Soul-Patrol @ the Dell East (Covering Great Black Music & More in Philadelphia)
I would ask that you all take a moment out of your day to take a look at some of the fantastic concert reviews (George Benson, Boney James, Clark Sisters, The Manhattans, Bloodstone,Newbirth and Heatwave, Teena Marie, Keith Sweat, War, Urban Guerilla Orchestra (UGO), Latin Jazz Ensemble, Martha Minuzzi, Marvin Sapp & Winans, Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill & Ralph Tresvant, George Clinton and P-Funk All Stars, Masters Of Funk - Con-funk-shun, The BarKays, The Ohio Players, The Dazz Band, Slave, Teena Marie, Unison TV/Motown Revue Project, Dave Koz, Jonathan Butler, Sheila E, Zoe) that we have been gathering at the Dell East in Philly, which you can view at the following link:
As you read through those reviews (written by our friend ELP), I would like you to consider the following....
The Dell is a pretty special place, located in the North Philadelphia Black community of Philadelphia, an unknown (outside of it's general
area) jewel in the crown that we call the historical legacy of Black music (past, present and future.) We have been covering events there for years, but this is the first saeason that we have commited to covering EVERY EVENT at the Dell.
To put it bluntly, if you could imagine a family oriented venue with the same history as Apollo Theatre that was 5 times larger and located outside, that would be the Dell East.
This summer we have covered some of the biggest names in Classic Soul, Jazz, Gospel, Neo Soul, Funk, New Jack Swing and more at the Dell East, which seats almost 7,000 people (including lawn seats.) In addition many up and coming local performers serve as opening acts for the big names, so these large audiences are getting a pretty good taste of the future of Black music as well. Ticket prices are inexpensive, so anybody who wants to come can do so and even if you can't afford a ticket, even if you simply come, you can hear the music outside of the Dell East.
The atmosphere at the Dell East is not unlike what you see on the streets and inside of the homes of Black America at large. You see it all on display from blowhard Black politicians making speeches, to street vendors selling CD's, T-shirts, hats, etc (sometimes of "questionable origin") on the perimeter of the venue, to families tailgating in their cars/suv's/vans in the parking areas, to little kids without tickets on bicycles pushed up against the fence listening to the music, to local media personalities promoting their endeavors, to hard working blue collar types for whom going to a show represents a momentary escape from their daily drudgery to people dressed in the hippest summer attire wanting to "be seen to be seen" and more.
In other words, you will see a microcosm of Black America that sometimes makes you smile, sometimes makes you sad, but always makes you glad to see on full display. Our culture "is what it is" and above all else, we must always be engaged in making certain that it is not only preserved, but also extended into the future.
The Dell East, located in North Philadelphia is one of the primary mechanisms that we have where people don't simply talk about that mission of preserving/extending OUR culture, but where it actually happens every single time that the gates are opened up. This is a mission not unlike that of Soul-Patrol and thus makes me especially happy to be a part of it.
Institutions like the Dell East used to exist everywhere in Black communities across the United States and were a major part of the fabric of life for these communities, much in the same way that Black Radio was, before it became "polluted."
Over the years as Black Americans became more "suburbanized" along with municipal budget cuts in cities across America, we have seen this type of institution disappear from the landscape of Black America and we have been worse off because of it.
Fortunately, the City of Philadelphia (yes...the same "blowhard" Black politicians I mentioned earlier....LOL) have seen the value of insuring that the institution called the Dell is in a position to not only sustain it's existence, but to be extended into the future. The Dell has been closed for the past 2 seasons as it underwent a 10 million dollar rehabilitation of it's physical facilities. The venue, which was originally constructed during the depression now look beautiful, is state of the art and I would dare say is now one of the best concert facilities in the United States. Interestingly enough, despite it's "inner city location," the Dell is also easily accessible via major interstate highways by automobile. Therefore all of the history & the environment represented by the Dell is something that all of those "suburbanized Blacks," who live within 50 - 100 miles of the facility (NJ, Delaware, MD, & the Western Philly Burbs) can also partake in with a automobile drive not to different from what some of their daily commutes might be. What a great & inexpensive way to expose your family to the REAL BLACK AMERICAN CULTURE (not the one presented on the KOON SHOWS of cable TV & Knee-gro radio)
(It's just an idea, thanks for listening.....)
Concert Review: Gospel Night @ The Dell Entertainment Center
This show featured E. Daniels, Vicki Yohe, Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller, Pastor of Enon Baptist Church and The great Clark Sisters. Opening the show was relative newcomer (at least to the audience) E. Daniels. His actual name is Ernest Daniels Jr.
He's been singing since the tender age of 7 and has performed with the likes of Martha Munizzi, Fred Hammond and Wes Morgan. His style of gospel is derived from the Praise and Worship aspect of church services today. Praise and Worship includes any music that personalizes one's praise of God. Many songs speak of God and the wonder of that Spirit but Praise and Worship speaks directly to God. I'm not totally familiar with much of today's contemporary Gospel music but suffice to say it is the BEST R&B/Funk out there bar none. Those genres of music have been borrowing heavily from Gospel since the beginning of Black American Music. Now it seems the tables have turned a bit. The results are often incomparably beautiful. Songs like Our God Is Stronger and Fill Me With Your Spirit, which Mr. Daniels performed with his small backup group, follow the Praise and Worship technique to a 'T'. Often these songs of inspirational praise are more moving than the actual chants, hymns and spirituals. Mr. Daniels did a fine job with his set.
For some reason Ms. Yohe's set utilized tracks instead of a live band. Personally I feel a bit shortchanged when artists do this however the economic times in which we live sometimes call for improvisation and innovation so that the proverbial 'show can and WILL go on'. What immediately struck me about Ms. Yohe's set was her beautiful spirit and personality. I believe it's difficult as human beings to separate 'show' from 'service' as well as 'saint' from 'sinner' without being judgmental. These Gospel artists are just that: ARTISTS. Because they sing about or to God makes them no different than you or I in their everyday lives. Many are Reverends and even Pastors of their own congregations but they go through much of the same travails as everyone to which they sing. With no backing band the entire spotlight was on Ms. Yohe and her voice. She did not disappoint as she is totally committed to her 'ministry' of bringing the Word of God through song to her listeners. Many were familiar with her set list and sang along in complete rapture. Her patter was full of anecdotes and well peppered with the usual phrases that can be heard in any church service. Part preachy, part homespun testimony, part sho biz, part motivational speaker and ALL pure Gospel, Ms. Yohe delivered with absolute conviction.
Because of Who You Are
Praise Your Name
Crown Him Lord Of All
The Whole World Worships You
I'm At Peace
I Just Want You
He's Been Faithful
There was no pretense in any of this performance. This lady has a strong voice that could almost be described as shouting but is well buffered with the experience of dynamics and great pitch control. She has some Rev. Shirley Caesar deep down in her soul that she expressed sparingly. Just as Ray Charles (amongst others) found that place of commonality between Blues, Gospel and Country and Western there is a likewise place of southern connectivity between black and white and Negro Spirituals and traditional Gospel music. Vicki Yohe straddled this line perfectly. One could argue that the white Ms. Yohe is yet another in the long line of blue eyed soul singers. The difference is she straddles this musical fence so perfectly that her race becomes irrelevant.
Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller
Philadelphia's very own highly sought after musician, lecturer and Pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, Rev Dr. Alyn Waller was next up. The good Pastor was backed (as was all save Ms. Yohe) by a competent rhythm section typical of today's contemporary R&B/Funk flavored Gospel music. Replete with some degree of overplaying and showiness they nevertheless provided more than adequate accompaniment to the Rev and his 7 member backing voice ensemble. One song- I've Never Seen The Righteous Forsaken- was flawless. Virtually unencumbered with tiresome riffs this song was stripped bare to reveal the wonderful musicality of this group. Rev. Waller is in possession of a certain stentorian Rick James baritone voice which he uses to great effect. A little loud in spots this ensemble in my opinion stole the show, the night and my heart with their sincerity and joyful presence.
This Is The Day (That the Lord Has Made)
Holy Is Your Name
I've Never Seen The Righteous Forsaken
That's Why I Say Amen- with a segue into I Wont Complain Perfect Praise Medley: Perfect Praise That's Why My Heart Is Filled With Praise That's Love
The Rev. Waller is pastor of one of this city's finest community oriented mega churches (almost an oxymoron when you think of it). He has turned the Dell into HIS church and has brought this concert/service to its feet in glorious climax of epic proportions. There wasn't a dry eye in the house as his was a job well done!
The Clark Sisters
The Clark Sisters are: Jacky Clark Chisolm, Elbernita 'Twinkie' Clark Terrell, Dorinda Clark Cole and Karen Clark Sheard They are the daughters of famed Gospel great Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. These ladies follow in the glorious tradition of female quartet/quintet and family oriented Gospel singers such as Clara Ward and The Ward Singers,
The Caravans, The Hawkins Family and Andrae Crouch. In so doing they've paved the way for the likes of Tri- ni-tee 5:7, Kirk Franklin, The Winans, Mary Mary and Commissioned. They're considered one of the forerunners/standard bearers of today's contemporary R&B/Funk Gospel.
