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Brave comeback king of soul gets his groove on...

The man in the glitter shirt doesn't mess about. Shuffling on stage with the help of a bloke who's dressed like a chauffeur, you half expect Bobby Womack to ease us in gently. But he's already into Across 110th Street. And it looks like we should join him.

It's not how things usually work, but the setlist tonight is impeccable. Hit 'em with the old, try out the new, and play whatever they request – it's how this charming soul maverick chooses to work. Nobody's arguing.

Besides, we've been waiting too long for this. The Los Angeles resident has fought off cancer, overcome heart failure and knocked a debilitating drug habit on the head to get to this point. It was cruel irony that the blow to his health would arrive at a time when the creative juices once again began to flow.

A critically acclaimed new album (the Damon Albarn-produced The Bravest Man in the Universe) suggests Womack has rediscovered his groove. Good thing his favourite instrument has held up, too, Womack just about hitting the highs and sailing the lows of a smooth, soul-drenched vocal that continues to excite.

As it turns out, the critics weren't the only ones listening to the new material – Deep River, especially, goes down well this evening.

A generous showman, surrounded by family (his daughter is on backing vocals) and at least a dozen talented friends, Womack also trades in gospel (Jesus gets a few mentions), folk (California Dreamin') and pop, as a brass quartet add their own ingredients to the mix.

He's a funny guy, searching the room for the lonely and the beautiful, before urging us to get out of our seats. He's still Lookin' for a Love, too ("I didn't know I'd be looking this long ... ").

It's a fun, sweetly executed soul package. At 69, Womack might not be able to move like he used to, but his is a set of skills that will take some beating.

Occasionally, he'll sit on a stool and serenade us. There are a handful of moments where he seems to forget his placing (Womack announced this year that he had Alzheimer's disease – a statement he later retracted). But this guy still has a lot to give.

Finally acknowledging that fabulous garment of his, he looks out from behind his shades and grins.

"This shirt was made for me," he proclaims. So was the stage. HHHHI


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