Martha Reeves and the Vandellas at the Dakota Jazz Club 1/11/12
January 11, 2012
Dakota Jazz Club
As we pulled up for another night of amazing music at the Dakota Jazz Club the cab in front of us came to an abrupt stop.
"Wow! that's Martha!" I said to my date for the night, as she and a guy in a suit carrying boxes of CD's jumped out and into the club, escaping the cold, harsh winter night.
Shortly after the lights went down in the club for the first set, the announcer introduced the band and as the opening grooves started rolling, there she was again, the legendary Ms. Martha Reeves. This time she was in a gorgeous dress and with her two back up singing sisters, The Vandellas, busting right into Van Morrison's "Wild Nights".
As her sharp and syrupy voice carried with a fierce yet loving spirit, we knew we were in for a real treat, and it quickly set the tone for the evening as the great Motown Legend indeed had finally arrived.
"I'm a bit out of breath because I just got here." she said shaking off whatever nerves she had after rushing right into the show.
"We came all the way from Detroit tonight to make love to you with music." she said with a coy grin as the band broke into the opening melodies of "Come Get these Memories." The audience was ready to go from the beginning, and clapped along while finding their own groove as her now warmed up unforgettable soulful voice found it's home on the Dakota stage. Working the room like a true professional, Martha Reeves not only managed to captivate the crowd but got good portions of the typically sedate Minnesota audience up on their feet through hit after hit.
Aside from the celebration of this fantastic music, the theme of the night was indeed "Love". As is often the theme in Motown songs and the neverending list of hits from the classic Holland-Dozier-Holland catalog which helped give Ms. Reeves her lifelong success.
"Bring the lights down to sexy for me for a bit here." she commanded, before delivering an unforgettably rich rendition of "Love (Make Me do Foolish Things)," showing off her gospel chops and knack for heartbreaking melodies that only Martha Reeves can render. "If you're dancing with a fella, ladies, you might get dipped during this one. I know it may have been a while since some y'all gotten dipped," she joked.
The band, (made up of half Detroit players and half hired guns for the week from the Twin Cities, which included the famed Hornheads) treated the material with precision, giving the songs their proper respect as the audience couldn't get enough. For music that is now standard Americana, it wasn't lost on anyone that this was a rare chance in a lifetime to see such a famed performer and legend in such an intimate setting.
"I just turned 70 and you're telling me he's still never coming back?!" the never mic shy Ms. Reeves pleaded during a soulful version of "Jimmy Mack."
Martha thanked all of the "DJ's that ever played this song from the bottom of my heart," as things became extra charged when the opening of "(Love Is Like a) Heatwave" chimed in. With the band carrying the groove and even the oldest in the crowd up on their feet dancing, Ms. Reeves asked everyone, "How's your love life? Is it hot, hot, hot?!"
Heating up the room all night for the what would ultimately be her trademark anthem, Martha Reeves thanked everyone in the crowd for coming with an extended "Dancing in the Street" that at times coalesced into other old school jams including Rufus Thomas' "Funky Chicken" and knocking everyone out with James Brown's "I Got that Feeling," making for truly one of the best shows this audience has ever witnessed.
After the set, Martha Reeves stepped out into the crowd with her crew, this time in a bathrobe, meeting fans and thanking everyone for coming before they would do it all again for the second set of the night.
I've said it before, but it's worth repeating, as much as there is great new music everyday and all over the world one should never sleep on living legends. Take advantage of the chances of a lifetime like the one Martha Reeves and the Vandellas provided last night and again for two sets tonight at the Dakota. You will not be disappointed, and your life will be changed forever.
Martha Reeves and the Vandellas play 2 sets again tonight at the Dakota Jazz Club, 7pm and 9pm. 612-332-1010
Critic's Bias: Having never seen anyone from the Motown era perform before, I was giddy for the opportunity to hear these treasured songs live from such a stellar performer.
The Crowd: Booming Grannies who never sat down, showing the ability of great old school music to warm the heart and souls of its listeners and to make them move and groove.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Where's Jimmy Mack? I think I just saw him in the can!"
Random Notebook Dump: Holy moly! One the best singers I'd seen in a long time, if not ever.
Come and Get these Memories
Nowhere to Run
Love(Makes Me Do Foolish Things)
Watch Your Back
(Love is like a) Heatwave
My Baby Loves Me
Dancing in the Street