Jesus Is Worthy
I'm Lookin For A Miracle
I've Got An Angel
Just Know We're Blessed and Highly Favored
I Wanna Get There
Is My Livin In Vain
Jesus Brought The Sunshine
They were accompanied by a very small, tight ensemble of bass, drums, Hammond B3 organ and Twinkie on electronic keyboards. Twinkie is the glue that holds it all together as she basically took over from Dr. Moss-Clark the reins of this Detroit born group. She composes, arranges and produces most of the tunes both as group and individually for her sisters' solo endeavors. She from her perch on the keys is the subtle showdog. Her voice is tremendous as are all of the Clark Sisters' voices. In fact this group represents that old time honored tradition of everyone singing more than adequate leads when called upon to do so. Together they evoke a bit of The Emotions in their harmonies. This entire concert was well paced and billed in a way that was fitting to each of these artists. Individually these ladies are famous for their scatting-melisma filled approach to singing. Sometimes this serves them well and sometimes not. The band was pretty good but here (as was POTENTIALLY the case all night) the drummer essentially solo'd throughout the proceedings. This unnecessary showiness sometimes got in the way of an otherwise great performance by the sisters.
All in all a night of spiritual uplift, praise and joy was had by all in attendance at the Dell Entertainment Center.
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Concert Review: The Manhattans, Bloodstone,Newbirth and Heatwave @ Dell Entertainment Center
Well.... with Batman and Aurora Col. as backdrop this seems almost pointless as this endless stream of violence continues and blood flows freely from our streets. While Aurora may be Everyday People my question remains: 'What's in the water in the STATE of Colorado'? Two events of this grisly magnitude in one geographical area are two too many!
As we begin another summer concert series in North Philadelphia's Dell Entertainment Center, I'd like to thank Mr. Steve Jacobs and his entire Dept. of Recreation staff for providing Soul Patrol with the proper credentialing necessary for us to provide comprehensive reporting and reviews of the presentations made at their outdoor amphitheater.
As time goes on I believe these shows will soon resemble those PBS fundraiser 70's Soul Concerts than the shows to which we're accustomed. Instead of performances that explore the best if not more popular of their repertoires we'll get these packaged-just-a-step-above-track-shows where the artists perform the absolute tippy top BEST from in some cases extensive catalogues.
So groups like Heatwave and Newbirth who could choose from albums worth of material end up cherry picking only the few actual million sellers. This is problematic as many of these acts' fans expect so much more. The hits ARE the hits but when you so carefully 'edit' so much from an acts' product much is lost in presentation and we're left with a feeling of coitus interruptus. So here then is my review of this show.
Mind Blowing Decisions
Always and Forever
I'm thinking these guys were told 45min. sets max! This means each tune has gotta be at least ten minutes. Heatwave was a self-contained band as were Newbirth and Bloodstone. Tonight Heatwave brought their own rhythm section. No horns. This band was of the 'Prof. Funk' school of exceptional young boy contemporary Gospel musicians'. They have not graduated as of this writing. Further because of the time constraint, probable lack of prep time to do more tunes or suggestions to keep it simple with million sellers, lone original member Keith Wilder's direction lent itself more to long meandering
s-t-r-e-t-c-h techniques that just fell flat. Because of this type of duress our intrepid younguns lapsed into familiar habits. To their credit though they quickly recovered and fell back into the respective grooves required. Outside of Always and Forever (it of the Stayinmyconeresque duration) their other tunes were basically true singles of the 45 rpm variety, tonight played much too long.
Just how long can one stretch Groove Line?
I believe we have Melvin and Leslie Wilson in the house tonight. However there's no Londee Loren/Wiggins and equally as frustrating if not sacrilegious no Nitelighters horns. As far as I'm concerned while playing Wildflower if the female is unable to hit the high soprano note during the Delphonic 'breakdown' monologue we have a problem. Further if there's nohorns for ANY of the tunes why even bother? Newbirth is a self contained HORN driven band. They're not just a vocal act. Well, Newbirth is but they've always been augmented by the fabulous Nitelighters. So for me we got off on the wrong foot immediately.
Been Such A Long Time
Mr. Dream Merchant
I Can Understand It
In her sweet Nawth Carolina southern drawl my lady mentioned their lacking membership numbers this way: " They a lil shawt aint they?" Shawt aint the half of it! In their defense they collectively sang well and BLEW their asses off.
Really nice overall singing but for some reason Leslie felt the need to scream, shout and generally make some of the most offensive sounds to ever be emitted by a vocalist of his pedigree. Why he insisted on this sort of presentation is utterly beyond me because overall shortcomings aside they were really doing a fine job. Oh well.
You're Still A Young Man
Who Has The Last Laugh Now?
We Go A Long Way Back
Another band reduced to vocal group status. They shared a house band with Newbirth. Said band actually ratcheted up their game a bit for Bloodstone. This band consisted of local and not-so-local grizzled vets who held things down nicely. This must be the 'save-some-dough-because-of-the-economy tour'.
Bloodstone snuck up and STOLE this show!
Between original members Harry Williams (Never Let You Go, Outside Woman lead) and Charles Love (Natural High) Bloodstone displayed their own natural flair for showmanship and musicality. Confined to a stool for most of the performance Mr. Williams health state reminded me of the fragile nature of many of our musical heroes of the 60's and 70's. These guys are ageing right in front of our eyes. It took YEARS seemingly for the Mighty Dells to get this way but maybe I'm just in denial. This is the reality of NOW. However, I ask that you be not dismayed. They tore the place up. No slick arrangements or anything like that. They took what they were given and did a terrific job. No matter how long of tooth or impaired, Harry Williams let us have it right between the eyes. His best shot dropped us at forty paces! This was the first such moment of the night for the audience. The group kept our rapt attention with their blow harmonies and vocal skills. Charles Love delivered in a sweet falsetto that only he possesses a very satisfying Natural High.
The rest of the set BELONGED to Harry Williams! Outside Woman was the one that dropped us to our knees but We Go A Long Way Back lifted Harry from his stool and us from our seats. He ran notes in baritone and tenor with gut wrenching soul. We begged for more but alas as is the case with shows of this kind there was simply not enough time.
Aint No Stoppin Us Now
* Unidentified medley of tunes totally unfamiliar to me
The Way We Were
Can I Take My Baby Home
I Wanna Dance To A Love Song
Feels So Good To Be Loved So Bad
There's No Me Without You
Don't Take Your Love From Me- segued into
If You Think You're Lonely Now
You Are My Shining Star
Kiss and say Goodbye
The Manhattans brought their own band. They also had/have the most crossover hits and overall appeal and as such were the most polished of the acts this night. They executed this performance with class and an unparalleled (at least on this occasion) showmanship. Unfortunately their BEST couldn't overcome the dynamic that was Bloodstone. The 1st third of the show was quite Vegas-like and while this is hardly Vegas I get it.
You have a well-rehearsed show and you may edit it or pare it down but there's not going to be much in the way of alteration to the overall performance. As I recall this group were one of the first (with The Unifics being one of the others) to adopt one of the aspects of true minstrelsy into their act. They wore white gloves and white shoes and were quite the steppin quintet back in the day. They were right up there with The Pips, Unifics, Ambassadors, Temptations and the Flames as better than average stepping vocalists. No longer are they taking things to that level but I must say much of their routines have been a part of their act for many years.
Unfortunately their showdog of import Mr. Blue Lovette is yet another casualty of the prison of the 'stool'. Now he still amazingly drives the show and his vocals are at least as strong as ever. He's the emcee and to some degree the musical director as well. He even simulates steps from his seat which leads me to believe that this performance exile sentence has been passed down recently. I always loved Blue's attitude and dedication to the bit that is The Manhattan's act. Positioned upstage and slightly to the side it's as if he doesn't want to be intrusive to the act. However he can't help himself. It's his demeanor that always made The Manhattans happen.
The band also did nice old time fanfares between tunes. These were not segue ways per se but virtually reminiscent of ol vaudeville/minstrel shows where they'd play an upbeat unrelated 8-16 bars of something, stop abruptly and then proceed on a dime to the next tune. This added to their panache and worked well for them. Gerald Alston is the real star here. While not necessarily blessed with multi-octaves or even a booming voice, Mr. Alston wore out thoroughly what he was singing with what he has and his is a voice of pure fire. So while there were points of lack the last two acts redeemed the entire show with their extraordinary resourcefulness and musicianship.
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Concert Review: War + Urban Guerilla Orchestra (UGO) and
Latin Jazz Ensemble: Takin it to the STREETS! @ The Dell East
Come little chillen, gather round as I tell you bout what we puttin down! This is a tale of the 'hood, doncha know and it's all in the show so here we GO! Last night's Dell East Entertainment Center those down was all about the rhythm and groove of the street...the HOOD if you will.
WAR were the headliners with able support brought by The Latin Jazz Ensemble and The Urban Guerilla Orchestra (or UGO as they're affectionately known 'round these parts). WAR is the multi-ethnic, laid back sound of the streets of Southern California. In fact one of their albums All Day Music has as it's cover art the band standing around what appears to be a 'package goods' store. Somebody's got a bottle with a 'skirt' (paper bag) on it. Harold Scott is sitting on an old Ripple case. This is as street/ghetto/hood as it gets. What we had on a beautifully warm and breezy summer night was a celebration of 'the hood' as represented by three different bands that do it well.
