Motown Soul

By Clarissa Gonzalez

Wednesday 15 November 2023

A night of soulful magic was brought to the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans on the 15th of November 2023. The venue promised a show that was going to transport attendees back to the golden era of soul music.

The sold-out theatre was lit with warm and dim light, creating an intimate and inviting atmosphere. As the crowd settled into their seats, excitement filled the air. The stage was set, and everyone was ready to take a journey through the soulful sounds of Motown.

At exactly 7:00 pm, the band entered the stage. Soon after the Tonettes, Cathy Borges and Marlene O’Neill with a special guest Selena Evangeline, joined the band and opened the show with a medley of all of the biggest hits from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. They blended each song skillfully and established a relaxed but impactful stage presence.

Cathy then gave the audience a quick history lesson on Motown and how the record label came to be. The trio of powerful and passionate singers interacted comfortably with each other on stage. They told some jokes here and there, which made sure to maintain a lighthearted and joyful atmosphere.

The performers on stage were nothing short of sensational. The Tonettes voices resonated with the soulful richness represented by the Motown era. They moved on to sing songs from the famous Gladys Knight and The Pips, including beautiful renditions of “Neither One of Us” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.”

One of the standout moments of the show was when Grady Harrell came out. Coming all the way from Las Vegas, he gave an electrifying performance. He sang songs from The Temptations, The Jacksons, Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson, and James Brown. He had on a glamorous, shimmering ensemble and danced like nobody was watching. He exuded so much confidence on stage that it was almost inevitable that you would fall in love with him. In the middle of his performance, he came down from the stage to interact directly with the audience. He shook as many hands as he could and even took selfies with audience members.

The Tonettes returned to the stage and gave the ‘Queen of Soul’, Aretha Franklin, her flowers. They included a few acapella gospel songs to highlight Aretha’s start in music and how it mirrors the Tonettes own experience. The crowd sang along happily to “Let It Shine.” Of course, they performed “Natural Woman” and “Respect,” which the crowd loved.

Grady joined The Tonettes, and they sang the most iconic Marvin Gaye songs. At this point, the crowd was up on their feet dancing and singing along.

They closed the show with more of the biggest hits from the Motown era. A memorable moment was their rendition of “Blame It on the Boogie” by The Jacksons. The band, singers, and the audience were all having fun.

The Motown Soul show was a journey back in time. It was a celebration of music that transcended generations. The combination of pure talent, timeless classics, and the lively audience created an atmosphere of bliss and nostalgia. It is a must-see when they are back in Ottawa.

Clarissa Gonzalez

Clarisa Gonzalez is an international student at Carleton University from Gaborone, Botswana. She is in her second year pursuing a double major in Journalism and Communication and Media Studies. Clarisa discovered her love for writing in high school when she joined the Journalism club. She is introverted and shy but through writing, she has been able to express herself. She strives to challenge herself and write about topics that go outside of her comfort zone. Outside of university, she is passionate about singing and songwriting. She hopes to one day release her own music and work in the creative industry. All things music, fashion, art, and culture interest.