A Scorching Night of R&B’s Finest
By Michelle Carrier-Davis
Scorching and hot were the synonyms used to describe the temperature and the performing artists. The Fantasy Springs Casino was packed with throngs of concert attendees, all excited to see performances by two of R&B’s greatest groups, the Commodores and the Isley Brothers.
Conversations were overheard; the first time they saw the Commodores in concert, their favorite Isley Brothers song, how music was “real” during the heyday of these groups. The anticipation was thick as the crowd waited for the show to begin.
The Commodores met their freshman year at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1968, and went on to sign with Motown in 1972.
The group went through several member changes most notably the departure of lead singer Lionel Ritchie, whom the group had garnered several hits with. Their path to becoming legendary was launched when they released the title track from their debut album “Machine Gun,” which is still heard frequently at sporting events.
The crowd cheered as former Heatwave singer, now Commodores co-lead, James “JD” Dean, drummer Walter “Clyde” Orange, and William “WAK” King, along with their five-piece band known as the “Mean Machine” made their way to the stage.
The group had the crowd bobbing their heads to well-known hits such as, “Three Times a Lady”, “Still”, “Sail On”, and “Zoom.” Their fans sang along to “Just to be Close to you” and favorite “Brick House.”
The band closed out their energy filled show with their Grammy winning song “Nightshift.” The song was originally written as a tribute to deceased singers Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson, however departed notables Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Prince were added to the lyrics in tribute.
The Isley Brothers, a very talented family of brothers who are originally from Cincinnati, Ohio began performing together as a trio, then a group and eventually a duo. The members changed throughout the years as a result of death, illness, new group spin-offs and retirements. The group began in the 1950’s as a gospel group, then later as a successful R&B group. In 2000, the remaining group members Ronald and Ernie Isley began performing together as The Isley Brothers.
The legends have had an admirable resume of four top 10 singles on Billboard. Sixteen of their albums charted in The Top 40 and thirteen have been either certified gold, platinum or multi-platinum by the RIAA. The Isley Brothers were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
The house lights dimmed, The Isley Brothers appeared and the anticipating mass exploded into thunderous applause.
If you were alive during the 60’s, these songs brought memories of card and domino parties, summer bbq’s and cleaning the house on a Saturday morning.
The show opened up with “Fight the Power,” and took the fans on a musical journey through some of R& B’s finest music… “For the Love of You,” “Voyage to Atlantis,” “Make Me Say it Again Girl,” “Groove with You,”… you get the picture.
The crowd sang off key but matched Ron Isley note per note. During the song “Shout” members of the audience were chosen to come and dance on stage while they were serenaded by Ron.
The chords to “Summer Breeze” mesmerized the audience as amazingly talented guitarist Ernie Isley strummed, resulting in the crowd erupting into deafening applause.
The very gifted wife of Ron and backup singer of The Isley Brothers, Kandy Johnson (formerly of the duo Johnson Sisters) wowed the crowd with her incredible, multi-octave voice. She enthralled the gathering of R & B enthusiasts with a soulful, sultry rendition of “Yes, Jesus Loves Me”.
From the opening note until the last, it was evident why this group has been a staple at venues for decades.