Latin Jazz Ensemble
Good but low key ensemble that plays what their name says they are. In fact the irony here is tremendous because they played a set that consisted of all of the Latin grooves that are in the Real Book of standards that so many musicians play and audiences take for granted as background music at receptions etc.
Songs like Song for My Father, Blue Bossa, Oye Como Va and Little Sunflower all have that bossa nova/samba/clave thing goin. That this band had as it core membership guys from Puerto Rico was interesting to me. We never get to hear the interpretations of Latin influenced tunes by people of that heritage. They tended to play these tunes in a more percussion oriented way than what one would normally here. They also improvised quite a bit and while their emphasis was a jazzy one, they infused just enough salsa to their mix to keep everyone honest. Personally they were a little too laid back for me. I would've preferred any one of the myriad musicians assembled on any corner in North Philly's Puerto Rican barrio to this band. There you might find a percussionist (usually timbales and cowbell but could have a bongo or conga player as well), upright acoustic bassist, piano and a lone horn w/vocals. If you know salsa then you know a style of music that has percussion at it's core with everything else fitting nicely the way the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle might. This creates an organized cacophony of sound unmatched in any other music. It clangs and clicks it's clave rhythms while the horns and percussion punch out accents and in-between all of that the vocalist urges and calls out to the rest to respond. For me that's Latin Jazz and unfortunately The Latin Jazz Ensemble was too cool for school and left the audience a lil dry.
UGO- The Urban Guerilla Orchestra
Here's where the theme of Takin It To The Streets found it's apex for the night.
Growing up in Philadelphia in the 60's and 70's meant that one encountered something that every hood or barrio in most inner cities around the country had: gangs.
In some cities these gangs were as innocuous as the Sharks and the Jets.In fact EVERYBODY started out like that. But in some cities this whole thing took on much more fatalistic intentions and some still persist in this way today.
Chicago, LA, Detroit and New York all have had some of the most notorious gangs ever BUT there's a reason that this sort of thing escalated to a point that Philly recently became known as the Murder Capital of the nation. Philly's reputation for senseless violence dates many of the other cities spoken of here.The distinction is this: for every gang we had there were almost ten times as many musicians. Not just cats playing for kicks or a hobby either.
These bands were created as a real tangible method of survival. Everyone usually says it but here the proof is in the pudding. Several of the members of these bands in Philadelphia have gone on to be chosen as sidemen with some of the biggest and best that there are and ever were!
These folk are almost all friends and acquaintances of mine as we all went to high school together or in some way shared a commonality as musicians in these bands. Philly is a territorial town and the neighborhoods are so fierce in rivalry that some times block to block will challenge each other for the best Christmas decorations or the best block party.
So too was the rivalry between bands. This in turn made cats go into the woodshed and make their thing as TIGHT as could be. James Brown HAD to make folk dance. Chicago HAD to have every horn riff and nuance down pat. Kool and The Gang (another one of these) HAD to be done authentically...'just like the record' or you wouldn't make it.
This bred cats that would not be denied. This is what makes cats like The Urban Guerilla Orchestra so special. I know better but folk don't realize that the wealth of musicians in and around the Philly area make UGO just the tip of the iceberg. This is how we
This band is the culmination and combination of some of the best musicians in the city. Cats have played with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Mikki Howard, Donna Summer, Kirk Franklin, Patti Labelle, The Emeril Live house band, The O'Jays and on and on and on til the break of dawn.
Last night's set list looked this way.
As they always do, UGO was on POINT in recognition of our fallen musician
heroes. They opened with:
--Stretchin Out In A Rubber band- a very difficult song to cover but for
Bootsy and em. They were so nasty and forthright with this that it actually
made you forget the original. You'll NEVER hear anyone drop this with a full
(6 man) horn section like they did. Thunder
--I Need Your Lovin
--Back In Stride Again
--You're Still A Young Man as good as the Tower Of Power with Lawrence'
Weez' doing yeoman work making you at least TRY to forget Lenny Williams (even
though that aint the cat on the vinyl). Killer KILLER job Weez!
--Suzy Caesar-Can You Get It?
The Suzy Caesar tune was preceded by the most original sounding drum duet ever played by a band like this and better than most supa dupa drum solos one might hear. Why? Because these cats played a solo that didn't involve a lot of feats of derring do. It was just like what used to happen in the hood when I was a kid. There was ALWAYS somebody playing bongos. This escalated into someone else joining that person with either more bongos or congas. Followed by beer or wine (with somebody using that bottle as a cowbell ting-tinga-tingin all over the place) and a small crowd. We were singing Jingo waaaay before we heard Santana (another one of these) record it. We did it and played and heard it because we're descendants of Congo Square. We are Africans in America and this shit is our birthright! Changing time signatures and tapping out authentic African rhythms. Communicating with each other through the drum. Creating language love with rhythm in ways that are truly indescribable. That's drumming and that is just one of the superlatives that can be easily tossed around about this band.
That my friends is the kind of solo that Pablo Bautista and Daryl Kwesi Burgee took last night on percussion and trap drums respectively. I wanted to get into crowd reaction and that which is peculiar to Philadelphia but it's too much right now. Suffice to say that every tune in that playlist was played DEAD-ON-THE-DOUBLE-BUTT-FUNKY!!!!!!!
This shit constantly pounded right to and through my chest cavity with intensity and proven cocky ass power!
When they played Suzy Caesar the crowd could stand it no longer and they broke their reserve and danced and sang and decided to have a ball. Of course it was too late because that was the band's final call. The only misgiving I have about these cats is that they're too good to open for anybody-no one can EVER follow them. Nope, not the Funkys, maybe not even JB if he was alive. Maybe the Tower of Power but that's only because they've been together longer and knows each other thusly. The problem here is that they'll never headline until they get something of their own- some original material. They're too damned good for their own good. But is that such a bad thing to be?
Further on in our trip through the hood we encounter the band that calls itself WAR.
This is the Lonnie Jordan version. I've seen this band many times and have always had a hard time with this lineup. If Billy Brown is the voice of The Moments/Ray, Goodman and Brown then it can be equally said of Lonnie Jordan and War. All he has to do is pick the songs where his vocal is the major (most of em) focus and you've got it. The problem here is that you can't go to war (no pun intended) armed with less that your finest troops. Those soldiers belong to the Low Riders Band and no matter what Lonnie Jordan does he cannot replace these cats. Hell while we love Lonnie Jordan where would WAR (and the rest of us) be without the wailing blues of one Lee Oskar???
The harp player last night was fine but Lee Oskar HE WAS NOT!!!!!
--City Country City
--Baby Brother (not the blues stomper but the funk version)
--Slippin Into Darkness
--Spill The Wine
--All Day Music-segue into
--Ballero- a pleasant surprise
--Why Can't We Be Friends
MIA were tunes like Nappy Head, The World Is A Ghetto, Get Down, Lotus Blossom, Don't Let No One Get You Down, Smile Happy and Sun Oh Sun. There are at least five others that would make any WAR fan ecstatic if played. Not to be. With the exception of Galaxy which was quite the rousing jam and the surprise Ballero, much of this performance was marred and weighted down with needless singer-audience call and response, patter from Lonnie Jordan on this, that and the other thing and interminable solos.
I realize that after playing this stuff for years one needs to do 'things' in order to keep one's sanity. I believe however that more of this is caused by Mr. Jordan's lack of surviving band mates now playing in The Low Rider band than anything else. Not a bad performance just not a great one.
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Concert Review: Teena Marie and Keith Sweat @ The Dell East
At a p-p-p-packed PACKED house at Philly's Dell Entertainment Center we witnessed two of classic r&b's greats. Keith Sweat and his hip-hop-soul meets new jack swing jams and the incomparable Rick James punk funk influenced Teena Marie.
There's something very strange about this presentation that I don't understand which makes it difficult for me to fairly review this set. Why can't somebody just plug in their amps, do an adequate soundcheck and whomever the artist is just come out and sing his song?
If you can add a little showmanship along the way, fine but just sing your song!
Keith Sweat is nothing if not an adequate singer and showman...but...there's something not right. First of all the entire band is augmented by every special effect there is on the market. Sequencers, autotuners/vocoders, fake keyboard bass, drum pads and everything BUT cats just accompanying Mr.Sweat through his set abound. There's also something not right about his voice. He speaks differently than he sings. He's not actually lip synching but I just can't get past the fact that all of his vocals are eerily perfect. Like as soon as he opens his mouth a button is pushed so that whatever he sings comes out right. The man can sing all right but I just am not getting enough of it. The bass is LOUD...and it's that bass you hear that comes from the trunk of some kids car blasting the likes of Lil Wayne or somebody. It's the teeth chattering thing that rattles your house like a subway just roared past it. Keith Sweat arrived on the hip-hop scene around 1987 or so. In doing so he pre-dated the likes of Mary J. Blige and Faith Evans. In essence he stood alone for a couple years as one of few younguns singing r&b. His nearest (and truest) competitor, Bobby Brown would release a clunker a year or so prior so basically it was Keith Sweat and to a lesser degree Gerald Levert. I gave that background so we can see that this man is not a bad singer, had a major hit with I Want Her and actually went on to score more albums and hits. He in fact is one of the original progenitors of the Teddy Riley engineered form of Hip-Hop called 'New Jack Swing'.
