Preston’s Got Soul Night to Remember

Eddie Holman at 53 Degrees Pictures: Ruth Hornby
Eddie Holman at 53 Degrees Pictures: Ruth Hornby

Eddie Holman brought the heat to Preston’s 53 Degrees last weekend, MALCOLM WYATT soon warmed to the Northern Soul icon

While the temperature plummeted 52 degrees lower than the name of the venue, Eddie Holman brought plenty of warmth when he visited Brook Street on Friday night.

And from the moment this Philly veteran stepped on stage, a feelgood vibe transported an appreciative Preston in-crowd.

Granted, it was a disappointing turnout for one of the true survivors of the ‘60s soul scene, but those who made the effort were amply rewarded.

As I walked in, the main man was already in full flow, DJ Glenn Walker-Foster spinning Eddie’s My Name, as fresh today as it must have seemed 49 years before.

A couple more floor-filling tracks later, the man himself was out there, resplendent in shocking pink suit and black shirt, and we could marvel at those soulful tones, as strong today as ever before.

Eddie proved a great advert for all this Baptist minister’s church performances, with assured opener Stay Mine for Heaven’s Sake an apt vocal warm-up.

The floor was hardly rocking, his audience more curious, as if checking out just what he had to offer.

Eddie soon lured us towards him though, encouraging a few more dance moves, as if to prove Preston really has got soul.

Such steps were not for our special stateside guest, but as the man himself said, ‘I’m a singer, not a dancer’, advice no less than Jackie Wilson passed on back in the day.

His own 2014 shot at Eddie’s My Name followed, a little slower than the original but with the groove intact.

That beat slowed down some more for his take on It’s All In The Game – the flip-side of his sole UK hit again showcasing that wonderful voice.

Eddie soon shed his top layer, but informed us, ‘I’m not the kind of singer who throws a jacket. I’ve still got payments to make on this suit.’

A faithful run through Al Green’s sublime Let’s Stay Together followed, proof that there’s not just one rocking reverend that can switch effortlessly between gospel and soul.

Next up was Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine, introduced by a recollection of Eddie’s own ‘last to know’ first-love betrayal.

But while he hinted of halcyon days playing the field, there was plenty of talk about the rock in Eddie’s life too - his wife of 48 years, co-writer ‘Sheila the wheeler dealer’.

Their joint 1968 composition Four Walls followed, then She’s Wanted In Three States and a slightly brooding I Love You, dedicated to all those UK fans who had supported him through the decades.

The ‘70s disco of This Could Be A Night To Remember had that floor moving again, and his biggest Northern Soul hit followed, I Surrender keeping the groove going.

Eddie was so impressed he gave it a second go straight after, as if unwilling to let his set end.

Earlier on, he explained how we couldn’t take anything for granted with regards to those high notes, giving us a trial run through his big hit.

He could of course, a momentous Hey There Lonely Girl mixing falsetto power and good old-fashioned nostalgia.

For all his technical ability and showmanship, there was plenty of humour, Eddie grabbing his trousers as if to suggest the tight undies helped him reach the high notes.

I would have loved to have seen Eddie out there with a band, like Martha Reeves last December.

But he gave us no less of a performance with his backing tracks, although next time Eddie might do well to remember his specs so he can check his set-list more subtly.

It probably added to the occasion though, reminding us for all his pride at being the world’s No.1 falsetto that he’s genuine too, at ease with and at one with his audience.

With that he was away, but soon came out to mingle, helping ensure Preston’s Got Soul’s last 53 Degrees date was that Night to Remember we all hoped.