Mandrill Live at the Dell East in Philly July 18, 2000

To cut to the chase, this was the BEST Mandrill show I have ever seen (and that goes back to the 70's). As a matter of fact it was the BEST single FUNK performance that I have seen live since the 1970's. My reasons for saying this had just as much to do with the "ONE" as they do with the music…

Once again, my apologies to Rickey Vincent for the format of this review…

1. FUNKY MONKEY - this surprised me since Mandrill usually opens up their shows with the song "Mandrill", which always seemed most appropriate to me since it starts out with some rather simple African drumming and then the song evolves to tell the story of the journey of the history of Black music using elements of Jazz, Blues, Rock n' Roll, Latin/Caribbean and finally Funk as the result of the fusion of these styles. The song "Mandrill" not only lays that entire history out for us in an instrumental way, but it also defines what we can expect the sound of band called Mandrill be. Anyhow, they opened with "Funky Monkey" which isn't quite as "deep" as "Mandrill", but I think that it was perfect for this crowd. It got people up and dancing immediately!

2. KEEP ON ROLLIN - This song has got it ALL, and much like the song "Mandrill" takes us thru various styles of music from Jazz to Latin to Gospel.

3. COHELO - Lou Wilson chose this moment in time, during this STANK LATIN GROOVE THAT JUST WON'T QUIT to introduce the band, who were all wearing festive Afro-Caribbean outfits. This is signifigant of course because Mandrill was "Afrocentric" LONG before that word ever came into our vocabulary. Anyhow, the multidimensional Wilson Brothers Rick, Lou, Carlos and Wilfredo were right out front as usual, playing a DAZZELING array of instruments from the Congas, Drums, Flute, Sax, Bass, Percussion and on vocals. The supporting cast, led by our friend (& long time Soul Patroller) Neftali Santiago on Drums were: Mark Ray - Guitar, Michial Magid - Organ/Keyboards, Danny Weinstein - Trombone/Violin and Alex Ray - Vocals

4. MANGO MEAT - You all know how it starts out…. TRUMPET/TROMBONE BLARING…..and then that STANK BASS ROARS in to start of this Latin/Funk EXPLOSION. After sitting thru the 10 minutes of Latin groove, audience banter, etc provided during COHELO, MANGO MEAT is nothing short of a SHOCK to your system. The audience rose to it's feet as soon as the bass line kicked in and stayed on their feet as the band made a seamless transition to….

5. HANG LOOSE - (…THE BOMB CONTINUES) Please don't tell anyone this, but "Hang Loose' is my very favorite of the Mandrill "party songs". Needless to say, the "rump" that I had started shaking during MANGO MEAT was now moving twice as fast J

6. CAN YOU GET IT (SUZIE CEASAR) - Since moving to the Philadelphia area about 10 years ago, the popularity of this song has never ceased to amaze me. Back in New York, I'm not even sure if this song made any noise at all, back in the day. But if you put this song on at a club or a party in Philly, WATCH OUT!!!! People jump up out of their chairs like it's Judgment day and everyone has made it into heaven (more on this song later)

7. FENCEWALK - Of course this is Mandrill most famous song (and our friend Neftali's showcase). The crowd had already been up for the past 25 min or so, all they had to do was continue shaking their BOOTIES

8. GIT IT ON - People write to me often about something called "Black Rock". This song is one of the highlights of that "oxymoron" of a term. Funny thing about it is that Black people aren't supposed to like Rock n' Roll and here we have what is quite possibly the MOST "Afrocentric" band of ALL time playing it and FIFTEEN THOUSAND Black people on a perfect summer night in the City of Brotherly Love SHAKIN THEIR ASSES to some HARD ROCK. (NOTE: Please DO NOT tell the people at Rolling Stone, eMpTyV or your local "Negro radio station" about this amazing phenomena…..they might just have a stroke….lol)

9. APE IS HIGH - This was the encore and at this point the dancing had turned into people just simply jumping up and down in unison with the band. It was a MIND BLOWING EXPERIENCE!!!!!!

…..and an hour and a half after it started, it got quiet :(

The Robin Hood Dell amphitheater, was built in 1930 and is located at Ridge Avenue, and Dauphin Street. It is a part of Fairmount Park (Philly's answer to Central Park) and is located in West Philadelphia. It seats around 10,000 with another 5,000 gathered around the "bowl" in a lawn area that surrounds the amphitheater. Tickets were priced at $18.00 for orchestra seats, $15.00 for general admission and $9.00 for the "lawn area" (which has no seating). It's owned by the city and the people who run it seem to be doing a pretty good job of providing top notch entertainment at a reasonable price. Prior to the show they made several announcements, including the announcement of a "R&B History Museum" that is going to be constructed there.
Parking is horrible; you have to scramble to find a spot to park in and around trees and bushes.
The sound system is average.

The joint was PACKED!!!!!!!!!

This was an "old school crowd" that was "99 & 44 percent" BLACK. Quite a bit different than the crowd at the plush Blues club that I saw Original P at 2 days before hand. As I observed the crowd I observe things like: old friends who hadn't seen each other in years running up to each other hugging/kissing, people wearing whistles and blowing them, people who were wearing Afros, people wearing dreads, people walking tall, brotha's were gamin, sistas were playin, but above all people standing proud. It's a look that you don't see very often nowadays.

This were a bunch of people who were at "one", with each other, caught up in a universal groove supplied by a band that whose very physical appearance and dress suggests "the people of the bible". The music comes from a period of time in these peoples lives when the "message really was in the music" and while they remember that time all too well, their faces also carry the pain that has been caused as a result of the loss of culture and dignity since that time. Going to a Mandrill concert bears with it a certain amount of "spiritual baggage" that is an absolute requirement. The band never says anything about it specifically from the stage, except for the occasional pronouncements of things like "unity", "conquest of hard times", "freedom", etc, but this band doesn't have to pontificate. See because in order to be "down with Mandrill", EVERY Mandrill fan knows they must be "down with a certain program", that the band never really speaks of from the stage, but you know it's there. It's in the way they dress, it's in how they say what they say, it's in the vibe of the music and the way they carry themselves.

So what was different this time?
Well I get asked the question on the Internet: "What is Funk", over and over again and when I tell people that I can't explain it, they assume that I am lying. The plain fact of the matter is that it truly can't be explained, it must be felt.

When CAN YOU GET IT (SUZIE CEASAR) was playing what I saw were 15,000 Black people rising up in unison dancing and cheering not only for Mandrill , the band and it's music but for itself. For myself, I could (as Carole King might say) "feel the earth move under my feet", from the sheer power of those 15,000 people moving together, dancing to the beat of those most African of instruments (drums and percussion), I could feel the heat and the sweat coming off of the people's bodies as they were dancing. I'm sure that everyone there could feel that heat and sweat. I'm also certain that nobody minded one bit.
Nobody minded because for a 1.5 hour period of time, it felt just like it was 1974 all over again. It sure as hell felt like each and every person there that night was my friend. And that is a feeling that is something quite rare these days and is something to be cherished.

The "ONE" was in full effect (and you could FEEL it)

--Bob Davis

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