Welcome To The Soul-Patrol Newsletter
Did I Hear You Say that You Wanted Some Concert Reviews???
Scroll down and check these out, and you will find that we have some reviews for you no matter what your taste is. Thanks to longtime Soul-Patrol.com contributors; Charles Duke, David Brooks, Dr. G, Evan Ginsburg, Gary Tyson, and Randall Grass for documenting these live performances.
--Concert Review: Branford Marsalis @ Kean College
--Concert Review: Frankie Beverly & Maze (w/ Freddie Jackson) @ Newark Symphony Hall
--Concert Review: Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan, and Gladys Knight @ Radio City Music Hall
--Concert Review: Plunky and Oneness, Randy Crawford/Joe Sample, Maysa, Jonathan Butler, Eric Roberson, and Kim Waters @ Capitol Jazz Festival in Columbia, MD
--Concert Review: Alicia Keys, Ne-Yo, and Jordin Sparks @ Prudential Center Newark
--Concert Review: Jaheim and Tamia @ Newark Symphony Hall
--Concert Review: Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, and Victor Wooten @ Nokia Theater/NYC
--Concert Review: Maxwell and Jazmine Sullivan @ Radio City Music Hall
--Concert Review: Terrence Blanchard & Spike Lee (with his quintet, Patti Austin, Raul Midon, Bilal, and The NJ PAC Orchestra) @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center
--Concert Review: Dianne Reeves and McCoy Tyner @ NJ Performing Arts Center
--Concert Review: Mavis Staples @ Carnegie Lecture Hall in Pittsburgh, PA on Saturday 11/22/08
--Concert Review: Chi-Lites @ Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem
--Concert Review: War & Average White Band @ Capitol One Bank Theatre At Westbury (Ny) Friday September 19, 2008
--Concert Review: 25th Annual Roots Of American Music Festival- New Orleans Tribute Lincoln Center Out Of Doors Fest NYC Irma Thomas & Many More August 23, 2008
--Concert Review: Hilary Cole/Billy Stritch (Birdland Jazz Club 8/15 NYC)
--Concert Review: Neil Diamond (Madison Square Garden 8/16 NYC)
--Concert Review: Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings/Mehanham Street Band/Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens @ Central Park Summerstage 8/17 NYC
--Concert Review: Still Black, Still Proud: An African Tribute To James Brown W/Spam All Stars Lincoln Center Out Of Doors Fest 8/22/08 NYC
--Concert Review: Joel Dorn Tribute-"Keep A Light In The Window" @ Lincoln Center Out Of Doors Festival- August 13, 2008 New York City
--Concert Review: Hal Willner's Bill Withers Project @ Prospect Park Brooklyn August 9, 2008
--Concert Review: Richie Havens @ Bam R&B Fest- Metro Tech Brooklyn Thursday Aug. 7, 2008
--Concert Review: Liza Minelli/Christopher Cross Asher Levy Park Brooklyn August 7, 2008
--Concert Review: Return To Forever (W/ Bela Fleck & The Flecktones)
--Concert Review: Larry Coryell/Chuck Brown @ Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, MD
--Concert Review: Dave Mullen & Butta @ Shrine - NYC (8/1/08)
--Concert Review: Hezikiah Walker/Kurt Carr/Dave Hollister & More @ Central Park's Summerstage Nyc July 19, 2008
--Concert Review: Lakeside & the Bar-Kays @ At the Carter Barron Amphitheatre - Washington, DC (7/12/08)
--Concert Review: Seun Kuti & Egypt 80/Afrika Bambaataa/Love Trio & U-Roy Central Park's Summerstage Nyc 7/6/08
--Concert Review: Return To Forever @ Chicago Theatre
--Concert Review: Stevie Wonder @ Taste of Chicago
--Concert Review: La La Brooks @ the Cutting Room NYC
--Black Rock Coalition's Birthday Tribute 2 Prince @ Bam Cafe - Brooklyn, NY (6/6/08)
--Concert Review: Diana Ross- New York State Theater- Lincoln Center 6/2/08
--Concert Review: Clones Of Funk @ Cardinal's Nest - Washington, DC (5/31/08)
--Erykah Badu & The Roots 5/30 @ Chicago Theater
--Concert Review: Bettye LaVette @ Rochester NY Lilac Festival
--Concert Review: Barbara Harris/Willie Winfield/EarlLewis/Cleveland Still/ Teenagers/etc. @ Kupferber Performing Arts Center- Queens College NYC - 5/3/08
--Concert Review: B-52's @ Electric Factory/Philadelphia 4/25/2008 ("Set way back in the middle of a field, is a funky ole shack, that's where it's at...")
Check it all out and thanks in advance for your consideration...
Bob Davis - Soul-Patrol
798 Woodlane Rd
Mount Holly, NJ 08060
Concert Reviews: Branford Marsalis, Frankie Beverly & Maze/Freddie Jackson, Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan, and Gladys Knight, Capitol Jazz Festival, Alicia Keys, Ne-Yo, and Jordin Sparks, Jaheim and Tamia, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, and Victor Wooten, Maxwell and Jazmine Sullivan, Dianne Reeves and McCoy Tyner, Terrence Blanchard & Spike Lee (with his quintet, Patti Austin, Raul Midon, Bilal, and The NJ PAC Orchestra)
Branford Marsalis (February, at Kean College in Union, NJ)--great music--played a lot of straight-ahead/almost avant-garde type of jazz. The musicianship was top-notch.
Frankie Beverly & Maze (w/ Freddie Jackson): Saw them in March at Newark Symphony Hall. It was a birthday present for my son who loves the music of Frankie Beverly & Maze, but never saw them live. Blanche and I have seen them several times at the Essence Music Festival, which we've gone to about 6-7 times. Good show. Freddie Jackson ("Rock Me Tonight," "You Are My Lady"), who I've never seen live, also put on a good show. Symphony Hall somewhat is marred by a poor sound system--but the show was good, nonetheless.
Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan, and Gladys Knight at a May concert at Radio City Music Hall. Diana, Patti, and Gladys were excellent; Chaka was drunk or high (which seemingly is her norm,
nowadays) and just wasn't that good. The concert was some type of fundraiser.
Capitol Jazz Festival in June (Columbia, MD). As the festival is an outdoor event, we didn't really see too many acts--the average temperature that weekend was about 103 degrees. Did catch: Plunky and Oneness (they have a BADDDD jam called "Drop"), Randy Crawford with Joe Sample, Maysa, Jonathan Butler, Eric Roberson, and Kim Waters. There were several other acts I wanted to catch (such as Ledisi); but it was too damned hot.
Alicia Keys, Ne-Yo, and Jordin Sparks at the Prudential Center in Newark (also in June). Alicia Keys made up for a horrible performance she did at one of the Essence Music Festivals when she first came out--she put on a PHENOMENAL show!!! She played for a little better than one hour--did most of her songs over the span of her three albums. Ne-Yo--this kid's great. Fantastic showman! We first saw him when he was a relative unknown and opened for John Legend. He just released his third album last month; and in my opinion, he's 3-3. Jordin Sparks was OK.
Jaheim and Tamia (June, Newark Symphony Hall). We'd been dying to see Jaheim live for quite sometime--this kid's got a helluva voice, four great albums, and would've been considered one of the greats had he been around in our day. But live? The poor kid has absolutely NO stage presence--the great voice was in evidence--but he cannot command a stage. Tamia (who I didn't know was going to be there) is one of those singers who appealed to my late daughter Kim. Kinda tear-jerker, "I've-still-got-my-womanly-pride-though-you-messed-me-over" type of songs. Ain't my type of stuff, but she has a good voice.
Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, and Victor Wooten--"SMV"--September at the Nokia Theater in New York. Hey, what are you gonna do when there's THREE ALL STAR BASSISTS playing together???!!! Damned good show, musicianship was wonderful. Esperanza Spalding--fine as all get-out to look at--opened the show. She sings and plays acoustic bass. Kind of free-sounding music; but it doesn't do much for me. (She's still fine,
Maxwell and Jazmine Sullivan, Radio City in October. This was my second time seeing Maxwell (first time was also at Essence), and this kid's got all the goods. Great stage presence, great showman, and he has made some great music over the course of three albums. Jazmine Sullivan is a newcomer who's a good songwriter. Has a kind of a "Lauren Hill/Mary J. Blige" kinda mix in her sound. Her music is a little teeny-bopperish; but she did OK.
