the whispers’ 50th anniversary tour feat. stephanie mills

“i told you i’m a hot tamale”

i’ve never been so great-full to will.i.am. had he not taken a sample from “something in the way you make me feel” for my favourite hip hop love songs in 1997, i never woulda known who stephanie mills was (yes-i read liner notes, and just happened to check some this morning to verify the sample for “pimp juice”-yes, i was listening to nellyville this morning, yes, on cd, and yes-the staples singers) and last night wouldn’t have been that much more significant and special, but it was.

i’ve been mesmerized by the whispers since bird and i saw a video of a soul band ensemble concert from the ’80s, and the matching green blazers and the choreo from the “rocksteady” video will always be an inspiration. about seven years ago, i arrived in new york one day after they had played and i was so pissed. when asked if he would’ve gone with me to the show, mister did that grunt-brush off “uh, no”. wrong answer. but if nothing else, life gives you the occasional do-over, and he found out that they were on tour, and though we vowed not to plan events for days on which i arrive because invariably we end up late due to borders and jersey and trains, etc. we decided to do this anyway, because it was the only date with an opener, which a)bought us a little more time and b)STEPHANIE MILLS.

as it turned out, everything worked out perfectly-no delays even though the chicago and boston flights scheduled ahead of me were still boarding when i walked onto the plane, no turbulence, ear popping or forecasted storm, i coasted through customs where nobody was lined up at all, my train arrived within minutes of me getting to the platform and all of our connecting subways into brooklyn also worked out. it wasn’t too humid for our couple block walk, and we got cassava chips for a dollar on the way. the kings’ theatre is a beauty-full venue-gorgeous. seemingly too gorgeous to be reserved for tyler perry, but hey-i’m not mad at them for trying to stay in business. and nothing puts paying asses in seats for theatre like madea-for some reason.

it was like the theatre from the muppet show, and we got our two old men in the form of two crusty yet enthusiastic (i thought about the music, but later found out it was the paper bag drank and the sexual boasting, mostly from the blind one about what he was going to do to stephanie mills, and let me tell you-there’s nothing quite like an old blind man loudly boasting about banging a 58-year old soul singer doggystyle “until she’s raw”).

but lady was in full form-looking and sounding amazing. her band was incredible and her backup singers were making me feel feelings-in fact, from the first few notes, i was moved to the ugly tears-there’s something about music and staying power, and audience response that always gets me. this is why i live and love music. brooklyn’s own-i had no idea, but kept thinking, mary j. blige-i hope you’re taking some notes. and then, speaking of mary-it turns out that she and stephanie (who was 17 when she was dorothy) will be in another oz musical (with queen latifah as the wiz-yea-sit with that one a bit) in december, dorothy as yet still uncast.

i didn’t realize until i walked past the merchandise booth that it was the 50th anniversary tour, but that makes sense, as the twins still got it, but they’re already down one, their young band is kind of out of control (more style than substance) and it felt much like a goodbye tour, but at least i can say…

brooklyn’s finest was out, with their outfits and their dancing and allowing themselves to feel the music feelings. there’s something about being in an audience of very predominantly black folks of a minimum age of 40 that should be experienced because it will forever be felt.

fuck your j cole concert, i’ma be in the middle with your grandparents, slow jamming to an improv about bunions.

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