Does he compare with r&b giants that come before him? Only in that he continued the tradition. Both Bobby Brown and Gerald Levert did it better with Bobby Brown IN SPITE OF HIMSELF holding things down quite nicely thank you. So if one considers 1987 as the start point, Keith Sweat is basically an oldies act. I'm sure the now grown-up teens of the 80's might not see it that way but it is what it is. What was hip-hop with the break-dancing, wall-writing, blunt-smoking and crack dealing has now like everything else with the passage of time grown up. In some ways this was like watching your kids emulate you doing Teddy Pendergrass or Chuck Jackson or anything else you threw on to wine dine and or relax. Teen idols looking in fanzines turn into panty and bra throwers.
All the tunes were done in a nice 90 minute set or so. I Want Her, My Body Your Body, Nobody but Me, Make It Last Forever amongst them. Because the band is so mechanized, there's little room for improvisation, catchy segues from one tune to another, musicality, drama, tension or showmanship. There was a point where he had a wonderful little thing goin with one of his background singers. It was a vocal duel/duet of sort's with much going back and forth. Instead of pulling her down from the backing vocalist's riser and engaging her (and thus all of us) with some physicality or confrontational swagger, he chose to leave her up there and reduced it all to a lousy shouting match.
Mr. Sweat's idea of showmanship is doing the perfunctory trip into the audience so the females can reach, touch, scream and hope for a reasonable shot on their phone-cams while he grinds and gyrates with that unseen lover.
Keith Sweat had to accompany him a band that consisted of drummer, background singers and three keyboard players, one of whom doubled on guitar while the other two played every snyth sound in the book Puffy eyes, hat on backward and looking just completely out of it, Bobby Brown does this thing so much better. And if 'G' were alive neither of them would have a leg on which to stand. That man was the complete package and if all else failed Gerald Levert would just sing you under the table.
After an extremely long delay due to some technical situation dealing with the sound equipment, Teena Marie bounded onstage to thunderous applause. As an aside here let me tell how good it is to see a full house out to see ANYthing these days. No other show thusfar has had a crowd as boisterous, appreciative or plentiful. Forget what I said about Keith Sweat for a minute and understand that with Teena Marie as a headliner, all you have to do is be a relatively decent act with a couple hits well rehearsed and you would've done well.
During the interminable delay we were entertained by a DJ whose name I don't remember. He's popular for playing mixes on Patti Jackson of WDAS FM's mid-morning show and at clubs around town. He played a mix of predominantly hip-hop. The median age of the crowd was 50. That demographic has a world of music at it's fingers but strangely dances hardest to post 80's music and mixes. To their credit they were VERY patient with the delay and generally a good time was had by all jamming in near and around their seats. Some really showed out and were rewarded by a spotlight for their efforts. Because the Dell Entertainment Center's amphitheater setup is bowl-like there's really not a bad seat in the house and when a spotlight is placed all can see pretty well what's happening. Now onto the show....
Sucker For Your Love/ In My House medley- well received, hell-raising jumpstart of an opener. *Another aside...I'm getting old because all of this from the opening crack is simply too loud.
--Lover Girl- band driven funk with adequate guitar playing by Teena.
--Still In Love With You funky mid-tempo SLO JAM grind shit. We're only three tunes into this set and it seems like she's been on for an hour. This band while loud is SMOKING!!!!!! THIS WOMAN CAN DO NO WRONG!!!! Some day we can discuss the difference between a SLO JAM and a ballad. If you don't know best to ask somebody.
...and with that ladeez and gennlemen we bring you
--Deja View- it's tempting to say that this or that tune is the high point of the show. This tune has got to be however the sentimental favorite of most in the house. Certainly the females. Needless to say she killed this one. she then commented that: 'y'all love me like I'm from here!'
--Portuguese Say Love-Latin jazz groove. Everybody knows this entire lady's music as they sung along lustily like drunks at an Irish pub to every tune. It's a good as the record and maybe even better. During samba interlude the guitar player takes a nice solo. When after that they break the tune down to the 'Por-tu-gese-say-love-part Teena brings out a young lady from the horn section to play a tasty also solo. Her name was Jeanette House.
--I Need Your Lovin-1980's smash hit. Did I mention that these cats are playing their natural ASSES off? Damn they're diggin in like a mug! Nice segue ways, cute little comps, accents and use of space underneath what Teena is doing.
She then declares that I'm the only one that can do Rick James and she maybe right on that.Tears into....
--Give It To Me Baby medley with You And I and wraps the whole thing in a lovely bow with the coda from Psychotic Bumpskool. All I can say is BLAM!!!!!!! Damned, now that's good eatin!!!!
Ms. Teena tells Philly bass master Doug Grigsby (who's probably doin musical director work as well),'let's go away from the regular show and do something else. This is Philly and I KNOW WHAT THEY WANT. They want those ballads. I think she meant slo jams but it's cool anyhow.
--Fire and Desire- This is definitely the killer of the night. the stuff my man on bass is doing while directing the band is nothing short of terrific but he's too damned loud, especially in this ballad setting. This tune segues beautifully into the chorus of We've Got To Stop Meeting Like This which closes the tune.
--Out On A Limb- she's on a roll now. She throws in a lil Wildflower for the ending.
--Dear Lover into if I Were a Bell- what can I say? Delay and all, this woman played maybe half her stuff and she still destroyed the place.
--Square Biz- show closer.
One other small criticism I have of Teena is that while she sings her ass off there's a thin line between high notes and shrill almost screaming. Teena has a high piercing voice that can probably break glass under pristine scientific conditions. Sometimes it's as annoying as it is powerful. There was great interaction with her band and background singers. I believe also that is was Ms. Marie's birthday. She appeared to be either tired or somewhat not totally there but she put on an excellent show regardless.
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Concert Review: Dave Koz + Jonathan Butler + Sheila E & Zoe: Smooth Jazz Night @ The Dell East
It was all about Smooth Jazz Monday night in North Philadelphia. Smooth Jazz is still on life support. By now it's probably gone from the airwaves in your town. At best it's relegated to a 'Smooth Jazz' show maybe once a week if that. It could be as little as an hour on some stations but suffice to say it's all but gone. However it does live on in the minds and mp3's/cd's of it's fans. It thrives in a sort of word-of-mouth existence that only those thusly interested can speak about. They have cruises, festivals set aside 'nights' and overall the niche created has been sufficient for this music to at least survive. Having said all of that this night wasn't particularly distinguishable from any other event of this ilk that I've attended.
Opening was a local act called Zoe (pronounced ZOE-WAY).
This is a locally based six piece band that has (as most Smooth Jazz acts do) a guy that plays some sort of sax be it tenor, alto or soprano. They're a nice opening act that probably stayed on too long. They played mostly covers and I feel that with better management they just might turn out to be killer. There's nothing offensive in their presentation they just need to learn to know when to hold em and when to fold em. For example (and I'm only going to discuss two notable songs from their set) they funk when they should groove and groove when they should funk.
Sunday Morning- Anyone familiar with this Maroon Five jam? It's a syncopated, poppy kind of tune. These cats neither syncopated nor popped. It was flat and thudded along. Maroon 5 is a white boy neo-funk/pop ensemble that knows how to groove well. These cats only had to hit it like the recording or improve on that but you just can't de-funk what's already funky. Major no-no.
All I Do- Stevie Wonder's almost-thirty year old classic has a mid-level drive to it. It makes you want to sing along, finger-popping as you go. Here, Zoe funks this out to a point of being virtually indecipherable.
In the end they had musicianship, showmanship and good playing but could benefit from some better guidance and/or inspiration.
Dave Koz, Jonatan Butler and Sheila E.
I've got some problems with this setup but as Robert Guilliaume sez in Lean On Me to Morgan Freeman's Joe Clark: "You better get used to it!". As with the template from the Masters of Funk, I believe we'll be seeing more and more of these shows with one artist's band or some combination of bands serving as the backing band for all of the acts in a package or on a tour. Maybe it's the economy. Zoe was the opening act so they're not in this mix. This may work well for Koz and Butler but in my opinion does little or nothing for the likes of Sheila E (mo about that lata).
Just The Two Of Us- actually that's who it really seems to be for this show-Dave Koz and Jonathan Butler. Really good Grover Washington Jr. tribute. Great energy from both individuals as well as the band.
Dancin In The Street- Jonathan Butler- Mr. Butler is a native of South Africa who is known now for playing mostly a mix of Contemporary Gospel/ inspirational music filtered through Smooth Jazz. However as with many S.A. natives his is a music of the townships that's called South African Jazz or Mbaqanga, itself a combination of Marabi and Kwela music. This music was made popular in the USA by folk like Letta Mbulu, Hugh Masekela and of course the late great Momma Africa, Miriam Makeba.
