By Brian Wise.
Meeniyan Town Hall, Saturday May 19, 2018
It would be difficult to find a happier singer than PP Arnold on any stage anywhere in Australia this month. Renowned for her talents as an Ikette behind Tina Turner and as a backing vocalist for many high profile acts – including the Small Faces, Rod Stewart, Peter Gabriel, Roger Waters and others – Arnold finally had the chance to stand front and centre in her own show and she grabbed the opportunity with both hands. And what better place to get close to Arnold than in this most intimate of venues with an always-enthusiastic audience.
The release of Arnold’s long-lost album The Turning Tide, with tracks produced by Barry Gibb and also Eric Clapton, was the impetus for the current tour. The fact that her backing band contained three members of You Am I, a band known for their devotion to the Small Faces/Faces era, was a perfect match. (The ensemble also included Talei Wolfgramm on vocals and RockWiz maestro James Black on keyboards).
In any other circumstances Tim Rogers on lead guitar might have threatened to steal the show but here he stood for most of the show in awe as Arnold took the audience on a nostalgic trip that included more than its fair share of classics. Maybe the band was a little too loud at times but there were certainly enough instruments to flesh out the music.
Not long into what was a thoroughly entertaining show you began to wonder why Arnold’s solo career was sidelined and how impresario Robert Stigwood (manager of Gibb and Clapton) contrived to stop the release of The Turning Tide way back in 1968.
It is a history that well might have been re-written, as the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, which featured some of Arnold’s friends, pointed out a few years ago. As it is, the history that we do have is a fascinating tale and Arnold took us through that story in her near 20-song set. The veteran singer might be 71 years of age now but her voice is still in fine shape and you could often hear how it must have been an absolutely vital component in many of the songs she recorded for other musicians.
Starting with ‘Whatcha Gonna Do’, an Ikettes song, Arnold’s story unfolded with all her memories embellishing the performance. We were told how she became an Ikette at just 17, how Ike Turner gave her a hard time (‘Not in that way!’ she laughed), how Mick Jagger asked her to go ‘for a walk in the park’ and how she was close to Small Faces’ lead singer Stevie Marriott.
‘River Deep, Mountain High,’ Arnold’s tribute to Tina Turner appropriately followed the opener as Arnold’s career was profiled in well-known songs such as The Bee Gees ‘To Love Somebody,’ The Beach Boys ‘God Only Knows,’ and Mike Nesmith’s ‘Different Drum’ (which Arnold credited to The Monkees but which reminded me of Linda Rondstadt’s classic version and also that Vika & Linda do a great rendition that they should record). Arnold also graciously gave Talei Wolfgramm a chance to take the lead on ‘Give A hand Take A Hand.’
There were five songs from The Turning Tide, including Steve Winwood’s ‘Medicated Goo’ and The Stones’ ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want,’ that closed the main part of the show with an energetic audience sing-along. However, the standouts were ‘First Cut Is The Deepest,’ which really fired up the show about half way through and a really powerful ‘Tin Soldier’ as the encore closed the evening to an audience that loved every minute and savoured the chance to see and hear a legendary singer finally get the chance to take the spotlight.
Arnold has a new album coming out later this year. Let’s hope that gives is the chance to see her here again.