Terrence Blanchard & Spike Lee (with his quintet, Patti Austin, Raul Midon, Bilal, and The NJ PAC Orchestra) at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (last night). The concert was a presentation of selected works of music that Blanchard has scored for various Spike Lee films (such as "X", "When The Levees Broke," 25th Hour," "Clockers," and "Jungle Fever"). Brilliant music; I had always wanted to see Blanchard live--he's a great, great trumpeter.
Dianne Reeves and McCoy Tyner at NJ Performing Arts Center in December. It had been 29 years since I last saw McCoy Tyner; but this man has lost NONE of his abilities on the piano whatsoever! Tyner did about a one-hour set (which included one of my favorites, "Fly With The Wind") and was phenomenal. And Dianne Reeves (who was the headliner) was simply superb. I had always wanted to see her live, and she didn't disappoint at all; simply a brilliant singer, wonderful tone, excellent phrasing, and masterful control of her voice.
Concert Review: Mavis Staples @ Carnegie Lecture Hall in Pittsburgh, PA on Saturday 11/22/08
I arrived at the Carnegie Lecture Hall around 7:30pm with a friend to check out Mavis Staples, but the first act was a local ensemble named The Young Ambassadors
(4 young boys and 5 young girls, all between the ages of 6 and 16). The music style was African-rhythm (mostly timbales and bongos) with accompaniment on keyboards and some African dancing. The best part of the performance was the performance of Louis Armstrong's "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)", a kick-butt jazz performance with each female vocalist taking their turn on lead vocals....the song also featured some flute playing. The Youth Ambassadors were finished at 7:50pm.
After intermission, Mavis Staples and keyboardist Steve Smith stepped to the stage at 8:15pm. THIS WAS A SHOW DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF GOSPEL GREAT MAHALIA JACKSON ! "I'll Fly Away From Here" featured the soulful, stirring vocal talent of Ms. Mavis Staples and some intense organ riffing by Steve Smith. After this song, Mavis stopped to talk about how she used to listen to Mahalia's records at the age of 8 and how she finally met Mahalia in person. "Rusty Old Halo" spoke about a man who had a lot of wealth but didn't share it with others less fortunate AND how we as Christians are supposed to shine our God light wherever you go. "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen" featured a hot, lengthy organ solo. "The Whole World in His Hand" was followed by a story by Mavis....talking about when Mahalia called on Mavis to assist her in singing a song onstage....Mavis sang the first verse and Mahalia stepped in afterwards.
"Precious Lord, Take My Hand" featured a lively, wicked organ solo and a lil bit of Holy Ghost praising & dancing by Mavis!! "Wade in the Water" and "Soon We'll Be Done (Wth the Troubles of This World)" led into Mavis talking about how her grandmother used to moan all the time....when young Mavis asked, "Why do you always moan like that?", the grandmother answered, "Well, when you moan, the devil don't know what you're talking about". "If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again" featured some nice bluesy piano riffing. Steve offered co-lead/backing vocals on "Down By the Riverside", which included "When The Saints Go Marching In". Mavis ended the show with her showstopper, "I'll Take You There", announcing The Staple Singers celebrate 58 years of taking their fans "there"....and then the fans were given the chance to take Mavis and Steve there by singing the chorus very loud! The show was over at 9:25pm.
I will say that it was definitely worth the time and money spent to see this beautiful gospel legend perform. And she is a very nice, down-to-earth, sweet soul...very personable with everyone (I met her backstage after the show). And, as a special surprise, I met Mavis's sister Yvonne backstage....another sweet person. This show was definitely a show to edify your spiritual body.
Concert Review: Chi-Lites @ Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem
What can you say about The Chi-Lites that hasn't already been said? How is it possible to give these gentlemen anymore accolades than they've already received? I'll give it a try...
On August 6, Darrell and I headed to Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem to be treated to a free concert (sponsored by NY City Parks) by the incomparable Chi-Lites. The park quickly swelled with people of all ages and hues as Darrell and I maneuvered our way to the front, stage right.
The band came on first and teased us with a medley of Chi-Lites hits. And then...there they were... Looking dapper as ever, donned in Chi-Lite turquoise, they did the "Chi-Lite Stroll" onto the stage and the crowd went wild - except me. Sometimes one just has to be still, take in the moment and pay homage to those who helped shape your musical youth - and that's what I did. After I gave my "thanks", all bets were off and then I went wild!
I have to admit that I was probably "in the moment" too much as I don't recall all of the songs they sang, but they did perform "A Letter to Myself", "Have You Seen Her", "Oh, Girl", "Mother Love" (which the crowd seemed to really appreciate), and one of my personal favorites, "Toby". Admittingly, there were times I giggled with glee and yanked on Darrell's shirt when the band would break into a song but Darrell did keep me grounded and kept me from going overboard.
By the end of the show, there must have been close to 800 people there. Folks were standing and sitting on the walls surrounding the bandstand area with others leaning off the wall above the recreation center. One person I recall very well - a woman, perhaps in her 70s, clothing a bit scattered, hair not well kempt, but nonetheless she was there with the masses singing all the lyrics to "Have You Seen Her". As she sang, she smiled and looked around. Obviously, I have no idea what she was thinking but I imagined her to be recalling her youth and reliving the hours she spent listening to and loving the Chi-Lites.
The discussion of Old School vs NuSoul/Neo Soul continues endlessly. However, I suggest "Old School" be renamed "Real School". For it's groups/individuals like The Chi-Lites, Sly & The Family Stone, Charles Wright, and Jimmy Castor whose expert teachings, if you will, lives on in NuSoul/Neo Soul, Hip Hop, Rap, Pop, and every vein of today's music.
Marshall Thompson, during the show, asked the audience if they'd heard of Beyonce and Jay-Z. Of course, the younger folks screamed and yelled and went crazy in response. What they didn't know is that both Beyonce and Jay-Z have sampled songs by the Chi-Lites but Marshall schooled them. Hence, the teachings of the Real School live on.
My thanks to the Chi-Lites not only for a wonderful show but for decades of wonderful music that has connected generations all over the world.
Concert Review: War & Average White Band @ Capitol One Bank Theatre At Westbury (Ny) Friday September 19, 2008
Ah…great live music. Times two no less.
Now AWB has always had a warm spot in my heart, ever since I saw them open for Marvin Gaye at Radio City Music Hall some 32 years ago. Now a quintet, their incredibly tight sound ranges from cool to funky. They've never had a "stage show" ala James Brown, but just play their hearts out with music that remains timeless. Thoroughly enjoyable would be the best way to sum up their one hour set.
Headliners War, with the lovable Lonnie Jordan, are not only a "show band," but master musicians. Their 7 pieces sound like double that on Westbury's great sound system. Several times I turned to my friend and said, "How GREAT is this band?" as we soaked in one classic after another. Galaxy was the highlight of the night as it included lengthy jamming. My only complaint? They didn't squeeze The World is a Ghetto into their sizzling near hour and a half set. This "older audience" may have numbered under a thousand, but were on their feet off and on throughout the evening.
So go out and support the legends, folks. They're still out there on that never ending road and without you they could come to a dead end. Excellent show. Bravo.
Concert Review: 25th Annual Roots Of American Music Festival- New Orleans Tribute Lincoln Center Out Of Doors Fest NYC Irma Thomas & Many More August 23, 2008
It borders on the remarkable that an event of this magnitude can be free. But it's just that. And what a show it was. Opening with a battle of the brass bands, the all-woman Pinettes Brass Band and the all male Hot 8 Brass Band marched throughout the park making a joyful noise. Not as polished as some of the veteran acts to follow, it nonetheless was a happy way to start what would be- for the most part- a wonderful day Betty Harris of Cry to Me and Nearer to You fame is being billed as a "lost" New Orleans R&B queen as she had dropped out of sight for the longest time. Well, I'm certainly glad they found her as she was in fine voice. Unfortunately, she got the short end of the stick for sure, as she did all of four songs before getting the hook. The woman deserves better.
