Monday, February 11, 2008

OUT 334--VALENTINES CLASSIC SOUL CONCERT starring Whispers with After 7 and Stephanie Mills The Fox Feb. 8, 2008

by Ma'at Atkins
Last Friday, The Faboulous Fox Theatre was the spot where three R&B greats of late 20th century performed a two-hour jukebox come to life of some of their greatest hits.
First up was 90s group After 7.
The dapperly dressed trio was in great vocal form as they performed a 30 minute set of their hits (with prerecorded music) including their chart toppers, "Can't Stop " (the opener) , "Heat of the Moment," "Baby I'm for Real" and their closer, "Ready or Not." Interestingly enough, two of the three members are new, original member Kevon Edmonds was undoubtedly the star of the show with his ethreal-tenored voice (brother Melvin Edmonds and cousin Kevin Mitchell left the group in 1997). Yet, the replacement singers sounded akin to the originals (albeit Kevin's replacement, like Kevin, just sang harmony and didnt lead) . A highlight was when they walked through the isles to sing to the ladies.
Second up was veteran soul singer/Broadway actress Stephanie Mills. Her 40 minute set comprised of some faves such as her biggets hits, "Never Knew Love like this," "Puttin a Rush on Me" "Secret lady" (an odd choice) and the closer, her signature, "Home" from The Wiz. (the highlight) She even dusted off her disco gem, "Whatcha Gonna Do with my Lovin" with the disco beats in place provide dby her live band and three male background singers.
Disappointingly, she didnt do many of her R&B hits (and according to Mills, "she has 12 #1 hits ) echoing this fact when she said, 'I have so many songs that people want me to sing, so I'm gonna stop taling and start singing." An added yet interesting occurrence happened during her set when Mills passe dout dozens of roses to the crowd, that wer receieved by ladies.
Nevethless, Mills mostly performed some relatively newer and unfamiiar material (and even a cover of Michael Jackson's "I Can't Help it" as her opener!) but for the most part, her vocals were effortlessly emotive as though she was on Broadway chiming the crowd with her veteran theatrical skills.
The headliners The Whispers were definitely the Vegas style showmen in their flashy outfits and swagger during their hour long set. They didnt disappoint as the quartet performed their classic hits, opening with , "It's a Love Thing," and movin through the years of hits mostly from their Solar years inclduing "(Olivia) Lost and Turned Out" "A Song For Donny"(which was reworked to include Phyliss Hyman, Luther Vandross and Gerald Levert), "And the Beat Goes On, "" Keep on Lovin Me, " theri newest single, "Butter" and the closer, "Rock Steady."
Interestingly enough, the Whispers seemed tireless in their syncronized dance steps, yet one member of the group, Leaveil Degree (the tall one with the wooly beard) sat in a stool for most of the show. He got up occasionaly and did a dance move but walked back to his stool. Late in the show, he addressed the crowd on his condition and said, "I guess you all are wondering why I am sitting down, well, I discovered last year that I have congestive heart failure and only working with 25 percent of my heart." His disclosure caused the crowd to cheer and applaud his effort to continue to perform.
And Degree's fortitude was definitely tantamount to what this show, and that was heart.

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