Geno Washington

Maëlle Guéroult is swept away by a soul legend

'After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music,' said the English writer Aldous Huxley. Soul music in particular is able to offer this intensity of feeling. Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band understand this intrinsically.

After one week of excellent concerts, the Custom House Square Marquee welcomed these kings of soul music.

Although he was born in the United States, Geno Washington is English at heart. Stationed in the UK with the US Air Force Army in the early 1960s, he decided to stay after meeting the members of the British Ram Jam Band. Once the band had been established, they hit the UK charts in 1966-67 and became live legends on the rock circuit.

Most of their albums were recorded live, and after seeing them in concert, it is easy to understand why.

After a soul DJ set, the Ram Jam saxophones, drum, guitar and bass guitar players start the eveningRam Jam Band with two famous and funky pieces of music. The high levels of energy are infectious enough to make a couple hit the dance floor early on, and the tone of the night is set.

Washington arrives on the stage lights the fire immediately. He gets what he asks for: full audience participation. When it comes to repeating the famous melodies, the spectators show more than the usual willingness to repeat after him.

'Are you having a good time?', he asks, very glad to be on the stage in Belfast. 'I have had to wait thirty years before being invited here,' he jokes.

The singer continues the night by reclaiming famous and popular songs of the 1960s. The Blues Brothers' 'Everybody Needs Somebody to Love', James Brown's 'I Feel Good' and even Van Morrison's 'Gloria'. They also include tracks from Otis Redding and The Rolling Stones.

To this mix, Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band add their sensibility, their funk and groove as well as exceptional showmanship and high quality improvisation.

Nevertheless, after only an hour and fifteen minutes, they finish their performance. Could we be more disappointed? Was it the festival’s decision? Or the choice of the musicians?

Whatever the politics, the audience wanted the show to go on. All night long maybe. Can we ever really get enough of soul, blues and funk music?

Almost 40 years after his Belfast debut and at the age of 60, Geno Washington is still the same good old guy. 'Thank you for keeping me alive,' he says.