Harris was followed by one of the greatest live acts on the planet in gospel act The Campbell Brothers' Sacred Funk. Backed by sousaphone great Kirk Joseph's Backyard Horns, The Campbells had the thousands on their feet with their sacred steel. But again, the set was a bit too short and kind of felt like a tease as when I saw them stretch out at BB Kings' Supper Club last year I saw firsthand the full effect of their musical virtuosity. Singer John Boutte was someone I had thus far been unaware of, so was I ever startled when Sam Cooke's voice came out of this dynamo. They sound so similar it's almost eerie. And what a wonderful, charismatic performer the man is. His songwriting is also both sharp, heartfelt and witty in an Oscar Brown Jr. kind of way. I'm told in New Orleans he's revered and I was so impressed by his soulful singing that I will be seeking out his CDs.
Finally, headliner Irma Thomas at age 67 hasn't lost a note. What a beautiful voice, great band, and royal stage presence this woman possesses. Why she never attained the mainstream success of so many of her peers is probably due to the business end of things, because talent wise she's got it and always has. Playing a generous hour and a half, she got a standing ovation and deservedly so. She's just marvelous and you should make every effort you can to see her when she leaves her home turf of New Orleans. Although the pacing of the event was odd with some bands getting time to deliver their full shows and others cut off at the knees, I can't complain about a 6 hour show featuring all this greatness on one stage. Bravo to all concerned for this one.
Concert Reviews: Hilary Cole/Billy Stritch, Neil Diamond, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
Hilary Cole/Billy Stritch (Birdland Jazz Club 8/15 NYC)
Jazz meets cabaret as wonderful vocalist and great pianist join forces for a lovely set in a lovely setting.
Neil Diamond (Madison Square Garden 8/16 NYC)
A master showman with moving lyrics and still powerful vocals backed by an ultra-tight band of 32 years- a sure-fire combination for his ever-adoring audience.
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings/Mehanham Street Band/Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens (Central Park Summerstage 8/17 NYC)
A tireless 4'11 52 year old bundle of energy, talent, and showmanship with an ever-tighter band making for a great, great concert; instrumentalists Menahan Street Band were tight (particularly for their first live gig) but lacked showmanship, and Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens won over the crowd with some old school gospel.
Concert Review: Still Black, Still Proud: An African Tribute To James Brown W/Spam All Stars Lincoln Center Out Of Doors Fest 8/22/08 NYC
This one was special. Very Take James Brown vets Pee Wee Ellis, Fred Wesley, vocalist Martha High, and mix them with world class African musicians Cheikh Lo and Vieux Farka Toure and what do you have? A serious jam that not only got thousands on their feet, but showed just how far reaching is the music of the godfather of soul. And what an interesting show it was. Hearing the colorful Cheikh Lo in a thick accent doing This Is A Man's World, was an almost indescribable experience. Sitting third row center, I watched Pee Wee and Fred look at him in both amazement and amusement as he put his own unique stamp on the tune. And watching the joy on the face of Toure as he sang Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud in French was just wonderful. I'd also be remiss in not mentioning that Lo played multiple instruments and Toure is a tremendous guitarist. I look forward to catching their own shows down the road. Although sitting on stools for much of the show and looking quite their age (and both extremely heavy), Pee Wee and Fred nonetheless haven't lost a note. It was a joy to hear them once again doing several old Brown tunes and even sneaking in some P-Funk. I've seen several James Brown tributes since he died and they're always great, but you also feel there's sort of a hole on stage with his absence. But because this was such a unique concept and presentation, I really couldn't say that. File this one under memorable and magical.
Concert Review: Joel Dorn Tribute-"Keep A Light In The Window" @ Lincoln Center Out Of Doors Festival- August 13, 2008 New York City
It almost feels "wrong" to review an incredibly heartfelt concert which for all intensive purposes could have been a memorial service. But I'll do it anyway.
For those who don't know, Joel Dorn was a legendary record producer for Atlantic Records. He was not only one of Ahmet Ertegun's in-house producers for Atlantic Records, but a multi-Grammy winner. In his prolific lifetime, he founded the 32 Records, Night, and Hyena labels and produced great pop, rock, R&B and jazz recordings with Bette Midler, Leon Redbone, Roberta Flack, Mose Allison, The Neville Brothers, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Yusef Lateef, and Max Roach and many others.
That Allison, Flack, and Kirk's widow were at the event made it all the more special.
The event was hosted by Dorn's son, musical great Mocean Worker whose casual dress and tone made the event feel relaxed rather than somber. The show itself was virtually flawless musically- each and everyone on that stage was a topnotch musician deserving to be in front of a 5,000 or so strong crowd.
Highlights included a duet between Dr. John and Cornell Dupree, the reuniting of the R&B/go-go band Black Heat after 35 years, noted New Orleans producer Wardell Querzergue standing alone on stage "conducting" a stunningly beautiful Aaron Neville tune, surprise visits by Hugh Masekela and The Persuasions, and the showstopper being Les McCann joined by Mocean's band for a smoking rendition of Compared to What?
And it was very appropriate that Dorn's recent discovery, Leslie Mendelson, was allowed to showcase her great skills; she played piano while singing a beautifully slowed-down version of Be My Baby. Sometimes you just hear someone for the first time and go "Wow." Well, I'm sure we're going to hear great things from this brilliant young musician. Thank you, Mr. Dorn, for yet another gift to the world of music.
Clocking in at around 3 hours, this Hal Willner produced epic was more consistent musically than his Bill Withers tribute, but frankly not quite as exciting as they relied more heavily on ballads for this one. Plus some of the rather long speeches about Dorn- as entertaining as they were- took away from the flow of the music. A video interview with the colorful Dorn himself, however, proved to be very illuminating, as we saw that great sense of humor that so many of the speakers had already acknowledged.
All in all this was a beautiful show, with many great moments. Mocean wrapped up the program by saying, "My dad would have f'in loved this." He apologized for his cursing. But I'm sure his dad certainly would have just done that- "loved this." I know I did.
Great work to all concerned.
Concert Review- Hal Willner's Bill Withers Project @ Prospect Park Brooklyn August 9, 2008(Bill Withers, Howard Tate, James "Blood" Ulmer fan, Sandra St. Victor, Corey Glover, Nona Hendryx)
Noted producer Hal Willner's Bill Withers tribute concert was loud, long, and some of the performances just plain didn't work. It was also at times simply magnificent. The event featured not only Bill's hits, but far more obscure album cuts. Particularly interesting was the fact that so many of the renditions sounded nothing like the originals, with artists allowed to stretch out and paint their stamp on Bill's genius.
On the negative side, the great Howard Tate muddled through a tune he clearly wasn't familiar with. How did I come to this conclusion? Well, he was reading the lyrics off several pieces of paper. Come on, now- does this even border on professional in a major event in front of 5,000 plus fans? I'm also a big James "Blood" Ulmer fan, but the sound wasn't quite right during his first number and just wasn't doing him any favors.
The wonderful Sandra St. Victor sang like her life depended on it, but was drowned out on much of her first number, although she tore the place up and was one of the evening's highlights on her second. And as much as I love The Swell Season, whose movie Once is just a beautiful, beautiful indie film, their quite sweet performance just couldn't touch many of the other vocalists this evening. But then there was greatness and plenty of it. Corey Glover of Living Colour was the show-stopper, just oozing charisma and talent out of every pour.
The ageless Nona Hendryx' version of Lovely Day was a great opener. The still marvelous Persuasions rocked the place with Grandma's Hands. I had never seen vocalist Eric Mingus, but what a showman he is plus he has a magnificent, booming voice. Angelique Kidjo was excellent as always with her powerful vocals and charisma. Jim James of the hot rock band My Morning Jacket did an excellent version of Aint No Sunshine. Simply put, over the course of the 3 hour or so show there was just a wealth of notable performances.
And then there was Bill himself. It's always a shock when you haven't seen a performer in a long, long time. Out came a 70 year old, white haired Bill, to open the second set. As the great guitarist Cornell Dupree did a beautiful version of Grandma's Hands, it appeared that Bill's accompanying him was spontaneous. The massive crowd rose in a deserved standing ovation, and I could feel the goose bumps that weren't there much of the first set. What a thrill to see this reclusive performer who hasn't released an album in almost a quarter century! And, clearly moved by it all, towards the end of the show he was back on stage shaking hands and hugging each and every performer as The Persuasions, his daughter, and a host of other singers did a long, powerful rendition of Lean On Me. With the audience begging for an encore, his lovely and talented daughter sang Just the Two of Us. It was both dramatic and quite touching watching a beaming Withers conduct a great crew of musicians including Music Director Steven Bernstein, Lenny Pickett, a full string section, and the fine band Harriet Tubman featuring Melvin Gibbs, J.T. Lewis and Brandon Ross.
