A cracking line up of some of Sheffield’s finest musicians, in fact without fear of contradiction in Steve Papa Edwards we are blessed with one of the best vocalists in the UK. The Backroom is packed to the rafters and we get in early to grab a seat closely followed by Jon McClure’s Mum and Dad, The Reverends Makers. It’s obvious most have come to see the amazing Mr Edwards and as a result many chatter whilst Sarah Mac plays the opening set. There is a debate about whether it’s ignorant to talk loudly when an act is performing or if because they have paid to attend they are within their rights to ignore the opener. I am very much of the school it is ignorant and many of those around me agreed as it was a struggle hear Sarah at first but she persevered and performed a top quality set and won quite a few more fans as a result.
Mac has her own style of patter, a very natural young lady with a Yorkshire accent and definitely no airs and graces, but she possesses a towering singing voice that rises above the din as she opens with One More Kiss. A newie Pull gets an early airing and shows off her talent on the keyboards. She also shows a more refined seductive side to her vocals on the wonderful A Little Advice and has all but silenced the noisy element when she delivers my favourite Everyone Knows before the intimate new song Fire closes a first class set.
Next up the charismatic Ian Britt, the word zany was made for Ian but it doesn’t disguise the fact he is an exceptional lyricist and he delivers his vocals so emotively on the likes of Back Home that the cheers soon ring out. Never one to suffer fools he invites the audience to ‘feel free to face the front’ then launches into Run Lola Run where he also shows his prowess on guitar. Hard to pick a highlight but Heartless Man takes some beating and closer Dedicate is a cracker too. Mr Britt has set a very high standard of performance over the last few years and tonight is another to add to that list.
The main event, Steve Edwards and his backing band of 6 top quality musos step up to the oche for the first time since Tramlines 11 and from the off its obvious they are on top form. Steve calls his music alternative soul and it is an accurate tag as his wondrous voice takes the audience to places others can only dream of. It’s also an exercise in peace and love which sounds naff but coming from a man as genuine as Steve Edwards, it gives his audience a warm feeling. Songs like Pure Gold, with lyrics ‘ thanking for loving me…your love it shines like gold’ get the ball rolling and the audience are now 100% focussed front and centre on the massive presence of Papa Edwards. Far from naïve, before performing Beautiful People, Steve asks ‘if we are all beautiful people, where is our beautiful life?’
After many years of international hits with top dance DJ’s Steve releases what will amazingly be a debut album, Northern Black very soon, and the title track is a showstopper. About the hard times his parents went through raising the boys Steve bares his feelings singing ‘I’m full of pride at who I am, don’t be ashamed of where youre at, Northern Black’. The inevitable encore has the big man joking ‘I hope we passed the audition’ which get a rousing cheer in affirmation. We are then treated to Perfect Place, to a bouncing ska beat, decrying the loss of community in search of a better postcode with breathtaking vocals.
It’s very rare I’m speechless but I honestly can’t find the words that do Steve Papa Edwards and the Big Strong Love justice, without exaggeration it was a world class performance from a man Sheffield should be honoured to call their own.