First up was Jimmy James who proceeded to let rip with a fantastic set of some of his most famous numbers including I'll Go Where Your Music Takes Me, Now Is The Time and (the Neil Diamond-penned) Red, Red Wine - first time I haven't thought of that song as Red Red Whine. He really got things off to a fantastic start and I think his voice has even improved with age.
My first thought upon seeing P.P. Arnold come on stage was, "My goodness! She's aged really well!" as she only looked about 25. As it turned out, that wasn't actually P.P., but one of her backing singers, who is also her niece (the other backing singer was her nephew). P.P. herself followed immediately afterwards and proved to be remarkably well preserved anyway. She then launched into some of her own greatest hits including Angel Of The Morning, First Cut Is The Deepest and (If You Think You're) Groovy. The latter was accompanied by some hilarious hand choreography from the backing singers. Picture someone flanked by two horses simultaneously fondling them with jazz hands whilst on high seas and you'll be in the right area! Unintentional comedy dancing aside, this was another dazzling and highly polished performance from another legend of the genre.
Last and definitely not least was the man himself. Mr Washington bounded onstage to the opening bars of the famous Dexys Midnight Runners tribute. As Come On Eileen faded away, he launched straight into his high-energy, crowd-involving patter. Or did he just start with a song? I don't know - I wasn't taking notes. What do you want - blood?!! What I do know after seeing him for the first time is that not only is he rightly revered as a musical great and a consummate live performer, he's a bloody funny bugger as well. His comic timing is better than that of many comedians I've seen and I missed half of what he said because I was laughing so much.
It's not often I've seen a Tunbridge Wells audience dancing in the aisles, but that's exactly what happened as Geno's set drew to a close and JJ and PP joined him for a couple of songs in the encore. During this we learnt that PP Arnold's name is actually Pat, and that watching three northern soul luminaries sharing a stage is a rare privilege. The tour continues throughout the UK until the end of February. Do try to catch them if you can. (Go to Geno Washington's website for a full list of dates.)
Here, in order of appearance, are Jimmy James, P.P. Arnold and Geno Washington - three of a kind.
Jimmy James & the Vagabonds - Hey Girl mp3 (available for 7 days)
PP Arnold - Everything's Gonna Be Alright mp3 (available for 7 days)
Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band - Michael (The Lover) mp3 (available for 7 days)
Geno Washington | P.P. Arnold | Jimmy James video on Youtube