Monday, July 24, 2017

KOOL & THE GANG 2017 TOUR


Just as much as audiences love new music, they also enjoy looking back at their old-school favorites. Those concert packages that puts together several vintage bands of the past are a rite of the summer and the latest features the slightly odd combo of Village People, Morris Day and The Time and the headliners, Kool & The Gang. I caught them on the first day of a two-night stand at the Hollywood Bowl on July 21st.

The Village People kicked off the night with a surprisingly brief twenty minute set although in hindsight it was plenty of time as it soon began to feel like they were doing slight variations of the same song. It's not really unexpected that most of the original members of these acts have departed in one form or another but this disco novelty act of gay male fantasy types features the most of their founding members. With the Indian (Felipe Rose), the GI (Alex Briley) and lead vocalist, the cop (Ray Simpson who replaced Victor Willis in their heyday) still around, the People did a fun, high-energy show that featured them doing their signature butch-dance moves while performing their greatest hits like "Macho Man", "In The Navy" and the enduring smash, "Y.M.C.A" which they did a detailed demonstration before the song on how to properly do the hand movements.

Before The Time came out, a tribute to Prince, who they were closely associated with, played on the video screens that featured his music and early pictures of him with Morris Day. Then the band arrived on stage to the sound of the Purple One's "1999" with Day checking out his look in a mirror carried by his "valet", Jerome Benton before launching in to their first hit, "Get It Up". They sounded great but seemed to have a hard time getting this crowd engaged. I think it may be for a lack of recognizable hits as The Time didn't have a major impact on the pop charts in their day as Prince did. The group fared better when they touched on his music with them doing a cover of "D.M.S.R". During the sentimental ballad, "Gigolos Get Lonely, Too", Day had his son, Derran come on stage to belt out a verse. While he has an impressive voice, it still came across like a shameless plug with the proud father advising the audience to find him on social media afterwards.

By the time Kool & The Gang arrived to close out the show, the crowd was warmed up and ready to party. Bass player and the namesake of this popular band, Robert "Kool" Bell (who is still on hand) started this group as a funk band in the late sixties before moving towards r&b and pop with the arrival of James "J.T." Taylor as lead singer in 1979. They got everybody on their feet with solid versions of their hits "Hollywood Swinging", "Ladies' Night", "Jungle Boogie" and "Get Down On It" enhanced by a fantastic horn section that features a couple of original players. Taylor has been long gone from the group but Lavell Evans does a serviceable job of filling in for the former vocalist yet not completely escaping moments that made them sound like a wedding band. Kool and company wanted everybody to know they are still in the game as they performed a new song, "Sexy (Where'd You Get Yours)". While it was perfectly keeping with their funky spirit, it was hardly anything noteworthy and just gave people a chance to head out for a beer run. With the sound of Kool & The Gang's biggest hit, "Celebration" signaling that the night is coming to a close, it was an enjoyable evening of music and memories.

NEW SOUNDS

WHITNEY HOUSTON Words cannot express how much I miss the glorious voice of Whitney Houston . It's been five years since her passing...