The evening may have had its ups and downs, but to see someone of Bill Withers' stature "get his due" in an event of this magnitude, and to see so many marvelous world class performers on one stage, made this an unforgettable evening. That Bill himself was there and graced us by performing made it that much more of a thrill. I may have done a few things differently if I had organized the show, but all in all this was a musical memory to treasure and I look forward to seeing the documentary on Withers that this concert will be a major part of.
Concert Review- Richie Havens @ Bam R&B Fest- Metro Tech Brooklyn Thursday Aug. 7, 2008
For a man who is generally labeled a "folkie" and not a soul singer, Richie Havens sure has a lot of soul. He's one of those rare performers who is a "sure thing." I've never once seen him put on a bad show.
Singing insightful, passionate songs about the human condition, he's a wonderful guitar player, songwriter, and a great vocalist. And Freedom is one of the all-time great live concert performances.
Now I probably could have lived without one or two of the many "new ageisms" Richie threw at us between songs. For me it got in the way of the flow of the show. For example, I learned we are "all connected." And even though we may never see most of our fellow concert-goers again, we were all "one family" during the event.
But what was ironic is that the guy's absolutely right. Sitting there with a student from China, Soul-Patrollers Sally from California and fellow New Yorker Selah (both of whom I was meeting for the first time) as well as other friends, this beautiful music had brought us all together. And who knows if the stars will ever align where we'd all share such a nice experience together again?
If you've never seen Richie Havens live you should. You're going to hear some heartfelt, well performed music. And you may even learn a thing or two.
Concert Review- Liza Minelli/Christopher Cross Asher Levy Park Brooklyn August 7, 2008
Part of Liza Minelli's "magic" is that she is so vulnerable. And it's not just show business "shtick." She truly is. Stating she was "jet lagged," "weak," and "needed a chair," one wondered if she would get through the show. Coughing repeatedly in the middle of several numbers, she clearly was not well. But remarkably, in that Judy Garlandish "Show must go on" manner, she still managed to tear the house down, even if she spent most of the night in her chair.
Backed by an impeccable orchestra and noted pianist Billy Stritch, Liza remains one of the great forces in modern music; she's a throwback to a seemingly lost era. The woman knows how to "tell a story" with a song. And although she barely dances anymore, she is a showman supreme whose every gesture is passionate and means something.
Sitting next to a young singer in a park packed with thousands of people, my companion studied her- as should all performers. What she does is almost a lost art. She is simply put- even on an "off night"- a force of nature. Patti Labelle and very few others can touch her in pure emotion, glamour, and showmanship.
Opener Christopher Cross was the exact polar opposite. Looking and dressing like the guy next door cleaning out his garage; he never once got off his stool and exhibited zero charisma. Having been weaned on Al Green, James Brown, P-Funk and other master showmen, I almost wanted to tell the guy to get off his butt and perform. Surprisingly, his music is quite jazzy in person and actually very soothing. He has a fine voice, is a serious songwriter, and his band can play. A song about a friend who died young in a car accident was very touching and memorable. But a showman this guy isn't. All in all, though, it was a memorable evening. Liza survived, she triumphed, and fans left knowing they'd seen greatness. And you can't say that every day.
Return To Forever (W/ Bela Fleck & The Flecktones)
At 9:30pm, RETURN TO FOREVER (jazz legends Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, Chick Corea and Al DiMeola) started their set with some good fusion-jazz stuff. "Vulcan World" (a Stanley Clarke-penned tune) featured some HARD poppin' bass by Stanley, some spaced-out synthesizer riffs by Chick and blazin' lead guitar slaying by Al!! The next song (a Lenny White-penned tune) was a tune that leaped from jazz to a serious funk groove accompanied by more ferocious lead guitarisms. The next song featured some electronic riffs from Chick's synthesizer and a serious lesson in bass funk by the bassmaster Stanley Clarke....Stanley played some heavy poppin' & thumpin' bass licks, super-fast tempo "mandolin-style" bass licks, and seismic bass riffs (enough to make your bowels quake and have you sh*t on yourself)!!!!!!! "Romantic Warrior" featured Stanley on the upright bass. The encore (performed at 11:00pm) featured the song "The Duel of the Jester and The Tyrant", a great jazz tune featuring standout bass work by Stanley. The Return to Forever set ended at 11:20pm.
Larry Coryell/Chuck Brown @ Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, MD
Dr G and DJ Mike Hall saw RTF August 4 at Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, MD. The show was just as Dr Brookenstein described above. I ahd not seen these boys since 1975 at the Univ of MD.At the 1975 show Buddy Miles opend with a nice funky set. RTF followed with an amazing show and Santana headlined with NDugu battling Lenny andBuddy fir the #1 drummer of the night crown. I think he squeakedit out. On this night in 2008 Larry Coryell opened with a special bandput together just for the dedicated Columbia MD/DC fans. He hadAlphonse Monson on drums and Wallace Roney on trumpet. Awesome!But it was a RTF night. Stanley and the boys were unbelievable!Two nights earlier I saw Chuck Brown still the show from the Roots and Jill Scott at the same venue. Jill jammed her gogo song from herfirst CD with Chuck after her set ended. Great show!
Dave Mullen & Butta @ Shrine - NYC (8/1/08)
The smooth & creamy sounds of BUTTA (featuring the horniest horn player in the NYC, Dave Mullen) began at 11:15pm, with an intro that resembled the beginning of The Meters's "Funky Miracle", which led into the funky "Mahoney's Way", featuring lead vocals by The Original Eric-Jay, some good wah-wah guitarisms by the one they call GROOVALICIOUS, and the lively saxophone riffing of the BUTTA-FUNK KING........... (drumroll, please)......................DAVE MULLEN!! "March of the Roaches" was good, and "Flip It" followed, with the cool, jazzy piano riffing of Etienne Lytle. The best performance of the evening was the uptempo jazz-funk stylings of "Like Rashaan", featuring some really nice conga playing by The Original Eric-Jay, horny horn riffing with both alto & tenor saxes simultaneously by Dave, strong basswork by Don Martin, and a powerful, kick-butt drum solo by Bernard Davis!!! Unfortunately, since the Shrine wanted to throw a DJ Party after midnight, BUTTA was forced to vacate the stage at 12:00 midnight....WHAT???!!!!!!!
Concert Review: Hezikiah Walker/Kurt Carr/Dave Hollister & More @ Central Park's Summerstage Nyc July 19, 2008
Imagine a field filled with thousands of people.
They're hugging. Kissing. Telling friends, family and even strangers how much they need and love them. Some are so emotional that they're openly crying. Haight Ashbury 1967? A hippie love-in? No, it's Hezikiah Walker and his massive Love Fellowship Choir at Central Park's Summerstage doing the profoundly beautifully I Need You To Survive. To say that being part of this was a moving experience would be an understatement. Mixing modern and old school gospel along with R&B and hip-hop elements, Hezikiah has the perfect formula to reach people of all ages. And reach them he does with his powerful outfit of some 50 or so folk on stage. Kurt Karr's no slouch either. Braving the 95 degree heat, he went with a chordless mike right into the crowd, working the entire length of the park. A tremendous showman and preacher, he got the place rocking right quick. Just thoroughly enjoyable.
However, the rest of the show was nowhere on this level. Now here's how it works. Yours truly took multiple buses and trains and coped with scorching heat to see a show. I also made a voluntary donation upon entering the park. So as a fan I certainly fulfilled my end of the bargain. So what do you expect in return? Well, maybe, just maybe, the acts should bring an actual band. That's right. It was the old "singing to tracks" deal. While Dave Hollister (formerly of Blackstreet) at least gave it a try when an organist joined him mid set, the two opening acts just didn't do it for me. I just can't connect when there are no live instruments. And during one set I looked around me and a group was chatting, another woman sleeping, and someone else doing a puzzle. So I guess it "wasn't just me." When you pull out a book to read mid-set as I did, it's probably not a good sign. Frankly, I'd have rather seen Hezikiah and Karr do longer sets then waste time with 3 of 5 acts singing to tracks.
