I’ve always wanted to be able to tap-dance, but with one condition – that it requires no hard work on my part to become really skilled. With this an unlikely pipedream it was worth seeing Fringe veteran Melvin Brown perform this old-fashioned, but very entertaining art live, along with music, comedy and a history lesson. While it only further crushed my dream of tap-dancing fame, it did feature three of my favourite things – Tap-dancing, rhythm & blues, and bow ties (bow ties are cool).
The first half of the show is Brown’s life told through the songs he loved of the 50’s and 60’s. He performs snippets from so many classic rhythm & blues and soul songs, and while you want Brown to perform all of these songs in full you also couldn’t choose any ones to leave out. We hear Johhny B Goode, Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher and My Girl, and with each song comes a happy murmur from the middle-aged audience, as if they’re remembering an old friend.
The second half starts with Melvin Brown dressed as James Brown, but he soon moves his life-story from the mid-sixties to the nineties, and the huge jump threatens to derail the show. The second half is a bit muddled, with a whole range of performance styles mixed together. The audience seemed happier hearing the songs of their youth along with the fascinating story of growing up as a black man during the racially-charged 50’s and 60’s, but luckily Brown pulls it all together with a classic cover (which I’m not going to spoil) to bring the night to a close.
Brown’s voice was too big to be enclosed inside a little café on Hindley Street, and while the five-piece band was great, he deserved something on a much grander scale. The venue also made watching his graceful feet tricky, with the view of his fast-paced white shoes blocked by the people in front of you. Hearing Melvin Brown in a church or giant hall, with a full horn section and backing singers could not just blow your mind but the minds of everyone you’ve ever met. So go and see Movin’ Melvin Brown, and hopefully next time he’ll come back with something altogether bigger.