Monday, December 31, 2018

Concert Review: The Isley Brothers, the Whispers and Glenn Jones at Municipal Auditorium

The woman working at the box office of Municipal Auditorium on Sunday initially refused to sell me a ticket to the the New Year’s Weekend Soul Fest.  “You want to go to this?” she marveled as she pointed at a sign indicating that a concert by the Isley Brothers, the Whispers and Glenn Jones was about to begin.  Moments after convincing the woman to accept $40 in exchange for the least expensive ticket, I was accosted by a security guard who skeptically looked me up and down before asking to inspect my hard-won ticket. “Huh,” she muttered. “Well, have fun.”

Their bewilderment may have been warranted.  I was one of only a handful of white guys in the audience of about 4,000.  The extreme racial disparity blows my mind.  The Isley Brothers are one of the most important bands of the past 60 years.  I grew up on Top 40 hits like “It’s Your Thing,” “That Lady,” “Summer Breeze” and “Fight the Power”.  Not only would there be no Rick James, Prince or even Maroon 5 without the Isley Brothers, the Rolling Stones began their losing effort to catch up to the Isley Brothers with the 1976 album Black and Blue.

A twelve-member ensemble backed front man Ronald Isley and guitarist Ernie Isley in a stellar 90-minute headlining set that included rock and roll, doo-wop, pop, R&B, funk, gospel and gangsta rap.  The sound was mediocre, the production was rudimentary and 77-year-old Ronald leaned against a stool for much of the show, but witnessing the man who co-wrote the 1959 hit “Shout” perform the ancient nugget is still thrilling.  A rendition of the absolutely bananas 2011 hit “Contagious” was just as fun.  And yes, Ernie still shreds.

The Whispers’ 40-minute effort was almost as good.  I expected the 10-piece group to play crossover hits such as “And the Beat Goes On” and “Rock Steady,” but the venerable group surprisingly revived a few wildly anachronistic jams like “Olivia (Lost and Turned Out)”.  Introduced as “The Ambassador of Love, crooner Glenn Jones excelled in a karaoke-style 30-minute opening set that also delighted me.  The staff working the event may not have felt that I fit in, but I would rather have been nowhere else.

Isley Brothers setlist: Fight the Power, That Lady, Between the Sheets Footsteps in the Dark/Today Was a Good Day, Smooth Sailing/Sweet Thing, It’s Your Thing, Twist and Shout, Boney Maroney, Groove With You, Hello, Hello It’s Me, Choosey Lover, Joy and Pain, Jesus Loves Me, For the Love of You, Voyage to Atlantis, Summer Breeze, Down Low, Contagious, Shout

Whispers setlist: It’s a Love Thing, Keep On Lovin’ Me, In the Mood, Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong, In the Raw, Lady, Rock Steady, Olivia (Lost and Turned Out), Say Yes, And the Beat Goes On

Glenn Jones setlist: We’ve Only Just Begun, The Very First Time, A Song For You, Love By Design, Show Me Nobody But You

I reviewed Steve Cardenas’ homecoming concert at Black Dolphin for Plastic Sax.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

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