I should also add that there were some real positive messages offered throughout the day whether you're religious or not. Dave Hollister openly talked about doing tons of drugs and being shot and stabbed multiple times before turning his life around. And Hezikiah Walker wondered why the media wasn't at a tremendously positive event like this and instead always turns up in his community when something bad happens. Point well taken. All in all, this was not only a memorable day, but because of "Hez" and Karr, a great day in the park.
Concert Review: LAKESIDE & THE BAR-KAYS @ At the Carter Barron Amphitheatre - Washington, DC (7/12/08)
After checking out the last five minutes of The Clones of Funk show at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre, I was finally able to witness a live performance by old-school funk band THE BAR-KAYS at 8:30pm. The only problem is that the performance wasn't really up to my expectations....aside from a few moments of standout synthesizer riffing and a moment or two of great lead guitar riffing, there was nothing spectacular about their show. The Bar-Kays started with my favorite "Boogie Body Land", followed by "Shake Ya Rump to the Funk", "She Talks to Me With Her Body", and three ballads (including Lenny Williams's "Cause I Love You"). The Bar-Kays sped things up with a slightly funky uptempo song featuring some standout freakish synthesizer riffs....more of those riffs were evident in "Sex-O-Matic"! "Move Your Boogie Body" was okay, and "Let's Have Some Fun" and "Holy Ghost" got a lot of the fans on their feets dancing! Lead vocalist Larry Dodson introduced the fans to his longtime partner of 30+ years on the guitar, James Alexander. Larry began singing a couple of minutes of the gospel tune "Never Could Have Made It", dedicating it to the fans. "Lean on You/Lean of Me" was followed by "Freakshow on the Dance Floor", featuring a moment of good lead guitar riffing....the band included a little bit of E.U.'s "Da Butt" (as a shout-out to D.C., Chocolate City)! The Bar-Kays set ended at 9:30pm.
At 10:10pm. Lakeside started their set with local vocals by Mark Wood and some funky guitar & bass licks on "Raid", which featured an interesting 1-minute fast-tempo/ rockish breakdown towards the end. Fans were on fire when Lakeside performed their first bonafide hit, "It's All The Way Live". Because many fans were asking for the song "Say Yes", they performed the ballad. After another ballad, it was on to a good & funky uptempo cut called "Something About That Woman", featuring some great slap bass riffing!! Afterwards, the fans were treated to the funkiest Lakeside treat ever that night.....the classic "Fantastic Voyage"....everyone in the outdoor venue was jammin' to this potent dose of DA FUNK!! Unforunately, the Lakeside journey ended at 11:00pm.
Concert Review: Seun Kuti & Egypt 80/Afrika Bambaataa/Love Trio & U-Roy Central Park's Summerstage Nyc 7/6/08
In 1986 at Madison Square Garden's sold out Felt Forum, I saw what may have been the greatest concert of my life in Fela Kuti, with his incomparable band Egypt 80. With an army of musicians and dancers/wives on stage, the building shook for 3 ˝ glorious, unforgettable hours. So when I heard that his son Seun Kuti would appear with Egypt 80, I knew I just had to be at Summerstage. But could it compare to his late, great, truly legendary dad? Shockingly, in many respects it did. First off, the resemblance between Seun and Fela is almost eerie. And he has that same almost cocky, charismatic swagger. And then there's that band. With 15 musicians, singers and dancers on stage it most definitely is a joyful noise. And a driving one at that. Musically, Seun's politically astute songs are very much in the spirit of Fela's. Thousands danced and chanted along in the hot July sun, and to say that nobody wanted the magic to end would be an understatement. And thus my sole criticism- the set clocked in at a mere 90 or so minutes. Fela would have just been hitting his stride at that point. Which begs the question why opening act- electronica's Love Trio- were allowed to noodle around on stage for a good 45 minutes with virtually no audience interaction before being joined by the late (as in tardy- not dead!) toaster U-Roy. Frankly, they didn't quite gel anyway, and we were now an hour plus into the gig. A 40 minute break between sets didn't help the show's flow either. The second act, though, tore the place up as the great Afrika Bambaataa proved to be everything rap should be. His crew rapped to various classics like Kurtis Blow's The Breaks and Chic's Good Times and were upbeat and positive, emphasizing "love, peace, unity and having fun." Plus President Bush haters would have just loved 'em with their scathing attacks. All in all, I may not treasure this show 20 years from now like I do Fela's, but it was most certainly a musically memorable day in the Big Apple.
Concert Review: Return To Forever @ Chicago Theatre
First of all,my apologies for posting my review of the Return To Forever show from last week. I know there were a few postings from people that went to the show,at various cities. Now the tickets my be pricey for some, but I can say this,it's worth it for a group that haven't played together in 25 years. Once the band took the stage, they kicked some serious butt.
Here's the set list from the electric set:
Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy
Song To The Pharaoh King
They had a intermission before taking the stage for the acoustic set. Here's the set list from that set.
The Romantic Warrior
Duel Of The Jester And Tyrant
For the encore the band return to the stage for "Day Ride" and "Spain."
For you folks in NYC,I'm telling you,you do not want want to pass up the chance on seeing them. I believe they are closing out the tour for 2 show in NYC. If you are a Return To Forever fan and want to see Chick,Stanley,Lenny and Al kick some serious ass, GO!
Concert Review: Stevie Wonder @ Taste of Chicago
Yesterday afternoon, I have the pleasure of seeing a true musical legend that I haven't seen in over 20 years. Stevie Wonder performed at the Taste of Chicago for free. I had the chance to see him up close playing for nearly 3 hours. He played just about everything from his legendary catalog from the hits to a few album tracks like "Visions" and "Golden Lady."
Stevie's daughter Aisha and Keith John (the son of legendary R&B vocalist Little Willie John) were his backup singers. (and both can sing their butts off). If I don't see any other shows this year,(and I know i will see many more) I can honestly say that these two shows are by far the best shows I've seen for 2008.
Finally Chicago is starting to get some great entertainment coming this way
Concert Review: La La Brooks @ the Cutting Room NYC
I figure you better than anyone knows what it's like to witness a musical performance and be compelled to tell people about it. I just came from seeing La La Brooks, ex-lead singer of The Crystals, at The Cutting Room and I'm in that frame of mind. So here it is; if you feel others would be interested, feel free to share it.
Let me start by saying that I've always had--since I was twelve--a weakness for so-called "girl groups"--female r & b/rock 'n' roll groups of the late Fifties and early Sixties. Not sure why but it may have had something to do with a certain combination of toughness/tenderness that came across in their singing. A lot of the girl-group singers had a lower-register female lead voice with a hard edge--think Ronnie Spector of The Ronnettes, Shirley Alston of The Shirelles, Rosette Hightower of The Orlons, Mary Weiss of The Shangrilas, Jiggs Allbut of The Angels, Gladys Horton and Wanda Young of The Marvelettes, Judy Craig of The Chiffons, Brenda Reid of The Exciters and LaLa Brooks, Barbara Alston and (temporarily) Darlene Love of The Crystals. They sang assertively and guilelessly--often they weren't necessarily the most technically impressive singers (with the exception of Darlene Love of course), witness Ronnie Spector's sometimes wobbly pitch, but their performances were totally authentic, from-the-heart expressions. They didn't really sound "girly" at all even though most were teenagers when they recorded their hits...they sounded streetwize. Yet the sang of the most pure, most ideal love and devotion. And there was sweetness and tenderness in their longing for love and their desire to give their hearts completely to someone. So maybe that was the attraction.
The Crystals--five Brooklyn girls-- were my all-time favorite girl group, starting with a classic ballad in 1961-- "There's No Other Like My Baby" and then the melodramatic social commentary of "Uptown"--which of course referred to Harlem. Then came the street-wize swagger of "He's A Rebel" and the joyous "He's Sure The Boy I Love", which featured the powerhouse lead vocals of Darlene Love, one of the great voices of the past fifty years who, ironically, wasn't actually a member of the group. Then in 1963, La La Brooks took the leads, especially on two masterpiece
hits-- And Then He Kissed Me and Da Doo Ron Ron. Her voice was not not as big as Darlene's but it was powerful and it had a little catch in it that conveyed vulnerability beneath the tough-girl front. They made a number of other strong records that didn't hit big and were off the charts by 1965. What made them extra special was the combination of powerful leads with very full harmonies, a result of them being a five-piece group where others were trios or quartets.
