Remote, cavernous places have always attracted soul-searchers and Cardiff’s The Globe is no exception. Established in a residential area in 2009 for the purpose of paying tribute to the music of the past (often quite literally), The Globe is a gentrified grotto for grown-ups. In an apparent effort to thwart the constant threat of noise complaints (which led to the closure of similar venue The Point early 2009), it appears that The Globe has both re-branded and re-plastered in recent years. It now paradoxically boasts a space-age, Jetson’s-style exterior but a roughcast-walled interior which is as soundproof as it is Flintstones. Nonetheless, this identity crisis matters little when you are able to book the likes of Geordie movers and shakers on the soul scene, Smoove & Turrell. Soul-searchers will surely flock to see such acts, wherever they are located.
Upon entry, this does indeed prove to be the case. Gaining a new-found respect for the determination of cave-dwellers and soul-searchers alike, I immediately realise that this place is fucking freezing. Not in a metaphorical sense – it’s too cold for metaphors here. Apparently there’s just no heating. In the toilet, middle-aged men in trilby’s gather around the urinal trough, warming their hands over the remnant steam of hot piss. The less innovative remember why support acts used to be called warm-up acts, gathering around the stage. Cardiff’s Kookamunga are a young soul band which I should like more than I do. Most of the songs they play are on my Spotify playlist, including Aretha Franklin’s ‘Rocksteady’ and a northern-soul cover of Duffy’s ‘Mercy’, which is suspiciously like The Third Degree’s own. Nonetheless, their predictable but for the most part well-executed set does the trick – getting the coldest and most dedicated soulsters in the mood and others at least defrosted.
Understandably, a lot more can be said for the more seasoned headliners. With a band which is half the size of their support, Smoove & Turrell nevertheless ignite the room with openers such as ‘You Don’t Know’, from their debut album Antique Soul (2009). Although an original song, it appears that everyone does indeed know, as fellow Geordies flock to the front of the stage, repeating every line of the song and accompanying it with ‘WHYAYE MAN!’ (they actually do that). At the beginning of the set, there are inter-song arguments between the band and a sound man apparently trying too hard to avoid another Noise Abatement Order for the venue. However, such technicalities hardly matter. Factors such as Turrell’s driving voice (The Youtube Comment section would swear he was black) and a drummer who moves like an acoustic chameleon between the complex and changing soul beats of the songs and set, are too powerful to be overcome by noise abatement. Perhaps even more importantly though, inter-song larks about the keyboardist’s haircut and Smoove’s maracas being filled with cocaine (FAO: the Police – that was a joke), give a personality to the band and remind the over-nostalgic that the emotional depth of soul has always been accompanied by a certain playfulness (see: Ray Charles). In the midst of this atmosphere, the irony of singing songs such as ‘Broke’ and ‘Beggarman’ escapes a crowd, who have each paid a £13 entry fee.
And yet, there is something about this grown-up Geordie mess-around which is oddly discomforting. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see adults playing on the monkeybars - but as long as kids do too. Cities like Cardiff and genres like soul certainly need venues like The Globe. Those searching for soul will surely find it here. But whether older genres can survive and develop in such spaces is another question. For no matter how original or musically-adept contemporary soul bands are, their (often financially) limited circulation in venues aimed at older, middle-class audiences and dedicated fans, seems to reduce them to the status of living fossils, bound to fade out despite thriving now. Searching for soul is one thing, reinventing it so that it survives for the future is another.