Charlie Wilson, Erykah Badu & the O'Jays at The Woodlands, 5/31/2014
"Uncle" Charlie Wilson (center, in shades) and friends
Photos by Jody Perry
Note: Eddie Levert was originally identified as his late son Gerald. Rocks Off regrets the error.
Magic 102.1 Under the Stars Featuring Charlie Wilson, Erykah Badu & the O'Jays Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion May 31, 2014
On a night of classic and modern R&B at a packed house in The Woodlands, with perfect summer weather of clear skies and temperatures below the 80s, Majic 102.1's Under the Stars concert was a powerhouse lineup with more No. 1 hit songs than you can shake a 2014 Free Press Summer Fest at. It was a night of baby-making music where those who had made babies, along with the babies they made, were out to make even more babies.
The night's performances jump-started with a defibrillator-like zap with Rock & Roll Hall of Famers and Sound of Philadelphia alums the O'Jays. The classic vocal R&B trio -- dressed in matching white suits featuring jackets with exposed chests, satin frills, fringe at the wrists and sequins -- came with a full band, complete with horn section. They launched onstage with the vigor of acts one-third their age with the 1975 hit "Give the People What They Want."
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Instead of hoping the band would play a particular song, the ready-to-party Saturday-night crowd ate up anything the O'Jays played by singing along to every last word. Only during the ballads did the group's energy diminish, giving the older folks a needed break.
During "Cry Together," the audience sang in harmony so well that a choir might as well have shown up to accompany the group onstage. At one point, distracted by a groupie at the edge of the stage, Eddie Levert lost his place and said, in his come-on tone of voice, "Damn, woman. You made me forget what I was trying to say," as he laughed and rubbed his thighs and chest is a sexy way. The O'Jays delivered much more than what might be expected from a band that's been around since 1958.
Next, Erykah Badu came to the stage with a force and aura matching the night's music-industry veteran acts, setting the mood with a nonstop set of soul, electronic funk and hits. Wearing a shawl featuring the eye in the dollar bill's pyramid over a torn T-shirt and several medallions dripping down her chest - plus a skirt, leggings, a top hat and white basketball shoes with long blue feathers stuffed into the back of one - she looked like an R&B version of Alice in Wonderland's the Mad Hatter.
Sometimes she would stop the entire band in mid-song to dramatic and sometimes comical effect. She paused the intro to "Window Seat" to hilariously eat "one chip and [have] one sip" of whatever was in her coffee cup, then cued her band to pick up where they left off. Though she said she hadn't played in a venue as large as The Woodlands in a long while, you couldn't tell from how she grooved and blew the multigenerational crowd away with reinterpreted songs old and new.
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Charlie Wilson, who came to stardom in The Gap Band, hit the stage with more of a rock and roll show than any of the night's other performers, a number of outfit changes by his entire band throughout the performance. The crowd was on its feet and jamming, embracing during ballads and clapping when he took us to church. During "Early in the Morning," the entire band ran around the stage, creating a party vibe that evoked memories of the Gap Band. In fact, Uncle Charlie is more rock and roll than Jack White could ever muster up.
Every new song was flawlessly executed with smooth, melismatic vocals. Uncle Charlie danced his ass off, sang his ass off, and every member of his six-piece band played their ass off. He joked about being hot and tired, dancing like a 25-year-old and making gestures like he was using an oxygen mask after the uptempo numbers.
All in all, this show was possibly the most entertaining one in the whole Houston area Saturday night, one that swirled together soul, R&B classics, modern groove and pop. Not only was the music amazing, but each performer brought his or her charisma and wisdom to create poignant moments, sexy moments and really funny ones as well. If they started over and played the whole thing from beginning to end, I would have gladly grooved all over again.
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