This tune had subtle hints of all of the above.
Someone asked me if Sheila E would be playing with these cats or would she have her own set. Silly me, I both thought and hoped she was bringing a slamming group of Latino cats with a complete percussion section (including her brother?), maybe some horns and hip vocalists. I figured they'd make me all moist thrilling us all with various percussive feats of derring do. NOT!
Sara Sara- JB- big hit for Mr. Butler- nice funk with fine interaction between JB and Koz. Most of these guys are really great musicians but don't really distinguish themselves one from another. Maybe it's because of the nature of the genre-yet another way that funk lost it's way I guess. Another thing is as good as they are (and yes this IS jazz after all) you just wouldn't see Bird or Coltrane jumping around the stage this way. Diz danced a little bit and was roundly excoriated for it. Some thought he was 'hamming' it up or selling out.
Sheila E enters the fray at the conclusion of Sara Sara to warm applause.
Getaway- Dave Koz- new original tune by Mr.Koz that's a soft little reggae-island-breeze-close-your-eyes-and-imagine you-are-there-tune.What with the breeze kicking up like it was going to rain it seemed all the more appropriate. It was a sweet reggae version of something like All Day Music made sweeter by the backing vocals of Sheila E and JB. Their singing is almost ethereal and with the use of sequencers or whatever they used it sounded like their voices were doubled. Simply beautiful. Dave Koz offered this tune up for general consumption and at no cost by directing everyone to their cell phones for a text exercise that would result in you owning this tune. He later even directed us further into the cyber world by shamelessly advertising his upcoming Annual Smooth Jazz Cruise. Boasting a lineup of most of the who's who in the Smooth Jazz world, I think this was how he used his 'headliner' status to best effect. Remember what I said: GET USED TO IT!!!
Make Room For Me- JB nice Listen Here grooved tune. Because she came onto the stage like three tunes in and did so inconspicuously I'm beginning to question her level of participation up to this point. Well shut mah mouf and call me shawty, Sheila E came alive mid-tune with a blazing conga solo and at the coda of this same tune she shut it down with a brassy, crashing timbale solo. All of this was a lil off putting because the tune is mellow and you just wouldn't expect any overt allowances made for a percussionist, certainly not solos but there you have it! Back to bed Sheila E
So Strong-JB- self accompanied on acoustic guitar- nice unplugged tune with really nice backing vocals. A real preaching testimonial with a fiery thunderous ending from all onstage.
This Guy's in Love With You- Dave Koz-hit by Herb Alpert that he barely put across sung equally as sappy by Dave Koz but with a nicer arrangement.
Unnamed Post-Funk-Smooth-Jazz tune.
OK she's ba-a-a-a-ack! Sheila E on drums. She does the expected and blows everyone away with a searing drum solo (while everybody else exited the stage). This is all made somewhat anticlimactic because Sheila begins to sing and accompany herself (after the solo) on Glamorous Life, Love Bizarre and Prince's Kiss. The band is back, strapped up and ready to roll but nobody plays along. They just stand there. She then goes back into more of her solo and like a lot of drummers do, counts the band back in to play some jammin funk thing and poof! She's gone!
No Woman, No Cry- JB (noticing a trend here?) JB in acoustic unplugged mode again. This is tasty because when the band comes in the whole thing swings nicely between African 6/8 feel and the natural reggae of the song.
Silver Lining- Dave Koz and band ONLY. Simmering cooking band tune! Probably something they've been waiting for all night. Everyone solos. Great!
You Make Me Smile- Dave Koz Smooth jazz hit you've probably all heard before. Just Dave and the band again.
Glamorous Life- Sheila E- not quite the groove on the wax but certainly slammin enough to be a show closer. Sheila really lets loose-maybe more than anytime before in this show. She draggd her cymbal around doin all that Prince-y stuff she does when out with him. She blasted another more typical of her timbale solo and finally looked like she was having a good time.
I'm surprised and slightly disappointed with her role here but it was what it was. By the way this was easily the most-bored-satisfied-half-filled-house I've ever seen. That's the way of the Smoov Jazz world, I guess.
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Concert Review: Martha Minuzzi, Marvin Sapp & Winans @ Dell Music Center in Philly (10/28/2010)
On Monday night (10/28/2010), under a heaven sent full moon of beauty and light we all took part in a praise party of the highest magnitude. Appearing were Martha Minuzzi, Marvin Sapp and CeCe Winans. I'm not one to wear my religion, spirituality or personal relationship with God on my sleeve per se therefore I rarely attend concerts such as these. I really don't have any problem with those that do except when there's accompanying hypocrisy, pontificating and a sense of judgmental piety. Having said all of that, this was an uplifting spirit-filled evening of joy and praise so infectious that even the most jaded soul would be touched by the goings-on at The Dell Entertainment Center on Monday night.
I realize that there are those that might be offended by some of what I have to say, feeling like to review and/or subsequently criticize anything of this performance is akin to critiquing God Almighty himself because of the content delivered. I don't, so bear with me if you will.
The state of contemporary Gospel music today can be directly traced back to the days of some of the greatest families to ever sing songs of worship and praise. Starting with Clara Ward and The Ward singers and moving forward to the likes of The Hawkins Family (a belated word of condolence to that family over the loss of one of their most prolific members: Walter Hawkins whom passed away recently), The Crouch Family and of course The Winans Family, contemporary Gospel music has assaulted popular music charts in unprecedented ways. The Good News is alive and well and being delivered with audacity and fervor.
I don't know much about Ms. Minuzzi but judging by the crowd reaction to her she's popular amongst those that listen to gospel stations like PRAISE 103.9, Gospel Highway and Louise Williams on WURD 900 am. She had a nice rhythm section (which is what everybody had this night) but I'm going to start and stop with her on this note: IT WAS JUST TOO LOUD!!!! If someone typed like that all the time it's called shouting and while she didn't shout the assault on my ears by her backing band was too much for me to bear. I couldn't even understand what her message was or the musicality (melody/rhythm/non-present dynamics) of her musicians. Folk that knew her music were fine with it and stood and swayed and sang along. God Bless em!
You see contemporary r&b/funk Gospel USED to be really groovy and nice. When decent funk,r&b and soul basically perished around 1978/1980 Gospel music did what it always did, it picked up the torch, polished it off and breathed new life into it. The melodies, hooks, dynamics and overall musicality of the artists and musicians themselves were gorgeous.
As a matter of fact the progressions and overall presentation (minus the choirs and lyrics) was almost fusion-like. All of the accoutrements of funk like funky bass lines, punchy drums and even hip horn blasts made the music attractive to a much wider audience. Eventually one could hear that extensive drum fills/solos were being written into the arrangements. These were the OTHER kids that did NOT go up the hip-hop/rap road. Even though the schools took away the music programs and instruments, the churches provided a haven for the creative, musical minds that needed an outlet for their various talents. However much like fusion and under the guise of 'playing for Jesus' many of these presentations have lost their way and subsequently their souls with all of the musical feats of derring do.
It's clear to me that many of these musicians are playing for themselves by seeing who can top the other with speed, dexterity and execution. That's for jam sessions and not performance. It mutes the message and makes us pay attention to them and not allowing one to enjoy and be uplifted by the varied and really talented messengers of song.
MARVIN SAPP FORMERLY OF COMMISSIONED WITH FRED HAMMOND
Mr. Sapp sadly was the only possessor of a band that exhibited any kind of dynamic interaction between himself, the audience and his background singers. Mr. Sapp is a pure pro and he really is a great singer in the John P. Kee style of gospel singing. He opened with I Don't Know What You Came Here For which was a spirited gospel stomper. Great driving groove overlaid by some great vocals and crowd lifting praise to God.
I Believe- calypso grooved rhythm with a breakdown into a slow African sort of motif. You Alone Are God- magnificent anthem-like piece that inspired EVERYONE to join in and sing. Beautifully delivered.
I'm Going To Praise Him If I Can- this was the ultimate in contemporary Gospel's modern funk/jazz/pre-fusion music. Beautifully arranged and written, the accents, kicks, lovely dynamics and chord changes were something to behold.
He Saw The Best In Me- one of Mr. Sapp's huge hits and it was well done.
One of the advantages of Gospel music is that the message of the song is augmented by personal testimony of the artist himself. This of course is something to which anyone can relate. The message that God alone created us and therefore KNOWS how great we are as opposed to anyone ELSE'S opinion is something to which we can all cleave. EXCELLENT!
Fresh Wind- blues funk driver
Medley: What A Friend We Have In Jesus/ The Blood Of Jesus (Will Never Lose It's Power)- basically an a cappella presentation with synth flutes, strings and lush piano all magnificently segueing into Mr. Sapp's latest hit: Never Could've Made It.
Needless to say at this point there wasn't a dry eye in the house. We ALL can relate to going through storms and difficulties and the possibility of NOT making it without the aid, guidance and tender mercy of the God we love. This was simply magnificent!!!! On a lesser note, this WAS/IS a concert presentation and I was slightly disappointed by Mr.Sapp's choice of tee shirt and jeans (as well as the bkgrnd singers and band). Mr. Sapp used to be sharp with Commissioned but I guess these things are of little import anymore.