I never had the opportunity to see the original group perform live and I can't remember seeing them on television, though they were on occasion. I had the pleasure of meeting original member Dee Dee Kennibrew in the late Seventies; she's the only member who has performed pretty much continously since the beginning, keeping The Crystals name going sometimes with a mix of old and new members, sometimes with all new members supporting her. I saw her edition of The Crystals at that time and they gave an enjoyable performance that did not reach the heights of their records, possibly because Dee Dee, a solid singer, had not been the lead singer on the records.
All this is by way of explaining why my heart skipped a beat when I saw that La La Brooks was performing at The Cutting Room in NYC. I had heard she had performed there before. To me it was a small miracle that she was appearing anywhere. Of course I had to go see her and went with great anticipation but also some trepidation. After all, so many times when you go to see a beloved artist from back in the day you find that they just can't deliver the magic anymore. They might be entertaining and it is usually meaningful enough just to witness them and get a sense of that special spirit that animated the recordings that had such an impact on you so many years previous. But sometimes you luck out; sometimes they can still deliver the magic. So as I drove the sixty miles into NYC to see La La Brooks, I wondered which it would be this time.
La La took the stage with her nine piece backing ensemble, including a trio of background singers, looking good in a clingy black dress, boots and over-the-top Afro-wig. They kicked right into one of the less-known Crystal songs, I think it was "All Grown Up"; that was a good sign because the "safe" way of an oldies act would be to start with a major hit that everyone would recognize. But it was immediately clear that La La was no oldies act; no going through the motions for her. She made the song as immediate and real as if it had been written yesterday. In fact, she put us on notice from the beginning: "Everything about me is real," she said, "except for this hair!" And later: "Just act like you're in my living room....'course I live in a studio apartment!". And she punctuated her performances with some fierce pelvic thrusts just for the hell of it--not from the original girl- group playbook! She then did heartfelt versions of "There's No Other Like My Baby" and "Uptown," then really kicked things into gear with a rocking version of an obscure Crystals track "Heartbreaker".
"Amy Winehouse said she got addicted to this next song, " La La said, and went on to explain the story behind the creepy Crystals ballad "He Hit Me(And It Felt Like A Kiss), which was banned on release. Carole King had written it after her babysitter, the soon-to-be Little Eva, explained that the bruises on her face were from her boyfriend. When Carole and her husband asked Eva why she put up with it, she told them it felt like a kiss because it showed he cared. La La delivered a serious rendition of the song, demonstrating where Amy Winehouse got some of her shit from.
Then she began to stretch out. The band kicked into a familiar mid-tempo groove and La La began to sing The Rolling Stones' "Beast Of Burden". Sounding like Tina Turner--her singing frequently resembled early and mid-period Tina--she crushed the song, a snarling, rocking expression of defiance: "I'm not going to be your beast of burden." Let's put it this way: Mick Jagger no longer owns that song. Then she sang the opening line of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come", demonstrating a range she'd never shown on her records, and delivering it with an awesome level of conviction. She wasn't playing. When she sang "it's been too hard living..." tears began streaming down her face and she had to break off while the guitar player took a solo. The crowd was on its feet.
After a pause she began to tell the strange story of "He's A Rebel", how somehow Darlene Love had ended up singing it even though she wasn't in the group and the record was released under The Crystals name, a result of one of Phil Spector's manic machinations. And then she called Darlene Love up to the stage. Darlene, looking edgy in a short-cropped blonde 'doo, stepped on stage, hugged La La, and told the story from her point of view. And sang "He's A Rebel" , trading "no no no's" with La La on the coda at the end. It was the first time they had ever sung it together. Historic moment.
La La closed things out with flat-out rocking versions of Stevie's"Livin For The City" , "Dancing In The Street" and "Proud Mary" (channeling Tina again), dancing up a storm. The crowd, with a standing ovation, demanded an encore, which La La delivered in the form of transcendent versions of "And Then He Kissed Me" and "Da Doo Ron Ron"....and for good measure "Be My Baby", which she delivered with a power that Ronnie herself would be pressed to muster today. I know I'm leaving some high points out.
After the show, I shook her hand, told her that it had been worth the 45 year wait to see her, and urged her to record "Beast Of Burden", sealing that wish with a kiss on her cheek as she was engulfed by well-wishers. Had the pleasure also of greeting Darlene Love, who I had been blessed to to record in the early Nineties.
La La, thank you!
Black Rock Coalition's Birthday Tribute 2 Prince @ Bam Cafe - Brooklyn, NY (6/6/08)
Yes, PRINCE fans...this was 1 of the tributes that New York City had 2 offer in honor of Prince's 50th Birthday (born on 6/7)....this tribute WAS BETTER THAN THE OTHER 1'S BECAUSE THE BAND PLAYED MOSTLY OBSCURE, NON-HIT or BOOTLEGGED MATERIAL!! (THEY PERFORMED ONLY 2 SONGS THAT PRINCE WOULD PERFORM LIVE!) THIS WAS AN EVENT THAT WAS PUT 2GETHER BY BRC MASTERMIND, DARRELL McNEILL! There EYE was, sitting in the front with some of the coolest people in the N-Y-C, like Brooklyn guitar funk star Eric Perl (funkateers may remember him from DEEP POCKET and NAPPYHEAD FUNK ARMY), musician Miles, Baron Keels, and Santa Barbara's own Soul-Patrol Coordinator--the beautiful SALLY FOXEN!
The Black Rock Coalition band started at 10:00pm with "America", with good lead vocals by Doron Flake and a nice fast uptempo groove, despite the use of electronic drums by percussionist Shawn Banks (formerly of NYC's own APOLLO HEIGHTS) -- EYE didn't see what purpose it served during the song. "EYE Wanna B Ur Lover" sounded great with some funky rhythm guitar (courtesy of V. Jeffrey Smith, of the famous R&B band, THE FAMILY STAND)....the best part was the inclusion of some funky basslines & hot, blazin' trumpet and sax lines from BT Express's "Do You Like It?" during the middle of the song!! (the funk basslines were courtesy of Mr. Darrell McNeill, the trumpet lines - courtesy of Wayne, and the sax lines - courtesy of V. Jeffrey Smith) By the way, the brief drum solo (courtesy of Don MacKenzie) during "Ur Lover" was kickin'!! NYC's power punk-rock vocalist Militia took the next song, "Sexuality", and turned it into a hi-energy rock workout.....at the end, even those people who sat still in their seats were DRIPPIN' WET! Things got a little weird during the next song "Dirty Mind", as lead vocalist Marsailles came 2 the stage and performed, just 2 crawl on2 the table where EYE sat and began 2 grind on a woman sittin' across from me. Incidentally, his vocals weren't that good, but he redeemed himself on "Nothing Compares 2 U". "4 The Tears in Ur Eyes" featured lead vocalist Kelsey with backing vocals by Militia and Maritri. Everett Bradley performed lead vocals on "Controversy", which featured some good wah-wah guitarisms, funky bass riffs, some good drumming and funk synthesizer riffs by keyboardist Gene Williams!
The band with the help of another hardcore rock vocalist, Sophia Ramos, nearly burned down the BAM Cafe with an electrifying display of ear-splitting hardcore rock nastiness -- THAT'S RIGHT....N*GGAZ WITH GUITARS!!! (WATCH OUT!!!!) "Power Fantastic" was a nice, beautiful ballad with lovely piano riffs & lead vocals by the beautiful Maritri! The muted trumpet (courtesy of Wayne), flute (courtesy of V. Jeffrey), and violin (courtesy of Tara Reynolds) riffs were also excellent!! "Nothing Compares 2 U" was Marsailles's 2nd vocal performance and it sounded better, although this is the Sinead O'Connor version (which EYE don't like). Kelsey took me back 2 the good ol' days when EYE used 2 trade bootlegs, when he did the lead vocals on "Interactive", a blazing rock guitar song! The BAM Cafe suffered a huge blow 2 its foundation, nearly crumbling under the NASTY PUNK-ROCK ENERGY of the 1980 version of the Graffiti Bridge track "Tick, Tick, Bang" (an unreleased track, only available as a bootleg)....lead vocalist was the powerful MILITIA!!! "Don't Play Me" was a straight-up R&B tune with some nice guitar and great percussion work by Shawn Banks! "EYE Feel 4 U" was done in a reggae flavor, which sounded weird, but it was good....especially with meaty funk bass by Darrell and lead vocals by Jenny. After the introductions, the BRC band performed "Calhoun Square", a nasty funk-rock tune with energetic lead vocalist Sophia Ramos. "Erotic City" was the encore performance, featuring Everett on bass lead vocals and Kelsey on 2nd lead vocals....Sophia and Militia provided backing vocals. The song featured some funky bass lines and electronic drum riffing. The experience was over at 11:20pm.
