17th September 2016
Heart & Soul
at the Y Theatre
It was a show with live music but it was something completely different. With Heart & Soul for Leicester was presented by Holy Trinity church to raise funds for its work helping people in need in the city. At the Y Theatre, the city’s oldest theatre still in use, we were treated to a show that brought together the vibrancy of several genres: soul, blues, jazz, Bollywood and hip-hop. What the audience got was a party: and wow what a party it was too. The floor of the main hall was set with tables laid with bottles of wine, vases of coloured lights and jars of nibbles. Tonight, the programme offered a mixture of song, dance and music from artists and bands with plenty of colour and vitality.
The show opened with Aina Dance, Bollywood dancers in their fabulous costumes. The Midlands dance group gave the start of the show a rich performance of music and Indian dancing that set the atmosphere for the rest of the evening.
Singer Dell Millen brought her background of singing and piano playing skills to deliver a set of gospel songs that had the audience clapping and singing along to the jaunty tunes. Dell finished her set with with Bob Marley’s One Love and that brought the audience to its feet and everyone sang.
This is a theatre that I very much enjoying visiting; its programme of plays, comedy, dance and theatrical shows makes it a venue that has much to offer. The building has a long history going back to the first world war when it was used to provide shelter and support for wounded soldiers returning from the front in France. Many of the biggest names in Music Hall, in Edwardian times, played there, celebrated singers and comedians of the day such as Lillie Langtry and Vesta Tilley. Today the arts flourish in its elegant balconied setting. The main hall had a sound system that was crystal clear and there was excellent production lighting to make the stage look good.
Tonight’s audience of supporters and fans was eager of get involved in the action, clapping to the beats, singing along with the tunes and taking to the floor to dance to the foot-tapping rhythms of the many acts and artists on tonight’s bill.
The stage filled with one of three bands as Tony Webster brought his musicians on to fill the room with wonderful music. Led by the vocals of singer Astra Sirbon, the air was soon filled with the delicious sounds of Latin Rock, songs influenced by Carlos Santana and given that we have just celebrated the culture of Rio de Janeiro it was a fitting tribute to what we heard and saw of the music of Brazil. Sounds of samba, jazz, bossa nova – these were the flavours to which the Tony Webster band treated us.
To provide this, the stage was set with three sets of drums, keyboard, bass, guitar and they played complex rhythms, vibrant melodies and tunes resonating with the tantalising colours of jazz and Latin music. The audience members just could not resist taking to the floor to dance to the funky beats.
After the interval we had a brief demonstration of Latin dance from Nico and Nia, professional dance teachers who also played instruments – Nico on the sax and Nia on the flute it was time for Jonezy.
I don’t know how many of you know of this local music artist; thousands of people have come to love his high-energy performances and his infectious passion and positive messages as he sings about the issues that move him. It was a performance that had the audience spellbound. Many fans of the Loughborough based rap artist had come over to support him. He might be a self-made showman but he delivered his songs with a professionalism that was remarkable. Jonezy knows how to work a crowd; he drew them into the music, encouraging those in the balcony as much as those on the main floor. Even though I have seen him perform many times before, this was the first time that I have seen a large group of people get up and dance to his songs.
Jonezy came down to sing to the people in front of the stage who were bouncing to the energetic beats of his songs; not the throng of teenagers we have seen at festivals but a group of people of all ages. At the back of the stage a film showed his latest music video to his recent release of Hope, as he sang the song urging people to unite together, face the future together and believe that we can create hope in the world by spreading love around. Strong positive messages that spoke to this audience of people who had gathered together tonight to raise support for the city’s homeless and needy. We can all get along as one he sang. It brought tears to my eyes. Tears of joy.
An upbeat set that kept the meaning of the show, he put his music across with considerable presence and many people, both young and old, were totally caught up in the vibe of his unique act. No one else does anything like this. What Jonezy did tonight was animate a room full of people, pulling them into the feeling and passion of his songs and get the whole hall waving their arms in the air. It was electrifying. His song Keep On Fighting showed the video of the Gateway Brothers from Glasgow spreading the word that bullying among young people is an issue about which we should all be concerned, one that can affect victims for the rest of their lives.
This performance was a moment; a moment when music moved people in many ways. A joyous celebration of positivity, using rap to give people a sincere message, one that speaks to everyone. Jonezy is an artist who excels at embracing his audience, drawing them into the action of his songs in a way that few other artists can. He won them over. He engaged them. And he left to stage to rapturous applause.
Tonight show drew to a close with the music of Lickin Stick, a nine piece band with a big brass section who gave us the razzmatazz of James Brown, Maceo and other numbers redolent with funk and soul, hypnotic drum beats and rich rollicking rhythms. The whole room was caught up in the party atmosphere, the people dancing and enjoying what a big band and its music can bring to a happy occasion.
The evening was organised by Holy Trinity church of Leicester to raise money for its building project. As compère Steve Gorton explained: every week up to a hundred homeless people are fed and supported and over two hundred children are provided with groups and clubs. Vulnerable people with housing difficulties are provided with advice about debt and addiction.
Not only was the show in a very worthwhile cause but it was an evening of music and entertainment that was unequalled and many people were given a night to remember.
Gigs are coming up in which musicians are supporting homelessness
Support the show on 9th October 2016 at The Donkey in Welford Road.
and of course in October it will be time for Oxjam, the musical fundraiser for Oxford Famine Relief when the whole of Leicester will see the massed bands and singers of the city and county giving their time and their music to support the work of this charity.