Vancouver Symphomy Orchestra Pops: The Music of Motown!

Dates and Venue 22 and 23 February 2008, 8pm | Orpheum Theatre

Conductor Jeff Tyzik Featured Artists Spectrum vocal quartet

Reviewer John Jane

It seems that what happens in Vegas no longer stays in Vegas. The gambling Mecca based vocal quartet, Spectrum joined forces with the Grammy award-winning Vancouver Symphony Orchestra led by Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik in a salute to The Music of Motown.

The Motown sound took its name from the Motown Record Corporation and as its name suggests was founded in the motor city of Detroit by Berry Gordy Jr in the early sixties. Motown is now considered to have played a paramount role in integrating original music by many African-American artists who achieved crossover success.

Spectrum leader and founder Cushney Roberts, Darryl Grant, Pierre Jovan, David Prescott along with pianist and arranger Tex Richardson, guitarist James Davis and bassist Walter Jones brought their highly polished Las Vegas showmanship to the Orpheum Theatre and provided a nostalgic journey back to the epoch of classic Motown.

The group showcases four singers with the capacity to be solo artists in their own right with each sharing the responsibility of lead vocals. Together they personify the fastidious grooming, stylish clothes and precise choreography that we associated with Motown's early hit-makers like Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and the Temptations.

In a concert that unashamedly celebrates Motown, it was only fitting that the first couple of selections were written by the genre’s first gold record recipient, Smokey Robinson who eventually became the Corporate vice-president. "Get Ready" and "The Way You Do the Things You Do" gave way to a program featuring a variety of Motown and R&B favourites, including "My Girl," "Under the Boardwalk," and the oldest song in Spectrum’s repertoire, Carol King’s "Up on the Roof."

Spectrum spares no effort to meticulously recreate the sentiment and essence of original versions, so there is little that is progressive in their own performances. Unconventional or radical interpretation was essentially left to Maestro Tyzik, who moved outside the show’s central theme with his own bold arrangement of a medley of instrumental gems from the 60s and 70s that included "Watermelon Man," "The Hustle" and Chuck Mangione’s "Feels so Good."

Maestro Tyzik and the VSO also featured prominently on, what was for me, the concert highlight – the thickly atmospheric James Brown classic, "It’s a Man’s World," that worked surprisingly well with a symphonic arrangement.

It took a long time, but the guys of Spectrum finally managed to get the mostly “Baby-boomer” Vancouver audience up on their feet, clapping and waving their arms to the seductive rhythm of "Soul Man."

This was hardly the typical VSO concert, but it was a lot of fun and certainly entertaining in an evening that provided music that could be justifiably described as the soundtrack of a generation.

© 2008 John Jane