PP Arnold and Steve Craddock. Middlesborough Town Hall. 2.10.19

A singer defined by her soulful interpretations of broken hearts and crisis in faith, PP Arnold stands out as one of the greatest artists in the skill of communicating ruminations of love, loss and broken hearts.  Truth be told, and as with all of the soul greats, PP’s strength is the courage she has to sing about the feelings most of us try to avoid even thinking about.

Standing on the eve of her 73rd birthday, what tonight possibly displays more than anything else is what we take for granted with soul artists; that age proves a help rather than a hinderance. Where perhaps PP once might have sung imagining how a broken heart felt, or the pain which is locked inside of deep regrets, now her voice benefits from the reality of having had these experiences. You can’t sing soul as well as PP without knowing what it feels like to lose something precious or having had your heart broken. Real soul comes from real pain; and it can be devastating to listen to.

Out on tour with a new album PP let’s us back into her life by letting her songs tell her story. And what monumental songs and stories they are. Orchestrated by Steve Craddock, most probably, the greatest British guitarist of the past 20 years, PP’s sound and songs sore high in a style mixing Motown, Northern Soul and acoustic pop; a sound that makes her band deserve a standing ovation themselves tonight in a combination as powerful as a live session with Phil Spector and The Wrecking Crew. Yet even this band can’t upstage PP’s voice which sings as if it was the last time it would ever sing these songs.

Bringing most of the audience to tears this is a masterclass by an artist, and a band, being just about as good as it can get. It almost feels guilty to take such joy from someone else’s pain.

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