MS. CECE WINANS
Now I've been a long time fan of most things Winans for many years now and Bebe and Cece were/are no exception. Cece Winans has all of the power of Patti, Gladys, Aretha and Yolanda but joyfully it's without all of the riffing and needless shouting that many in Gospel feel the need to do when performing live.
Hallelujah Is The Highest Praise-fine uplifting funk opener.
I Pray, You Pray, We Pray- nice, crisp funk encouraging us all to pray.
We're Waging War- Easily the highlight of this set. This tune had a nice Slippin Into Darkness, Nawlins, African-Congo Square feel. It spoke of taking back all aspects of our lives. Unfortunately this band was similar to Ms. Minuzzi's and had a penchant for loudness. This of course took away from any nuance that Ms. Winan's voice possesses. I've always loved the way this woman sings but we just couldn't get that out of this performance.
This set has had no stops or breaks thus far, just non-stop music. Cece also treated us to the wonder of her background singers by allowing them to come up front and exhibit their vocal prowess.
I Win- nice segue from We're Waging War. There was a war waged and now you win-you've got the victory. Actually this was reminiscent of late brother Marvin and the rest of the Winans music. Really EXCELLENT part of her set.
More Than I Wanted- the tagline sez it all- "everything I never had"- nice mid-tempo tune
Can We Go Back To The Garden Where We First Met-Bebe/Cece-Lost Without You feel Alone In The Presence Of You-These Bebe/Cece sort of tunes have the ambiguity of being pure love songs or songs about one's love of God.
His Strength Is Perfect- proving again what a great singer she is, Ms. Winans proceeds to tear the rook off the sucka by flat sanging her soul out without histrionics or flamboyance.
All in all this was a wonderful night. In light of the untimely news of Al Goodman's death and needing an outlet for introspection about my own mortality, I'd say I was right where I was supposed to be.
The God of my life rolls like that.
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Concert Review: Heads of State Tour Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill & Ralph Tresvant @ Dell Music Center in Philly (July 19th, 2010)
And so, The Heads of State tour rolled into The Dell Entertainment Center last night. Slightly delayed by a good old fashioned-Delaware-Valley-summer-in-the-city-muggy-humid-rolling-rolicking thunderstorm, we made passage on the maiden voyage of this brand new Dell Entertainment regime. These guys are always around but they play a slightly lesser role than what they did when outside folk are running things (as reported from Saturday night's Funkfest proceedings).
We'd like to take this opportunity to thank the Dell Entertainment administrative staff for allowing us access for the remainder of the season. The Heads Of State are Ralph Tresvant, Johnny Gill and Bobby Brown. Between them there at least twenty tunes with probably 15 of which being bonafide hits (especially when you include the New Edition stuff).
Not unlike the Masters Of Funk with their take-no-breaks-or-prisoners approach to performing, The Heads rarely have a break in the action. All are onstage constantly.
Clearly the star of this bunch is Bobby Brown. Mr. Brown as well as this whole performance is rife with ironies and unanswered questions. The irony of it all is that the self-proclaimed King of R&B struggles to wear his own crown. His star is brightest yet dulled by the tarnish of his badass persona.
And yet after all it becomes the very thing that attracts us, drawing us in, almost voyeuristically. One unanswered question is if Bobby Brown had produced for us another album or two, full of hits, would he not be far off from his self-proclaimed boast of being the King Of R&B?
Further then since he didn't can we place the blame for the demise of strong, growling, kick ass soul singer at his feet? We've really got be start taking a look at these things because in the spirit of Sankofa we can't safely address this situation before look into the past, warts and all. Going back to move forward. The show started with a group called Unison TV/Motown Revue Project. What I can say is whomever the person or persons responsible for the performance given by this talented group of children deserves a round of applause. They apparently recruited and then subsequently trained about 50 children. These kids learned about classic black music icons. They learned about them on a deep level. They learned how they moved, who they were, how they performed and whatever else was necessary for them to pay tribute to these greats.
You see we need these sorts of things to demonstrate at every opportunity that the hope I swore was gone is in fact alive and well in many of our children. There were tributes to Martha and the Vandellas, the Marvellettes, The Temptations, Nat King Cole, Stevie Wonder, Kim Weston, The Jackson Five and finally Michael Jackson. This took about 45 minutes and was actually well done. It was like the Dell folks saying, hey, we're holding it down as they gave the crowd what was basically a 45 minute lesson in classic black music. It was done revue style and with tracks. I'll always go for a band but in this case the message delivered in any way becomes as important as the actual music itself. One of the ways we're going to heal from the psychic trauma we've gone through over the last 40 yrs. or so is to keep reminding ourselves that we're great, have done some of the greatest things EVER on this plane and CONTINUE doing the same now.
Lastly there was an excellent MJ imitator.
All I'm going to say about that is this: who would you say is greater Elvis or MJ? I mean to YOU and you know who you are!!!!! Who's greater to YOU, MJ or Elvis????
Since that man died in the seventies how many Elvis tributes of some kind have you seen or at the very least been made aware of? Get used to it not only are you going to see MJ tributes, you should. It's a shame nobody has done the same for Marvin Gaye, James Brown or Sammy Davis Jr. Those Elvis shows are and have been well-produced and performed for many years now. At least keep the MJ thing going because we sure aren't keeping anyone else alive as such.
The Heads of State can be summed up in one word, enjoyable. There's a sort of perverse pleasure in seeing someone other than you step into adulthood with it's trappings of mortality and lessened invincibility. They hit all of the hits and then some in what was a 2hr.-feeling 90 minute set. They even had a nice cameo appearance from Boyz II Men's Nate Morris! Ralph Tresvant did a fine job on his hits as well as his New Edition leads like Candy Girl, Can You Stand the Rain and some of NE's older hits. Johnny Gill did yeoman work with Rub You The Right Way, My, My, My, Fair-weather Friend and Half Crazy. He also played a hollow body electric guitar on an almost 20 minute, five song, ballad, stool sit set. However CLEARLY the star and main attraction tonight and every night of this run is and will be Bobby Brown.
All of his tunes kicked in with a certain preacher-like fervor. The band kicked em harder and the crowd in total awe responded in ways not seen since Marvin Gaye. Any other R&B cats doin this to the women lately? His tunes form the framework around which this concert is built. Mr. Telephone Man, Humpin Around, On Our Own, the irresistible Roni, Don't Be Cruel, Every Little Step and the definitive statement of My Prerogative are all monster crossover smashes. Bobby Brown couldn't 'f' this up if he tried...and believe me in not-always-so-subtle ways he tries. During Can You Stand the Rain hometown leaves the stage proper (it's this time that Nate Morris cameos), might this be some contempt? Fatigue? Damned they aint THAT old...they're just 'athlete' old. You know, at home they can dunk but in a game they might not even get close.
But I like Bobby Brown. Like all of the other great soul/funk/r&b men Bobby got balls, reputation, innuendo and everything else constantly running around . UNLIKE them he's made a lot of money off of it. His singing is raspy and tarnished but the tunes...the TUNES are just that good that you couldn't tell that to the honies assembled around the apron of the stage and throughout the audience. They were taking bras and panties off. Squealing for all of them but SCREAMING for Bobby. He teased, cajoled, antagonized and overall put on a show as best he could. I suggest that they continue. I suggest that whatever is or could be up their ass that would screw this up be dealt with swiftly.
Soul men got to keep up the tradition and until some kids get it and decide to pick up the torch (or these cats find worthy successors to which to pass it off) it's their responsibility to hold it down. for culture. For tradition. For love. For life.
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Concert Review: George Clinton & P-Funk Allstars + Masters Of Funk (Con-funk-shun, The BarKays, The Ohio Players, The Dazz Band, Slave) @ Dell Music Center in Philly (July 5th, 2010)
The newly refurbished Dell Music Center (formerly the Robin Hood Dell East-Essence of Entertainment) is up and running and running. The venue has all new seats, a good but not great sound system (surely that'll work itself out as we go along) and some really nice landscaping. This will all make summer concert-going in the heart of North Philadelphia enjoyable while maintaining the same low-budget ticket costs of years gone by.
The worlds of soul, r&b, funk, jazz and even contemporary gospel will all joyously collide here and Soul Patrol will be on the scene giving you all some nice reviews of this classic black music. There will be two concerts promoted and produced by outside concerns called Platinum Productions. Kudos to Platinum Productions in keeping their promises of giving full access to Soul Patrol as we continue in our quest to bring you loyal Soul Patrollers reviews, information and images of the proceedings therein. Their other concert will feature Teena Marie and Keith Sweat.
First up was Saturday night's George Clinton Funkfest featuring The Masters Of Funk.
The Masters of Funk are merely 2010's version of the old UNITED WE FUNK tours of the 90's and early new millennium. These tours usually cater to the 70's funk crowd and have included the likes of The Gap Band, SOS Band, Lakeside, Confunkshun, The BarKays, The Ohio Players, The Dazz Band, Slave and others that neatly fit into the post-funk-pre-hip-hop music that ushered in and subsequently ran concurrent with disco and the emerging hip-hop/rap scene.
Tonight's lineup was really no different with one notable exception: Sugarfoot's Ohio Players.
