ALTHOUGH now in her mid-70s, Madeline Bell still puts most live performers to shame.
Witty, self-deprecating and humble, Bell is a mighty presence on stage and her voice – husky and soulful – has lost none of its panache from the late 1960s and 1970s when she fronted band Blue Mink and had success with a string of hits including Melting Pot, Banner Man, Randy and Good Morning Freedom.
Quite simply, she is a tour de force. Whatever health kick Bell is on, I want some of it. Young at heart.
Appearing at a packed 606 Jazz Club in London’s Chelsea (Sunday, October 28), Bell was in pulsating form as she sang a mix of her own hits and interpretations of songs from Amy Winehouse, George Harrison, Stevie Wonder, Jerry Lee Lewis (incidentally, she was not a fan of his), the Righteous Brothers, Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin.
Even Abba got a look in with Money, Money, Money (I prefer the funky Bell version). Completing her set was music from Tina Turner (River Deep, Mountain High), Peggy Lee (Fever) and Paul McCartney (Blackbird). Not a dud among them.
Marvellously supported by Dave Arch (musical director of Strictly Come Dancing) on piano and electronic keyboard, Paul Dunne on rhythm guitar and Trevor Barry on bass guitar (both also part of the Strictly musical set up), Bell never let up as she powered through her set.
One moment, she would remind the audience of past glories (an upbeat and rumbustious Good Morning Freedom). The next, she would be sending chills down spines with a sensitive homage to the late great Aretha Franklin (You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman). Goose pimples were also the order of the night as she sang a haunting version of Amy Winehouse’s Rehab.
Bell paid homage to Stevie Wonder (Overjoyed and I Wish) and Nina Simone (My Baby Just Cares For Me). She was also joined on stage twice by Tommy Blaize (lead singer of the Strictly Come Dancing band) whereupon they proceeded to belt out four numbers – Blue Mink’s Melting Pot, Dreams Come True (on Bell’s album Madeline), You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling (sensational) and I Wish. Perfect chemistry.
Dunne excelled on Harrison’s Something as did Arch on Lewis’s Great Balls Of Fire and Barry on Lee’s Fever.
A night to marvel at a musical genius. They don’t make them like Bell any more.