Pretty much everybody who has listened to popular music over the last 50 years will know what Motown is and know at least one or two of the classic songs to come out of that record label, but they probably will not have heard of (unless at an earlier show) The Formations. Who are they?
Well, having seen the show tonight I now know the answer to that question. The Formations are one very talented and very tight vocal group that just happen tonight to be singing classics from the Motown back catalogue (the show is now in its 12th consecutive year). Although (reading from the show website) that original concept of "How Sweet It Is" was originally a tribute to The Four Tops, these guys are most definitely not a tribute act. Starting off tonight with The Temptations "Papa was A Rolling Stone" and finishing with Boyz II Men "The End of the Road", they covered in their own style classic numbers from all the other big Motown male acts such as The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and The Jackson 5. It was also nice to hear them put their interpretation on songs by Edwin Starr and Luther Van Dross.
As already mentioned, The Formations are a great vocal harmony group and that was evident in some of the very difficult to do songs that they covered tonight. They also have a very tight backing band behind them.
For some reason tonight, it took most of the audience until the second half of the show to really warm up to the music, and that may in part be due to some of the song choices in the first half. Right at the beginning we had a great cover of The Temptations almost psychedelic "Cloud 9", but that has always to me been a studio song rather than one of the great Motown floor fillers. There were also some odd song omissions for me such as The Isley Brothers "Twist and Shout".
The second half of the show did feature a lot more of the "get off your seat" classics and the audience had well and truly warmed to The Formations.
This group can sing anything in The Motown catalogue I think and are a great vocal group in their own right and it would be nice to see them somehow incorporating some of their own material into shows. It would also be nice to see and hear a little less of them (no offence guys) as for me any show under the "Motown's Greatest Hits" banner really needs some of the great Motown girls and girl groups numbers in it. Motown was blessed with some great male vocal groups and solo performers and of course in Smokey Robinson had one of the greatest song writers of all time, but for me, much of the driving sound of Motown came from the girls on the label and that was sadly for me missing tonight. In all fairness, the show was only advertised as "introducing The Formations", and although The Formations are a great live act and more than strong enough to still be the core of the show, they maybe need to let the great girls hits such as "Baby Love" and "You Can't Hurry Love" be heard too.
Would I go and see them again. Yes is the simple answer to that.
If you want to find out more about the show and The Formations, go to their website or Facebook page at
Review by Tom King