Before I get into them I need to describe for you a typical Master's Of Funk performance.
This show had Slave, Dazz, Confunkshun, The Bar Kays and the aforementioned Sugarfoot's Ohio Players.
Four of those five bands basically play together and the music literally never stops. Different musicians from each of those bands wander on and off the stage at will adding their own flavor and stepping up to deliver their classic hits. It's almost akin to seeing a revue as it keeps movin and groovin, keeping you on the edge of your seat anticipating what will happen next. All of the music is delivered expertly since this is no tribute show but actually boasts the artists that cut the original material.
We were treated to jamming renditions of Joystick, Fun, Freakshow, It's Your Attitude, Love's Train, Whip It, Slide and even a little slick SoulFinger tag/horn line vamp.
Confunkshun's Michael Cooper and Felton Pilate were in fine if not excellent form. In fact Michael crooned his smash hit Love's Train from what appeared to be the middle of the audience and worked his way up to the stage. This crowd interaction technique always proves effective in waking up and working up the audience.
Larry Dodson and the BarKays which included original bassist (and the ONLY original BarKay in the group-Dodson came later) James Alexander tore through Freakshow and later stepped up for one of basically two ballads for this funk conglomeration, It's Your Attitude. I really was looking for both SoulFinger in length or at the very least Holy Ghost but these shows are tightly produced to get the maximum effect with minimal effort. When having this many acts rolled into one the 'effort' I speak of involves rehearsals, song selection,band presentation order and so on. Make no mistake all tunes are played correctly and to perfection.
Having said that I now will get into a masterful yet truncated Sugarfoot's Ohio Players set. First of all let it be said here that Leroy 'Sugarfoot' Bonner is easily one of the great soul/funk icons of all time and as it turns out a wonderfully honest and loving human being. His awareness of all around him and his need to include that into the context of his compositions both musically and spiritually make him one of my funk heroes. We interviewed Mr.Bonner and it should be up on the Soul Patrol site by week's end. I wont say anything else personally about the man because I don't want to take away from this beautifully conducted interview involving myself, Bob Davis and Mr. Bonner.
There's always a headliner of the actual Masters themselves. This band is the only band that shows up in complete and they take the stage as a band unto themselves. Other Masters Of Funk may perform with them but mostly it's just that band's set. This occurred before with The SOS Band and tonight this role was reserved for Sugarfoot's Ohio Players.
Weaving in and out of the Master's set smoothly, this version of the Ohio Players is soooooo good that it makes one wonder if we can get a Night with Sugarfoot's Ohio Players-all to themselves playing ALL of the hits.
As George Clinton, Stanley Clarke and Charlie (Uncle Charlie) Wilson have done previously Mr. Bonner has assembled some fine YOUNG (clearly no one over thirty) musicians. He's trained em, taken all of their chops and finely honed them to fit laser-like through the eye of a needle and in so doing has created a musical entity that comes as close to any of their recordings LIVE as any of the older Ohio Players groups have EVER done.
They KILLED Fopp, Skin Tight, I Want To Be Free and of course Fire. There was a new arrangement on Fire that was so hip and filled with musicality that it almost made me forget the original. They also played Love Rollercoaster. The crowd clearly was pleased immensely. It was clear from the opening notes that this wasn't going to be like OP shows of the past. The horns and rhythm section were TIGHT, Sugar's vocals were clear and lucid but unfortunately were often defeated by the system and most notably whatever the sound engineer was doing.
The problem here is that it's all a bit loud and with no distinction. The presence of really great musicians helps to overcome this somewhat with their musicality, dynamics and overall professionalism but in 2010 this should absolutely NOT be a problem of any note.
Last but certainly not least was George Clinton and PFunk.
I wrote right here in February that Mr. Clinton had outdone himself with his and his bandmates performance at the Keswick. It's been a tough year for this band as Mr. Clinton himself has lost a mother, a son, Mallia Franklin and of late Starchild-Gary 'Doo-Wop' Shider. They've also had to deal with several debilitating illnesses within the ranks of the band.
It's clear that within a month of Mr. Shider's passing the band has some challenges with the ole adage that says the show must go on. While everything that was tight remained tight the effort was sort of dragging and moribund. We've seen this before but now we all know that Gary Shider's stage presence, directing the band, correcting flaws in the sound presentation and the like are and will be missed greatly.
RIP Gary Shider!
George has cut all of the dreads, twists, ribbons and braids that have become an identifier of sorts for him over the years. He's slicked back with a 'doo' and finger waves and his beard is now a goatee. It's all also black.
Their show was perfunctory P-Funk. Nothing particularly great but nothing so bad as to make one walk out either. Having seen them fly high with some of their best stuff last Feb., I'm going to give this worn-out group of funk masters a pass for this performance. Hopefully they'll recover from this last devastating loss and return to the excellent from of the recent past.
The hit Flashlight, a nasty ass Not Just Knee Deep (they never mess this up), Something Stanky In Here, Gamin On Ya,Un-Disco Kidd, Bop Gun, Tear The Roof Off The Muthasucka and Atomic Dawg. Belitta Woods was Belitta Woods. Ditto for Mike Hampton and Franky Kash Waddy. It just all sort of dragged on and out in ways that reminded one of the mortality of us all . Life goes on even if or when we cannot.
Long live the Funk!
If you haven't seen one of these shows, please go and pay homage to the peculiar musical iconoclast that is FUNK. This will never be the across the board slice of Americana that say B.B. King and his show are but for US Funkateers of the late sixties through the eighties it is and if it aint IT SHOULD BE.
In about a minute it'll be gone and somebody we don't like will claim it, play it and most importantly call it their own as inventors, procreators and maintainers.
If nothing else....
Hire A Band
PRESS RELEASE: Dell East (Essence of Entertainment) Is Back!!!!
Editor's Note: Speaking of Philadelphia (and of course Black History), Soul-Patrol is quite pleased to announce the return of the Robin Hood Dell East Amphitheatre!!!
For as many years as Soul-Patrol has been around (1996), the Dell East has been our "summertime home away from home." We have covered artists like MANDRILL, OHIO PLAYERS, WHISPERS, DELLS, ZAPP, RAY, GOODMN & BROWN, BOBBY WOMACK, PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC, TEENA MARIE, BARKAYS, ARETHA FRANKLIN and many, many others. For Philadelphia's Black community, The Dell East is one it's the most important institutions of the 20th Century.
It's been closed down for the past few summers, as the City of Philadelphia has done some reconstruction & modernization and that has been a loss for the community. This summer the Dell East will be back in action, with a full summer schedule. Starting on Monday July 12 2010 with a lineup featuring; O'JAYS, KINDRED THE FAMILY SOUL & ERIC ROBERSON (I can't announce the full schedule yet, but no doubt I will when I can).
If you live within 100 miles of Philadelphia and if you are at all interested in seeing/hearing this type of music :-) in a classic/legendary big city live outdoor setting, by yourself or with friends/family, I would strongly suggest that you take advantage of the summer subscription program outlined below by our friends Maya Burnett and Warren Haskins of the Family of Dell East, Inc. (www.delleast.org)
For just $240 you can see all 8 Dell East Essence concerts. What a bargan to see GREAT BLACK MUSIC (especially when you consider that in today's environment some places are charging $100 & up to see a single concert of mediocre Black music.)
Afternoon Good Folk;
Things are really moving, some things fast other things Slow. We now have fought for our Family the Season Subscribers. We won a lot and lost a little. We lost in maintaining old ticket prices, the great seats (Sections A thru K) have increased to $40 each. However, we won a great discount for Season Subscriber Seats (all 8 Essence concert events only) Reg. price $320. Family discount 25% saves $80. This means you only pay $240. Per season seat.
Second tier pricing are 3rd tier seating (Sections E thru BB) regular price $25. each. Season Subscriber Seats ( all 8 Essence concert events only) Reg. price $200. Family discount 20% saves $40. Means you pay $160. per season seat.
Box Office expected to open first week of June (at moment) no exact day or date. Family of Dell East, Inc is taking Subscriber's Request & Commitments for seats. Have subscribers furnish contact & seat request information to Family Board members. We will compile a Master List and have Box Office, in advance of their opening, prepare your seat packages. You will then Pickup and Pay for seats at Dell East Box Office via cash or credit card.
Retention of Old Subscriber's seat is not guaranteed. Box Office will try to keep you close to where you were in last season, 2007. The new seats are a little wider and thus, some were eliminated.
Full Artist lineup to be announced soon. Family will follow up with same announcement later this week. Thus, we are gearing up to ram this season into full steam ahead. See attachment. Stay tuned; get busy passing the word to other Family members. For a limited period, about a month, we are accepting new family members as new 2010 Season Subscribers. Blessings, thanks for your solid and long-term Family support and holla...
--Maya Burnett and Warren Haskins
Contact: President Maya Burnett at 215-387-1930 or E-Mail: Warren Haskins – firstname.lastname@example.org
Or go to www.delleast.org and I'll see ya this summer...
