded, and Judy – who later signed CDs and merchandise with great charm – justifiably returned home on a high.

Malcolm Wyatt