Concert Review: Diana Ross- New York State Theater- Lincoln Center 6/2/08
I've always had mixed emotions about Diana Ross. Ditto this concert.
Wildly overmiked, the still beautiful and glamorous Ms. Ross appropriately entered the cavernous venue to I'm Coming Out. Unfortunately, she sounded like Diana Ross on steroids.
The icon proceeded to bust out several Supremes classics in rapid succession with Vegasy arrangements. Somewhere on the long road from Motown to Vegas the soul just got sucked out of these songs. And somewhere in American there was a singer in a Karaoke bar singing the very same songs with far more passion.
About four or five numbers into her show, though, she let loose a bit and I felt those little goosebumps go down my spine. Our Diva was in fine form and with two torch songs she actually was a "better," more jazzier singer than in her youth. But something just wasn't "clicking." Maybe at 60 plus the great lady was pacing herself?
Love Hangover was the biggest disappointment of the night, wherein the band "jammed" lounge style while she made yet another of five costume changes. When she came back she didn't even finish the tune which should have been a highlight.
Throughout the evening Ms. Ross complained about the "loud" miking, asking if the crowd was OK. Clearly distracted and even annoyed, at one point she said she didn't know whether to sing louder or softer. "It's too loud!" she said repeatedly. And it was. That sound issues should plague one of the most beautiful and prestigious venues in the world borders on disgraceful.
Another sound issue was a noisy fan behind me who treated the event like she was in her living room calling a New York Mets game. Literally yelling over the music to her cronies, she swooned as her "girl" Diana sang all of HER favorites. It brought me back to my 1970s 42nd Street grindhouse film days when fans shouted at the screen. Had I been in a jazz club I would have been tempted to put a bullet in my brain. Or hers.
The high point of the show for me was Ain't No Mountain High Enough, which even this restrained band couldn't murder. Diana was also in good voice and rocking on The Boss.
With her classic Diva mannerisms, Diana Ross remains a great showman and you can't take a thing away from her incredible book of hits. But this was a mixed bag at best. It nowhere touched the majesty of a recent show I saw with her former labelmate Smokey Robinson who was simultaneously being put into the Apollo Hall of Fame mere minutes away. Hey, Motown lives I guess. It just got sidetracked in Vegas.
Concert Review: Clones Of Funk @ Cardinal's Nest - Washington, DC (5/31/08)
At 10:30pm, it was time for the Mothership to land in Chocolate City....with the performance of "Funkentelechy" by the one and only P-Funk tribute band THE CLONES OF FUNK! The IN & OUT HORNS (saxman Jerry Queene and trumpeteer Mike Powell) sounded tight as a mug & the lead vocal stylings of Wesley Beann & Scrape were also on point! The funk fans were on the floor, shakin' their moneymakers to the funky soundz
of "Bop Gun (Endangered Species)", "Gamin' on Ya" and "Red Hot Momma", which featured some nasty lead guitar riffing by Mr. Hot Rod!!! After a nice performance of
"Undisco Kidd", the band jumped into the classic "Tear the Roof off the Sucka", which featured a great horn riff from Bootsy Collins's "Psychoticbumpschool" and some of the best drumming from Mark Brown. "Everything is on the One" was followed by the sleaze-funk of "The Goose" (sounding very close to the album version)! The medley "Up For the Down Stroke/I Can Move You (If You Let Me)" was the ending to the first set....the first
set was over at 11:40pm. BY THE WAY, THE CLONES OF FUNK TOOK THE TIME TO PRESENT A PLAQUE TO THE MOTHER OF A "CLONE" WHO PASSED AWAY SOMETIME LAST YEAR.....THE CLONE WAS CLARENCE "BOOLAH" ROPER!
At 12:10am, The Clones of Funk returned to the stage with the slammin' "Standing on the Verge of Gettin' It On", incorporating a little bit of "Pumpin' It Up". "P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)" was good, but better was "Mothership Connection" with a reggae-style breakdown during the middle of the song (featuring keyboardist Gene McBride on reggae-style vocals) and some NASTY HARDCORE ROCK GUITAR ROMPS (sounding like "Lunchmeataphobia")...THANKS, HOT ROD!!! The bass riffs hypnotized the audience on "Cosmic Slop", courtesy of one Terre Holland.....and let's not forget the shredding lead guitarisms by Hot Rod!!! NOW....IT WAS TIME FOR THE CLONES OF FUNK TO DO A COUPLE OF ORIGINAL SONGS....which they did (BY THE WAY, both songs were available for sale at the show)...."The Funky Ones" sounded like a Parliament track, featuring funky group vocals, hot trumpet/sax riffing, and a tasteful rhythm guitar line! "Dedicated to the P" sounded almost like an old Bootsy's Rubber Band-type track with more horny horn blowing and seriously spicy synthesizer riffing by Gene McBride! One criticism: I wish that the rock-style guitar was turned WAY UP during the bridge sections of the song ("People don't funk like they used to, they got too many issues...") "Flashlight" was the funky ending to the second set.... which ended at 1:40am.
Erykah Badu & The Roots 5/30 @ Chicago Theater
I'm a few days late posting,but nonetheless here it is. This is the first concert I've attended for 2008. This is part of Erykah Badu's tour of her latest CD "New Amerykah (Part One),with special guest The Roots.
I've seen The Roots many times,and they never disappointed me and they they didn't this time around. They added a few new members to the fold. (a tuba player,new bassist and a rockin' guitarist,that's been with the group for a minute. more on him later) Their set included a few of their hits from their previous recordings and a few from their latest CD.
One of the highlight moments during their set was when they performed "You Got Me",guitarist Kirk Douglas went into this scat mode (ala George Benson) and then turned the afterburners on and really rocked the place. (Kirk is a badd MF on the guitar,if you didn't already know)
The band took us through a nice musical hip-hop medley,doing some classic hip-hop songs,and even performed a nice version of Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up." (how about that,since we've discuss the Alive commercial recently ) At any rate,The Roots gave a great performance and had the people on their feet.
Now the moment I've been waiting for,Ms.Erykah Badu. Believe it or not, this was my first time seeing her,so I was ready. She was armed with a tight 7 piece band along with 4 backup singers. ( Erykah's younger sister and Millie Jackson's daughter were part of Erykah's backup singers) She performed most of the songs from the latest CD and a few hits from her previous CD's. She added some new flava to the song "Appletree", by giving it a "Planet Rock" groove. The instruments she was using was a laptop and a drum machine.
There was one part of her performance that left me puzzled, when she incorporated modern dance/ballet, and a some-what Broadway type of act in her set, using huge red exercise like balls (?) (I don't know nor did I recognize the song) Debra was there and we both were puzzled about that part of the show, but nonetheless, she put on a great show.
By the way,she didn't perform "Tyrone" at Friday's show,but I was told she performed it on Saturday night. Debra, I'm sure I might have missed a few things,so please fill in any blanks I may have left out by accident.
This is the start of many shows happening in Chicago. In a few days, I will be attending our annual Blues Fest to see B.B. King. Later this month Debra and I will see the reunion of Return to Forever. (stay tune for a review of that show)
Concert Review: Bettye LaVette @ Rochester NY Lilac Festival
This week Rochester NY was the setting for the second Bettye LaVette concert performed here in the last year. The first was last June at the Rochester Jazz and Music Festival in a very small room, so small that hundreds were not able to get into the venue. This year Bettye roamed the big stage at the annual Rochester Lilac Festival and those many hundreds and hundreds more were able to attend. I missed the opportunity to meet Bettye in person last year but knew that I would get the chance this year as I emceed the show. Bettye was as gracious and down to earth as I expected and her show was magnificent. I spoke with many in the audience before the show, and most had become aware of Bettye only in the last few years because of her CD "I've Got My Own Hell To Raise" released in late 2005 and the Grammy Award nominated "The Scene of the Crime" in 2007. Many also mentioned that they had sought of compilations of Bettye's early works after finding out that she was not a "new" artist.