Concert Review: Howard Hewett/Teena Marie @ the Dell East. Philly (6/17)
Teena Marie Live Onstage @ the Dell East. Philly (6/17)
Going to a concert at the Dell East in Philly is always an uplifting experience for me. For me it's an activity that is somewhat akin to drinking "mother's milk" and rejuvenating my own spirit so that I can soar and become a better person.
Some of the best concerts we have covered here on Soul-Patrol.com have taken place at the Dell East. One example on the site that I can point you towards is at the following link:
Although I am not a native of Philadelphia, the whole scene reminds me of a time and place when Black Americans walked on the soil of the United States with pride in themselves because they were armed with the full knowledge that the culture they had created was quite simply the best that had ever been created and that their children would be able to leverage that culture into a future that knew no boundaries. We were truly the "Mighty People of the Sun" and we wore big Afro's and platform shoes because we deserved to be physically closer to the sun than other people.
Experiencing the true FUNK BOMB at the Dell East on a warm summer night is nostalgic for me because it reminds me of a time when Black Americans seemed destined for greatness. The 1970's truly were the historical equivalent of the 1920's "Harlem Renaissance". Although I'm always glad for the nostalgic feeling that it brings to me to be at the Dell East, it also causes me to cry when I think about how Black Americans have squandered all of our accomplishments of the 1970's since that time.
And for me this whole rollercoaster of emotions was to be enhanced by the presence of Sista Habibbah from the Philly Soul-Patrol Chapter & the Mandrill Family. If I was going to design a post card to use as an example of what 1970's Afrocentric philosophy "looked like", I would put a picture of Sista Habibbah on that postcard. Those of you who have met her, know that her calm & positive persona under what are sometimes the most negative of circumstances can be quite soothing. In short Sista Habibbah looks and sounds like what "tha Funk" was always supposed to be.
On this night instead of the almost biblical looking Mandrill the main attraction was going to be a small white woman named Teena Marie, who on the surface is the antithesis of of the Wilson Brothers.
Teena Marie over the years has managed to become a "cult artist" within the Black community ever since she first burst on the scene in 1979 with the double sided hit: "I'm a Sucker For Your Love" & "Deja Vu (I've Been Here Before"). And in today's environment where on a daily basis we see new young white singers being artificially promoted as being "soul music artists", the accomplishment of Teena Marie and her astounding connection to Black America stands as the overwhelming example that these "wannabe soul artists" (ex: Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse, Justin Timberlake, etc.) should aspire to.
Opening the show was Howard Hewett...
Howard Hewett is a classic balladeer who also brings some "limited funk credentials" to the table based on the hits he had as a member of Shalimar. He did a good job in revising his classic hits from the days of Shalimar ("Make this Move Right Now", "Night To Remember", etc.) and his solo career ("For The Lover in You"). The crowd of just under 10,000 at the dell east responded to polite applause & respect. This crowd loves Howard Hewett, his legacy of great songs from the past and respects the trials & tribulations of his personal life which they know all about from his many TV appearances over the years as well as his transition into the world of Gospel music. He talked from the stage about his new album "If Only" and asked the crowd several times to request it on WDAS-FM (the local Clear Channel Knee-Grow Radio station). But in the end, the crowd knew Howard Hewett was really there to set the table for the "Vanilla Child".
By this point it was now dark outside and I decided to take a walk around both the inside and the outside of the Dell East. Although located inside of Fairmount Park, the Dell East is truly a part of the community of North Philadelphia. There is a fence around it, however the fence is set up in such a manner that even if you are outside of the venue, you can still see the stage and hear the music. People were camped outside of the fence with coolers and BBQ grills and there were plenty of little kids on bikes stationed outside. Inside of the venue there were "playas" (both male & female) all dressed like they were attending the Academy Awards. A fair number of younger people were also in attendance and the DJ was now playing a mix of 70's funk & early 1980's rap music in anticipation of Teena Marie.
Warren Haskins of "The Friends of the Dell East" took the stage to announce the presence of several local dignitaries and their support for the recently announced 40 million dollar renovations for the Dell East facility.
Patti Jackson of WDAS then introduced Teena Marie and the crowd finally had their "Vanilla Child".
Teena "skipped" on to the stage and then went off with a rousing cover version of the late Lyn Collins classic "THINK". So imagine this scene for a moment...
- I am inside of the Dell East, located in North Philadelphia, one of the largest ghettoes in the United States.
- The crowd is "99 & 44/100 percent Black".
- Teena Marie opens with a cover version of what is perhaps the FUNKIEST hit song ever recorded by a Black woman.
- Next to me, dancing up a storm is the most afrocentric Black woman that I know (Sista Habibbah)
- & the crowd is R-O-C-K-I-N to this tiny white woman and showing her as much love as if it were Lyn Collins herself.
You see that's because when you are dealing with Teena Marie and Black America, you are witnessing something that Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse, Justin Timberlake, (and their handlers) can only dream about and NEVER achieve.
I understand what it is, but for my own edification (and because I knew that I would be writing this review) I walked around during the course of the evening and asked at least 10 different people the question: "How come Black people love Teena Marie so much even though she's white?"
EVERY PERSON THAT I ASKED RESPONDED WITH THE SAME EXACT ANSWER:
"TEENA MARIE AIN'T WHITE, SHE'S ONE OF US"
Teena Marie then proceeded to run thru not only her own catalog of hit songs, but also those of others:
"Behind The Groove"
"Love of Money"
"I Need Your Lovin"
"Deja Vu (I've Been Here Before)"
"You and I"
"I'm Just a Sucka For Your Love"
"Sweet Sticky thing"
"Ooo La La"
"Rock Your World"
"Fire & Desire"
So therefore, in addition to her own beloved work, Lady Tee also had the good sense to connect the dots of her own music to that of other artists from that timeframe.
This was truly FUNK CHURCH yall
From the stage she spoke of "sistahood" and just how tough it was dealing with all of the "Casanova Brown's" of the world and the sistas in the audience yelled back at "Lady Tee".....HELL YEAH.
She spoke of her mentor/lover the late Rick James and then paid tribute to him with the songs: "You & I" (featuring Teena's musical director whose name escapes me on the vocals) in tribute to the late Rick James and Teena joined him on him on "I'm Just a Sucka For Your Love". When it came time for "Fire & Desire", Teena sang it alone. I had been hoping that perhaps the musical director or maybe even Howard Hewett would join her for the classic duet originally sung by Teena Marie and Rick James. However there really was no need for Teena to be accompanied by anyone. At that point the spirit of Rick James had permieated the Dell East and you could literally hear his voice. This all brought a tear not only to my eye, but I am sure to all who were in attendance.
And of course during the rousing "Square Biz" she rapped (yes I do mean rap) the lyrics that forever made Teena Marie "ONE OF US" first heard back in 1981....
"I've heard a boatload of other ladies' raps
But they ain't got nothin' on me
I'm less than five foot one -- 100 pounds of fun
I like sophisticated funk
I live on Dom Perignon, Caviar, Filet mignon
And you can best believe that's bunk
Here's what I'm talking -- Square Biz, Square Biz
I've been called Casper, Shorty, Lil' Bit
And some they call me Vanilla Child
But you know that don't mean my world to me
Cause baby names can't cramp my style
I love chickiken and Buff's collard greens
A little hot water corn bread
I love you too Cat Daddy, but don't you let that
Go to your head -- That's what I'm talking baby,
You know I like spirituals and rock
Sarah Vaughn, Johann Sebastian Bach
Shakespeare, Maya Angelou,
and Nikki Giovanni just to name a few
I'm wild and peaceful, Lady Tee
I got to keep my irons in the fire you see
I got the point, the scam, the low, the deal
What you feel, say what!
Flash back -- who's that..."
Those words are in fact the answer to the question I had asked folks in the crowd earlier that evening.
Teena Marie really is "ONE OF US", regardless of her parentage...
HER DNA IS 100 PERCENT BLACK AMERICAN
And in the song Square Biz" she defines EXACTLY what that DNA is composed of.
Try as they might Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse, Justin Timberlake, (and their handlers) will NEVER GET THERE.
The crowd leaves the Dell East after the final song and they are energized once again about their own culture.
They are energized because they just got through watching a tiny white woman tell them just how great their culture is and that to prove just how great the culture of Black Americans is that she personally went to the extent of totally discarding not only the culture she was born into, but also the PRIVILEGE that goes along with it.
Now what better endorsement can the once (and perhaps future) currently low self esteemed "MIGHTY PEOPLE OF THE SUN" have for itself?
And what better place to do it than at the ancient Dell East, where surely the ancients themselves could be heard chanting "Square Biz" in the night air in Philadelphia...
Have read statements from people such as the "black music experts at Rolling Stone magazine" saying that "Teena Marie transcends race" or worse yet, "The music of Teena Marie is Color Blind".
I am here to tell you that these people have no clue what they are talking about because Teena Marie's music is explicitly about race, empowerment, culture and more.
Their statements prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that they either never listened to the lyrics or have never witnessed a show. Teena Marie's music is 100 percent about the glorification and extension of a culture that is dying a very painful death. And Teena Marie has a message to Black Americans; she wants you to "fly your funk flag" and to "fly it with pride." because once you let them take it away from you, that you won't EVER get it back.
And that my friends is what's "behind the groove."
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