Movin’ Melvin Brown

Friday, 20 August, 2010

Soul Music

Edinburgh 2010 – The Bongo Club,  4th – 30th August ( 19.00 )


Movin’ Melvin Brown is a talented singing and dancing dynamo, well supported by Paul Keene on keyboards, who encourages Allan Ferguson on bass, Aki Remally on lead guitar and Jordan Gilmor on drums to look and sound as if they are part of the same show. Paul swings and sways as he plays. He bounces along and creates the energetic power to bring the band together as they back their extra-ordinary front man. The music is very well played, improving through each number to splendidly played once the pasty-faced young musos catch on, lose their cool and smile widely enough to indicate they are enjoying themselves. The audience certainly were doing so. The enormous smile of Movin’ Melvin is infectious. His act is strong.

The show bubbles along, unfolding treasures of musical virtuosity, powered by Melvin Brown’s ebullience and skill. His voice is remarkably flexible, as he moves through the history of musical eras paying “ Respect “ to the songs and dance moves of his tradition. He begins the set dressed in a simple pair of dungarees and finishes dressed in a gold jumpsuit. At times he sounds like a young Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and James Brown. At others he lets himself shine through giving “ Lucky Ol’ Sun “ and other traditional Spiritual Songs new depth by rendering them with simple delivery and true soul. He allows a new listening to the words as he ties the songs with stillness and rhythmic tap dancing, while he allows his voice to soar.

Movin’Melvin Brown is accurately described by his name. He dances, bounces, shuffles, taps and moves his way through his set with magnificent ease. He describes the African roots of his American black peoples as dancing and singing roots, which kept them alive and hopeful, moving towards freedom through all kinds of hard times. He never dwells on the hardships but highlights the hopeful nature of his ancestors, their dependence on song and their inordinate, natural musical and rhythmic abilities. He celebrates the twentieth century success of his soul brothers and sisters and the currently manifesting dream of equality in a colour-blind world.

For me the highlight of the show was “ Michael Jackson does Riverdance”. It is a Tour de Force of creative movement and perfect mime, lacing step-dance with moonwalk rivers of smooth movin’ which Melvin makes look miraculously easy. He embodies Michael Jackson having fun with Irish rhythms in this wonderful homage to a brother performer who did his people proud. For this he is dressed in a tail suit and looks supremely elegant. His costume changes  are one of the elements of the show which keep surprising the audience. He inhabits each costume with the appropriate personality. This man is a gifted musical impersonator as well as a fine performer. His acting skills serve the show well, matching his singing and dancing abilities to each of the characters he honours by performing their work brilliantly, as themselves. You can close your eyes and enjoy this show but you won’t, because Melvin is always giving you something to feast your eyes upon. His backing band does a fine job but I think perhaps they do not see what an extra-ordinary job Melvin is doing with their help, since his flexible face is communicating constantly, pouring love at the audience as he shares his enthusiasms. He sings songs by Otis Redding, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and Melvin Brown with genuine respect for those he impersonates and great personal musical talent.

It was not long into the show before the audience got to its feet. They sat down from time to time but were regularly encouraged onto their feet again to dance and clap as the show grew in warmth and audience involvement was invited. Fans of Otis Redding and James Brown were treated to many of their songs and towards the end of the show audience members were invited onto the stage to dance with Movin’ Melvin whose generous spirit and infectious joy held them safely in his arrangement to honour Chubby Checker. Don’t let the journey down to Holyrood Road put you off. The Bongo Club is a friendly venue and this show will cheer even the most jaded of Fringe exhausted folk. Movin’ Melvin Brown finishes by reminding us it is nice to be important but that it is more important to be nice. He is an ambassador for peace and Soul to Soul ( I have a Dream ) encourages laughter, joy, dancing and love in spades. I imagine a peace which did not include these things would bore us all. Movin’ Melvin gives his all in this show and his audience gave back. They would have kept him on the stage all night.

Cast – Melvin Brown – vocals, dancing, Allan Ferguson – bass, Jordan Gilmore – drums, Paul Keene – keyboards, Aki Remally – lead guitar and Backing vocals, Francesca Sansalone – backing vocals
The Company-Movin’ Melvin Brown –
Musical Director – Melvin Brown, Choreography – Melvin Brown Sound & Lights engineer: Sam Richards, Movin’ Melvin Brown management –  Francesca Sansalone, PublicityFrancesca Sansalone


(c) Lilian Kennedy Brzoska 2010

reviewed Saturday 14th August 10

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