So it was a very knowledgeable and appreciative crowd that had come to see her. I introduced her excellent band for a number and reminded the audience to greet Bettye as the legend she is when she took the stage, and they gave her a wonderful welcome. Bettye started?with "The Stealer", done originally by Free in 1970, followed by the first of five songs scattered throughout her show from CD "The Scene of the Crime" which was "I Still Want To Be Your Baby (Take Me Like I Am). "Your Turn To Cry" and "Choices" were followed by Lucinda Williams' "Joy", one of the highlight songs from "I've Got My Own Hell To Raise". Bettye then covered the first seven years of her career with a wonderful medley?which she started?with her very first release and a #7 R&B hit "My Man--He's a Lovin' Man". She followed with a song that didn't hit the charts, her second release on Atlantic records from 1963 called "You'll Never Change", which she said "didn't sell a copy but she loved it anyway." Next was the song that she calls her anthem, the R&B top 20 song "Let Me Down Easy", and this medley was concluded with her last R&B hit of the '60s, "He Made a Woman Out of Me", which hit #25.
Bettye then sang "You Don't Know Me At All" and "Serves Him Right", from "A Woman In Love" CD. Bettye chose to sit down on the stage for her performance of a Willie Nelson composition called "Somebody Help Me Pick Up My Pieces" coupled with "Souvenirs". You could have heard a pin drop in this huge festival crowd. Sandwiched in between outstanding performances of "Right In The Middle" and "Heaven" was "Before the Money Came (the Battle of Bettye Lavette)", and many of the ladies in the crowd were singing all the words. At the conclusion of the show, her band left the stage and Bettye was brought a robe as the evening had turned quite cool. The audience probably drove Bettye a little crazy as they were bundled up in their sweaters, fleeces?and jackets while Bettye was in her usual sleeveless blouse, slacks and spiked heels. Bettye then sang Sinead O'Connor's "I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got" a cappella, just as she did on "I've Got My Own Hell To Raise".
The silent audience erupted into another standing ovation and Bettye thanked the crowd and left the stage. Her keyboard player told the audience that Bettye would return shortly to sign autographs, which she did until she took care of everyone. The audience for this wonderful show was probably 90% white and they knew and appreciated the opportunity to see an artist with enormous talent. I was a little saddened to see that more black people didn't come out to see an R&B pioneer, one of the premier soul singers of our time. After all, they knew Bettye's songs from the 60s while many whites have only recently discovered her genius. Not to dwell on this, but the venue was in the City of Rochester where there is a large black population and the show was free. I just don't understand. We state this over and over, but when the musical greats of the past are on the road bringing us great memories we absolutely must support them! On a happier note, Bettye asked me to give her a kiss goodbye in front of a large group of people and that instantly became another highlight of my life! On my way out, many told me how lucky I am. How right they are!
Concert Review: Barbara Harris/Willie Winfield/EarlLewis/Cleveland Still/Teenagers/etc. @ Kupferber Performing Arts Center- Queens College NYC - 5/3/08
There's something inspirational about a Doo Wop Concert. Partly it's the 1,500 or so seniors who still have the get up and go to be out on a Saturday night and be entertained. There's also that gorgeous music that still resonates some fifty years later.
And then there's the performers themselves. They're still vital, energetic, and even great. And some, like Earl Lewis, Willie Winfield and Barbara Harris, seem to have sipped from a cup of eternal youth, looking virtually the same year after year.
Friend Entertainment provides a great service in doing innumerable charitable fundraisers for a variety of worthwhile causes. And keeping these classic artists working and "on the road" is, of course, priceless as well. Yet their 20th Anniversary show was a mixed bag. Wonderful groups were rushed off after as little as two numbers, while MC/promoter Norm assaulted the audience with what felt like an endless barrage of plugs going into 2009. Maybe, just maybe, some interesting facts about the artists would have made for better entertainment than hearing about the 2009 cruise and New Year's party they were already hyping. And after what felt like the twentieth time Norm was thanked for "keeping the music alive," with multiple plaques and speeches rendered, audience members began to groan audibly. Frankly, it started to feel like a testimonial and stopping a song in the middle to bring out Norm to play tambourine already felt like some invisible line had been crossed between deserved acknowledgements and pandering. We most certainly had gotten the point. Two intermissions didn't help the flow of things either. But there were, indeed, magical moments throughout.
Barbara Harris and The Toys stole the show. Her Lover's Concerto and boundless energy was just wonderful. I've probably seen Earl Lewis and The Channels a dozen times on "the oldies circuit" and he remains a great showman. The soothing Willie Winfield and the Harptones feel like the link between The Ink Spots and early rock and roll. Cleveland Stills looks sharp some fifty plus years after his first hit and his Dubs have gorgeous group harmonies. The Teenagers with original member Herman Santiago served as the headliners. And although their four song set was disappointingly short, they sounded great and their music is just timeless.
"10 year old singing sensation" Kayla belted out some classics. With a booming voice that reminded me of a young Judy Garland, her embracing this music rather than rap felt almost inspirational.
Vito Picone & The Elegants, The Encounters, 3rd Edition, The Cavaliers, the Passions, The Fireflies, The Demensions and house band Sammy Sax and the MDs rounded out what turned out to be a marathon five hour event. You can't say they don't try to give you your money's worth anyway.
It never fails to amaze and inspire me when a still vibrant performer had their first million seller some fifty years ago. Yet critics in mainstream publications have no qualms about mocking "blue haired and balding" audience members or even the performers themselves. Seemingly ageism is the last "acceptable" form of prejudice with young critics' writing in mocking tones about events such as this. Frankly, it's disgraceful. And maybe I'm crazy but I'd rather see Little Anthony over Lil Wayne any day.
Let's hope that these great artists stay on the road for many years to come and continue to inspire.
Concert Review: B-52's @ Electric Factory/Philadelphia 4/25/2008 ("Set way back in the middle of a field, is a funky ole shack, that's where it's at...")
BANG BANG ON THE DOOR BABY
Man did I go to a HOT show last night. That's right it was the fabulous B-52's LIVE in Philadelphia @ the Electric Factory. This show was H-O-T. In fact it was just like the "Love Shack" music video.
The place was packed to the gills, both upstairs & downstairs. I dunno what the capacity of the Electric Factory is (I'm guessing 2,000 - 2,500???) Everybody was up dancin their be-hinds off, to the MONSTER FUNK DRUMMING & MONSTER SURF GUITAR grooves. Perfectly executed non stop live performances of concise & crisp 3 min. pop music masterpieces. I was movin and groovin with the crowd. Let me tell yall, it was the most pure fun I have had at a concert in a while.
Of course as I have mentioned many times here in the past, the song LOVE SHACK is one of my favorite songs of the 1980's. But till last night, I had never seen the B-52's perform live. That damn guitarist & drummer had me going the whole time. I never knew that this band was so damn wicked until I saw them live last night. Just before they came on stage the PA system was playing The Standells - "Dirty Water". This was a perfect way to introduce the B-52's, as a sucessor to The Standells and the who garage/party band tradition that the B-52's are obviously a part of.
FUNKY AS HELL
ROCK N' ROLL TO THE CORE
STANK STANK STANK
They played all of their familiar hits, including Mesopotamia, Rock Lobster and more. The crowd was totally into a "zone", and the dancing just stayed at a fever pitch the whole show.
If they come to your town, go and see them. The B-52's will make you shake your azz and put a smile on your face. And in these troubled times we find ourselves in today, what could be better??? Check out their MySpace at: http://www.myspace.com/theb52s
P.S. - You can hear the song "LOVE SHACK" - B-52's inside of the RnB Mix on RadioIO.com (right in between Pebbles and The Fat Boys....LOL) http://www.radioio.com/channels/rnb-mix
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