Thursday 30 June 2022

Junior Giscombe brings the groove to Monaco

Who would've thought that those of us who've qualified for a bus pass would be exchanging tips about music with generation-z-ers. The kids are now interested in artists from the 60s, 70s and 80s, since our music has been in the charts (Kate Bush), and our artists have played at Glastonbury (Paul McCartney and Diana Ross). In Monaco too Jeff Beck is opening Monte Carlo SBM's Summer Festival, 9 July.

Well, here's a tip for you, whether you're a millennial or a boomer or anything in between. Go and see Junior Giscombe, aka Junior of Mama Used to Say (1981) fame. Last weekend he was on stage for two nights only at Note Bleue, the intimate music venue that attracts respected artists to Monaco. It's recently been refurbished along with the other businesses in the Larvotto district and you can dine on the beach or have cocktails and snacks in the gig area. That's what the Man and I did on Saturday 25 June.

Our table is centre-front of stage, where a few square metres of space has been left clear in the expectation of dancing. I'm a bit worried that the noise level might affect my ageing hearing, but the Man, who knows about these things, declares the venue's acoustic design and sound system to be arguably the best in Monaco.

Junior looks nothing like I remember him. In the early 80s he had an afro and wore pleated-waist trousers. Now he's bearded and relaxed, wearing a brightly patterned shirt, white ripped-knee jeans and white trainers. The backing musicians, Echoes Of, are a Parisian band that started out doing covers of popular funk, soul and RnB hits. It's quite a squeeze getting them all on stage: keyboards, percussion, drums, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, sax and trumpet.

Audiences in Monaco generally speak English but we appreciate Junior's declaration that, "Tonight on va groover!". Continuing with the French theme the set begins with a couple of songs he says were his best known hits in the French music charts. As the second finishes an enthusiastic bloke at the back shouts, “You guys are tight!” He's not wrong.

Junior's speaking voice retains its South London accent and his vocal performance is as strong as ever, if a bit less falsetto. His play list is put together for dancing tho' and throughout he encourages us to get up. The more senior members of the audience have to limber up first with seated swaying and foot-tapping while a couple of girls who look young enough to be their grand-daughters take to the floor. Then everyone's on their feet. We boomers might be a bit out of practice but no-one cares. One woman holds an infant who's probably only just learned to say mama but has no trouble waving an arm along to the music. A chic chick bops along clutching a fluffy white pom-pom dog. The look on its little face seems to reflect what we're all thinking; "Blimey, this music's great!" Blokes too, some who must have been born within a couple of years of Junior himself, are reliving their disco days.

Get Up and Dance (1981) is one of the stand-out tracks of the evening with its funky guitar riffs expertly played. Not Tonight (1985) too, which features a fab sax solo. The last of the set is Do You Really (want my love) (1985), during which the drummer gets to do what drummers are born to do; a drum solo. This is no prog rock posturing tho'. It never strays from the funky groove required for dancing.

Of course everyone is waiting for Mama Used to Say, which is last but one of the set and also the encore. By now we're primed for a bit of audience participation. Junior gets us clapping and singing the words his mama told him. The band takes up the beat and infuses a 40-year-old UK top ten hit single with new life. Honestly, I'd forgotten what a great track this is, and for the past week it's been an ear-worm in my head every morning.

What a joyful evening! Junior is a real gentleman and was happy to exchange a few words with those of us who weren't in a rush to get home. It'd be great to see him in the charts again. Even better if he makes another trip to Monaco. On va groover encore!

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