There is no substitute for the Real Thing

Before the evening’s headliner took to the stage, Richie Sampson warmed up the crowd with a lovingly curated selection of soul and Motown hits. Showcasing a fine voice, he kicked things off with The Temptations’ Get Ready, a sentiment the audience took to heart as they danced in the aisles and sung along to music from the Four Tops, Kool and the Gang and The Drifters. Closer to home, Billy Ocean and Hot Chocolate were squeezed into a set that delivered hit after hit, before ending with Ben King’s show stopping Stand By Me.

Chris Amoo and Dave Smith are the two surviving members of The Real Thing, a group that delivered a string of hits in the seventies, and the companionable warmth the pair feel towards each other was evident from the start. It’s warmth clearly shared between performers and audience, many of whom quickly joined the brave souls that had been dancing to Sampston’s jukebox set in a night of unapologetic nostalgia. Backed by an excellent band, the duo worked the crowd up to a fever pitch of excitement for Can You Feel the Force, Love’s Such a Wonderful Thing and You To Me are Everything. Yet they still managed to add depth and poignancy to the set with Raining Through My Sunshine and Children of the Ghetto, as a touching tribute to their late band members brought a rare moment of respectful quiet before the party started again.

It was a party that Joy, out on her hen night, is unlikely to forget. Invited on stage to sing along to their encore, she looked utterly gobsmacked throughout, in an evening that was a joy to behold for everyone. In an age of tribute acts, Chris and Dave proved that sometimes there is no simply substitute for the real thing.