Review of Craig Charles and support (Scooty and the Skyhooks and The Leonard Jones Potential) at the Ironworks,Inverness 3/12/2011

INVERNESS was Xmas Soul City on Saturday night as The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show set Ironworks on fire. Backed by a selection of local boogie generators, the diminutive BBC 6 DJ served up a melting pot of funky stew. Its memory will stay warm through the winter months.

Live bands Scooty and the Skyhooks and The Leonard Jones Potential fires the crowd up to near-boiling point before the hyperactive Craig Charles vaporises the dance floor with a set of heavy funk, soul, dance and reggae.

Ironworks is packed with groove riders of all ages from the moment the first horns are blown and strings hit the low end. Good time people there to shake their tail feathers to good time music. Good vibrations all night long.

Scooty and the Skyhooks – think of The Commitments on speed – open with a non-stop set. They fire off covers by the greats: Wilson Pickett, Otis Reading, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Al Green…Scooty has everyone’s hands in the air during a performance that sets a scorching tempo for the evening.

“Do you like good music
That sweet soul music
Just as long as it’s swingin’
Oh yeah, oh yeah.”

The journey to funk and soulsville has begun.

A beanie-hatted Craig Charles briefly takes the stage to introduce his protégées, the house band, encouraging his audience to “Tear the roof off for The Leonard Jones Potential!”

Singer Michelle Davidson makes the call: the response from her group and their fans is hot stuff. LJP’s tight rhythm section with hyperactive keyboard player, Captain Keys, complements the flaming haired soulstress in the black and white go-go dress. Aficionados in the crowd appreciate LJP’s original material that references the late sixties and early seventies with handclaps, horns and bass lines. The crowd also digs Davidson’s “our brilliant year” speech before waga-waga guitar, groovy bass-line and Stevie Wonder-esque keyboard solo finish an authentic set from Inverness’s modern funk collective.

Blistering live bands are normally hard acts to follow particularly by a guy just playing records. But Craig Charles is not your average DJ. This guy is not even your average human being…

A now fully dreadlocked Charles bounds onstage mixing the tribal percussion of ‘It Began in Africa’ with Guns n Roses ‘Welcome to the Jungle.’

“Do you like funk and soul music? Well, get on this!” Charles quips. Headphones fly off as he pogoes around behind the decks.

Charles’ considerable onstage presence and enthusiasm for the exceptional music he plays are infectious. Running with the crowd, the Scouser selects rare groove after rare groove from his trunk of funk and the crowd whips in to dance frenzy. He busts out remixes of popular tracks including a funked-up version of Rage Against the Machines “Killing in the Name”, a reggae cut of The White Stripe’s “Seven Nation Army” and a dub-style “Insane in the Membrane” by Cypress Hill. Charles keeps his party in a box rocking to create a Jamaican dance hall vibe. He intersperses classics from Tom Jones, The Temptations and Stevie Wonder with Dr Dre and Blueboy. This hyperactive player is clearly enjoying himself as much as every other funker in an Ironworks at melting point.

The bass and drums heavy set – plus plenty of horns – is a funkathon too far past the midnight hour for some. However, Craig Charles is still bouncing with the hardcore at the end. He promises: “I love Inverness. I’m always gonna come up here.”

After a jungle boogie heat wave that will smoulder through the winter and beyond.

By Garry McCartney

(A recent interview with Craig is here)