20 odd years ago, a film was released. That film was ‘The Commitments’. It was gritty, honest and most importantly, full of soul. The film thrust Andrew Strong into the spotlight. His voice was raw and his acting was equally astounding, the role of Deco, seemed like it was written with only him in mind.
Flash forward to modern day and Strong has not lost one bit of his soulful voice or his charisma. Tonight’s venue is the sit down showroom at Twin Towns Services Club, but it takes no time at all for everyone to get out of their seats and start dancing along with the music. The mix of generations here tonight is very wide. It’s obvious that Strong has turned a lot of people on to soul music over the years and with a voice like his, the delivery is always perfect.
Strong’s voice surrounds you entirely. Your inhibitions fly out the window and you find yourself suddenly dancing in your seat, unable to control your movements. Every song you wanted to hear off The Commitments soundtrack has made this setlist more than hefty. Delivering everything from ‘Grits and Groceries’ right through to the iconic ‘Mustang Sally’, Strong has the audience completely mesmerised. Encouraging the crowd to get up on their feet as ‘we’re at a rock show’, he never falters in his delivery of an epic performance.
As he starts on ‘The Dark End of the Street’, the haunting trumpet that intros the track is met with nothing but silence. The song perfectly fits in with the setlist, slow and beautiful to counter the raw, ‘balls to the wall’ soul that has had us jiving all night long. Talking to the crowd, Strong fills us in on everything from his love of Australia through to his memories of working on the film all those years ago. With such an iconic cult film under his belt, his career has seen him travel the world and the Australian audiences always come out in droves to witness his voice in full form.
Strong’s backup singer is his sister Niamh and man, has this girl got a set of pipes. Taking vocal duties for a couple of songs including ‘I Can’t Stand the Rain’, Niamh’s turn at the front proved the talent in this family is immense. Hitting every single note with ferocity and soul driven power, it would be very simple for Niamh to have her own stage and deliver a stand out performance. Providing more than ample backup vocals, both vocalists perfectly compliment one another.
Diving into the Wilson Pickett classic ‘Land of 1,000 Dances’, Strong precedes the song by regaling us with a story of when he was privileged enough to work with Pickett and it seems to make the song just that little bit more intimate. Every person in the auditorium gets up and dances along to the track, mirroring the iconic chorus that gets stuck in your head for days at a time. It’s pure bliss hearing such a powerful song live, and hearing the vocals delivered by Strong, makes it so much more memorable.
It’s been nothing short of a spectacular show tonight, one that I’m sure is going to stick in the memory banks for quite some time. As we disembark the showroom, the chatter is non existent as everyone is still humming or singing the tunes they just heard. When Strong returns, we will always welcome him back with open arms.