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(Posted March 23, 2018)

O-Town goes Motown
at the Shenkman Arts Centre

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Las Vegas tribute artist Grady Harrell headlined the Motown Soul show at the Shenkman Arts Centre on March 22 with The Tonettes. Fred Sherwin/Photo

If you love the sweet soulful sounds of Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Marvin Gaye, or the in-your-face soul of Jackie Wilson, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin then the Shenkman Arts Centre was the place to be Thursday night.

Paquette Productions brought their Motown Soul show to Orléans, aka O-Town, featuring all three members of The Tonettes and Las Vegas tribute artist Grady Harrell

The Tonettes, who maybe best known as the women who provide backing vocals for Elvis tribute artist Pete Paquette, are Cathy Borges, Marlene O'Neil, and Amoy Levy.

Individually, they each have extremely powerful voices with repretoires that run as deep as the Ottawa River, together they are an absolute force of nature. Throw in the energetic shomanship and chops of Las Vegas tribute artist Grady Harrell who played Jackie Wilson in mini-series "The Jacksons: An American Dream", and you have all the makings of one magical night.

The Tonettes kicked the evening off with four songs made famous by Diana Ross and the Supremes - Ain't No Mountain High Enough,You Keep Me Hangin' On, Baby Love. and Stop In The Name of Love. They followed that with a trio of Gladys Knight and the Pips songs including Midnight Train to Georgia and I Heard It Through the Grapevine. The latter served as an intro for Harrell who started singing the Marvin Gaye version.

Harrell slipped on to the stage in a gold-sequined jacket that was almost blinding depending on the angle ot the spot lights. After Grapevine, Harrell burst into Jackie Wilson's (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher like a ball of fire. He moved across the stage in the same style as Wilson who was given the nickname "Mr. Excitement", raising the energy level in the Harold Shenkman Hall up a couple of notches.

After he caught his breath, Harrell stuck with Wilson, singing Lonely Tear Drops before tackling Sam Cooke's Bring It On Home to Me. He closed out the first appearance on stage with a set of songs made famous by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and the Temptations that included Get Ready, Ain't Too Proud To Beg, My Girl, and Sugar Pie Honey Bunch.

Grady Harrell performs on stage with The Tonettes at the Shenkman Arts Centre. Fred Sherwin/Photo

Following the high-paced set, the audience was allowed to catch their breath while Levoy performed Etta James' At Last. Afterwards she was rejoined on stage by the other Tonettes for Da Doo Ron Ron by The Crystals.

After a quick costume change Harrell also came on stage and the four singers closed out the first half of the show with Blame It On the Boogie by The Jacksons and A Change Is Going To Come by Sam Cooke.

After s brief intermission, The Tonettes opened the second set with Mary Wells' My Guy, Betty Everett's It's In His Kiss, The Marvalettes' Mr. Postman, and The Shirelles Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.

After the latter, The Tonettes left the stage to make way for Harrell who broke into his James Brown persona for It's A Man's World, Poppa's Got A Brand New Bag, and I Feel Good. The former was one of the highlight's of the night.

After the James Brown set, it was The Tonettes turn to once again take the satge. They opened with Etta James' I'd Rather Go Blind followed by a series of songs by Aretha Franklin that included Natural Woman, Think and Respect.

Harrell then rejoined the girls in stage for the Marvin Gaye classic What's Going On followed by an energetic version of Do You Love Me by The Contours which left the audience cheering for more.

For an encore Harrell and The Tonettes decided to sing a reprisal of Ain't No Mountain High Enough.

All in all, the show was a highly entertaining two hours of hit after hit after hit. It was nice to see the Tonettes finally bring a show of their own to Orléans and Grady Harrell lived up to his billing as a master showman.

If you missed the concert, The Tonettes will return to the Shenkman as part of a Legends show on June 13 with Buddy Holly tribute artist Zachary Stevenson, Elvis tribute artist Dean Z and Pete Paquette who will be performing a set of hit songs from the 50s and 60s. For more informartion or to purchase tickets visit www.paquetteproductions.com/shows

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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